Comedy – Comic Relief USA – Sid Ceasar & Dick Gregory & Moms Mabley & Tony Danza & Billy Crystal


Every now and then I just gotta give a history lesson on athletes, artists, comedians and musicians that I feature in video….cuz I feel strongly that these talents that have entertained fans like myself for years….need to not only see a video showcasing these marvelous talents…..but also educates the view on who the person was….as Sid Ceasar, Dick Gregory and Moms Mabley are three of those wonderful entertainers whom I just can’t let the fast pace of 2017 forget….and in this video from Comic Relief USA telethon….our viewers get to watch three (3) of the “all time funny” comedians in Sid Ceasar….plus the viewer gets an extra dose of comedy from TV fame Tony Danza.

Isaac SidneySidCaesar (September 8, 1922 – February 12, 2014) was an American comic actor and writer….who was best known for two pioneering 1950s live television series….Your Show of Shows, which was a 90-minute weekly show watched by 60 million people,…and then its successor, Caesar’s Hour, both of which influenced later generations of comedians,,,,as Your Show of Shows and its cast received seven Emmy nominations between the years 1953 and 1954 and tallied two wins. He also acted in movies such as Grease (1978)….where he played Coach Calhoun….and its sequel Grease 2 (1982)….plus he appeared in the films It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)….Silent Movie (1976)….History of the World, Part I (1981)….and Cannonball Run II (1984).

Caesar was considered a “sketch comic” and actor, as opposed to a stand-up comedian….for he also relied more on body language, accents, and facial contortions than simply dialogue….which was unlike the slapstick comedy which was standard on TV as his style was considered “avant garde” in the 1950s. He conjured up ideas and scenes while using writers to flesh out the concept and create the dialogue. Among the writers who wrote for Caesar early in their careers were Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, Michael Stewart, Mel Tolkin, and Woody Allen….which is literally a who’s who of comedic writers….for “Sid’s was the show to which all comedy writers aspired. It was the place to be,” said TV Host Steve Allen.  Ceasar’s TV shows’ subjects included satires of real life events and people….with parodies of popular film genres, theater, television shows, and opera….but unlike other comedy shows at the time….the dialogue was considered sharper, funnier, and more adult-oriented. He was known as one of the most intelligent and provocative innovators of television comedy….who some critics called television’s Charlie Chaplin….and The New York Times refers to as the “…comedian of comedians from TV’s early days.”

Richard ClaxtonDickGregory (born October 12, 1932) is an American civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur, conspiracy theorist, comedian, and occasional actor. Gregory is a member of the prestigious fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.  Gregory performed as a comedian in small, primarily black-patronized nightclubs….while working for the United States Postal Service during the daytime. He was one of the first black comedians to gain widespread acclaim performing for white audiences. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Gregory describes the history of black comics as limited: “Blacks could sing and dance in the white night clubs but weren’t allowed to stand flat-footed and talk to white folks, which is what a comic does.”

In 1961, while working at the black-owned Roberts Show Bar in Chicago….he was spotted by Hugh Hefner performing the following material before a largely white audience:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar. Based on that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for comedian “Professor” Irwin Corey.  Gregory’s first television appearance was on the late night show Tonight Starring Jack Paar….as he soon began appearing nationally on television.

Early in Dick Gregory’s career, he was offered an engagement on Tonight Starring Jack Paar….as Paar’s show was known for helping propel entertainers to the next level of their careers. At the time, black comics did perform on the show, but were never asked to stay after their performances to sit on the famous couch and talk with the host. Dick Gregory declined the invitation to perform on the show several times until finally Jack Paar called him to find out why he refused to perform on the show. Eventually, in order to have Gregory perform, the producers agreed to allow him to stay after his performance and talk with the host on air. This was a first in the show’s history. Dick Gregory’s interview on Tonight Starring Jack Paar spurred conversations across America.

In 2013, Dick Gregory continued to be a ringing voice of the black power movement…. Recently, he was featured in a Fantagraphics book by Pat Thomas entitled Listen, Whitey: The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965–1975, which uses the political recordings of the Civil Rights era to highlight sociopolitical meanings throughout the movement.  Comedian Dick Gregory is known for comedic performances that not only made people laugh….but mocked the establishment. According to Thomas, Dick Gregory’s monologues reflect a time when entertainment needed to be political to be relevant….which is why he included his standup in the collection. Dick Gregory is featured along with the likes of Huey P. Newton, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes and Bill Cosby.  Joe Morton played Dick Gregory in 2016 in the play Turn Me Loose at the Westside Theatre in Manhattan

Loretta Mary Aiken (March 19, 1894 – May 23, 1975) was known by her stage name JackieMomsMabley….for she was an American standup comedian….and a veteran of the Chitlin’ circuit of African-American vaudeville….after which she later appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Loretta Aiken took her stage name, Jackie Mabley, from an early boyfriend, commenting to Ebony in a 1970’s interview that he had taken so much from her….it was the least she could do to take his name.  Later she became known as “Moms” because she was indeed a “Mom” to many other comedians on the circuit in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

She came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-seven….becoming one of the first openly gay comedians.  During the 1920’s and 1930’s she appeared in androgynous clothing….as she did in the film version of The Emperor Jones with Paul Robeson….and recorded several of her early “lesbian stand-up” routines. Mabley was one of the most successful entertainers of the Chitlin’ circuit, another name for T.O.B.A., or Theater Owners Booking Association. T.O.B.A…..which was sometimes called the “Tough On Black Asses Circuit,” was the segregated organization for which Mabley performed until the organization dissolved during the Great Depression.  Despite Mabley’s popularity, wages for black women in show business were meager. Nonetheless, she persisted for more than sixty years. At the height of her career, she was earning USD $10,000 a week at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. She made her New York City debut at Connie’s Inn in Harlem….for in the 1960’s, she became known to a wider white audience and thus played Carnegie Hall in 1962….then she madea number of mainstream TV appearances….particularly her multiple appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour when that CBS show was number one on television in the late 1960’s….as this introduced her to a whole new Baby Boomer audiencewhich is why we feature her here on Imasportsphile…..cuz we are the video reference library for the Baby Boomer Generation. Mabley was one of the top women doing stand-up in her heyday, eventually recording more than 20 albums of comedy routines. She appeared in movies, on television, and in clubs.

Mabley was billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World”. She tackled topics too edgy for most mainstream comics of the time, including racism. One of her regular themes was a romantic interest in handsome young men rather than old “washed-up geezers”….and she got away with it courtesy of her stage persona….where she appeared as a toothless, bedraggled woman in a house dress and floppy hat.  She also added the occasional satirical song to her jokes….and her completely serious and melancholy cover version of “Abraham, Martin and John” hit #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 19 July 1969. At age 75 years old, Moms Mabley became the oldest living person ever to have a US Top 40 hit…albeit Louis Armstrong would have been 86 when “What a Wonderful World” became a hit in 1988….is the oldest overall….although Armstrong was younger than Mabley when the record was made.

Any way you cut the pie….Sid Ceasar, Dick Gregory and Moms Mabley deserve their place in comedic history….as this piece of video is truly a treasure and well worth the watch.

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