Photo Credit: dickgregory.com
As we goof off over the airwaves this week with our parody of ‘Christmas In July’ with ‘Kwanzaa In July’, it’s now time to get seriously serious with our selection of Dick Gregory as Comic of the Week.
Gregory has achieved a variety of goals throughout his lifetime, which include being a comedian, writer, social activist, and entrepreneur. Though, before he acquired any of those skill sets, Gregory was a gifted runner and ran track on scholarship at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His college career was halted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and upon his return to the university, he dropped out claiming they just wanted him to run and not learn.
It was then that he wanted to become a comedian and moved to Chicago where other black comedians were getting their start such as Bill Cosby, Nipsey Russell, and Godfrey Cambridge. It was in Chicago at the black-owned Roberts Show Bar that Hugh Hefner hired him (who was in the audience) after he heard Gregory tell the following joke:
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!"
Photo Credit: dickgregory.com
So, Gregory worked at the Chicago Playboy Club for three years starting in 1961 and soon became a well-known performer around the nation, selling out nightclubs, appearing on national television, and releasing popular comedy albums. Some of his early albums include, In Living Black In White (1961), East & West (1961), Dick Gregory Talks Turkey (1962) The Two Sides Of Dick Gregory (1963), and My Brother’s Keeper (1963).
Gregory is also extremely passionate about social justice, which is why he has devoted an immense amount of hours to a variety of social issues and topics. Being inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he joined the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw more public attention to the matters at hand.
He spent time bringing to the public eyes a range of topics that included world hunger, the Vietnam War, and drug abuse. It is said that Gregory fasted more than 60 times in protests, once in Iran when the American Embassy staff was taken hostage. Gregory, at his peak of facing political nonsense, ran for President of the United States with the Freedom and Peace Party, drawing in a total 1.5 million votes.
Now, it’s not everyday you hear of a comedian that has also ran for President. This just shows his complete and serious passion for changing the hearts and minds of many, many people. He also has written two best-selling autobiographies, Nigger and Callus On My Soul. Most people only write one autobiography, but Callus On My Soul was an extension of Nigger because of the full and rich life he continued to live after Nigger was released in 1963.
That is some kind of person, being able to write a best-selling autobiography about your own life and then thinking, “Hey, I’ve done so much more since that book came out, why not just write another?” And write another best-selling book he did. Gregory also has beaten Cancer with out using chemotherapy and escaped death when a tree fell on his car during a storm.
He has a beautiful family with wife Lil, whom he met in a comedy club in Chicago, and their ten, count em, ten amazing children. Dick Gregory is so much more than just a funny man…he is a serious man. A man who has some serious humor and takes humor seriously, as well as countless other topics that Americans face on a day-to-day basis. He has tackled so many issues with such courage and adversity that it’s turned him into a truly well rounded person.
He’s helped show Americans what black comedians, plus what the black community, are really like, and paved the way for other prominent black comedians such as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. We hope you enjoy listening to the comic styling and unadulterated personality of Dick Gregory all week at the :20 minute mark only on 24/7 Comedy!