Moms Mabley


I’m obsessed with old school comedians. I’ll use any excuse, find any pretext to mention Don Rickles, Redd Foxx, Totie Fields, Henny Youngman or Fat Jack Leonard to name drop but a few. Some of my friends call me Shecky because of my fondness for puns and shticky humor. I like the nickname because it’s a bow to the great Shecky Green. This is a long, roundabout way of saying that I’m interested in show biz history and shit that makes people laugh. Moms Mabley always made me laugh: from her frumpy floral house dress to her bucket hat to her toothless delivery, she was hilarious. Moms sounded like a bullfrog and looked like a demented old bat, but she was sharp as a freaking tack.

Whoopi Goldberg has produced and directed a documentary for HBO about Moms Mabley and it’s a winner. Using talking heads, teevee clips from late in her career, and sound bites from her many elpees, Goldberg paints a portrait of a pioneer African-American female humorist with a sly, sarcastic, and subversive wit. I learned a lot from Whoopi’s film including the fact that Moms was *very* political as well as naughty, and that she looked sharp in men’s clothing when wearing her dentures. Most of all, Moms was funny, funny, funny. Check out the documentary on HBOand the clips below:

5 thoughts on “Moms Mabley

  1. My proper, conservative, white-glove wearing, church-going mother didn’t smoke, drink or use bad language nor did she associate with those who did, but how she loved Moms Mabley. She used to howl at her gravely mumbling voice that sounded like she was about to spew a wad of phlegm as she told her outrageous stories. Listening to these tracks brings back some fond memories of my mother’s hidden vice of her love of off-color humor, in private, of course.

  2. At least twice a year, my dad will tell the story about being up until 6 a.m. on a blackjack heater in Vegas, playing at the same table as Redd Foxx and Trini Lopez. He caught the late show where Foxx was doing his best dirty routine and then hit the casino floor where he ended up at a table and these guys showed up. Dad was bent out of shape on free booze and was telling Redd all the jokes Redd told him in his routine earlier that night. I think it might be his favorite memory from “Classic Vegas.”

  3. on a very narrowly related note (bear with me here): for those of a certain age who grew up in the era when Moms was on television a lot, another documentary related to the popular television culture of the time is now available on Netflix, etc: Paul Williams: Still Alive. Love him, hate him, it’s an interesting tale.
    Nothing to add about Moms. Her genius speaks for itself.

  4. @Virgo: Thanks for the tip. I’m obviously an aging pop culture buff.
    @Fries; Nice story. Thanks for sharing it.
    @Doc: Have you seen this Redd clip, Wash Your Ass? It’s a classic.

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