April 25, 2010
In the second part of my 4-part series on comedy albums worth knowing, I’m highlighting 4 albums by black comedians from the ’60s. (Next week is Old White Guys. Last week, if you missed it, was Stone Cold Classics). You’ll notice I didn’t include Bill Cosby or Richard Pryor. It’s not because I don’t love the crap out of their albums; I do (most of them). But this column is called “Hidden Gems,” not “Gems Everybody’s Heard Of.”
Godfrey Cambridge is remembered, if at all, as an actor who fluctuated between serious roles (unusually in blaxploitation flicks) and funny roles (like the bigoted whitey magically turned into a black man in Watermelon Man) the same way his weight fluctuated between heavy and slim. His stand-up work, though less remembered than his acting, is definitely worth checking out. During this set, taken from a show in Vegas (no doubt in front of a largely white audience), Cambridge deftly deals with racial issues in a showmanly fashion that neither alienates the white folks nor panders to them in stereotypical Stepin Fetchit style. Cambridge died at age 43 from a heart attack, probably from the constant back and forth with his weight, and this disc proves that a great talent was lost. You can hear the album over at this blog.
Redd Foxx | On The Loose Recorded Live
Redd Foxx is legendary for inspiring top black comedians like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, by making best-selling “party records” full of jokes about normally unmentionable things — mostly sex — starting in the ‘50s. This set is from the late ‘60s, and what is unusual to the modern listener is Foxx’s distinctly old-fashioned style. He tells jokes like your dirty-minded uncle tells you jokes — set-up, punchline, set-up, punchline — not like more observational or storyteller-type comedians of recent years. But he gets the laughs. My favorite joke from the album: “Do you know the difference between a light sleeper and a hard sleeper? A light sleeper sleeps with a light on and a hard sleeper can sleep through anything.”