Dick Gregory with Emerson College

Comedian


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half-hour interview for the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, Dick Gregory (1932-2017) talks extensively about the history of racism in America, and on his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. He recalls his groundbreaking appearances on Tonight Starring Jack Paar where he was the first African-American comedian to sit on Paar’s couch. He discusses the role of Hugh Hefner in getting him into mainstream nightclubs, and how he developed his act over the years. Gregory speaks of many aspects of doing stand-up comedy, including coming up with material, techniques, and using real life experiences as fodder for his act. He covers a number of societal issues, and relates how things changed during his lifetime. Jenni Matz and Bill Dana conducted the interview on October 15, 2005 in Washington D.C.

"As a comedian, something comes over you when you walk out on that stage. If your mama died or you got problems - tooth hurt, sore throat, you walk out there and something happens. Something comes over you and you don't even feel nothing until you get back off. This job gives us this extra bonus."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Dick Gregory on how he came to appear on Tonight Starring Jack Paar
Dick Gregory on the role of the comic in society
Dick Gregory on his relationship with Martin Luther King, and on when it's appropriate to joke about tragedy
Dick Gregory on advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy
Dick Gregory on how entertainment has changed in America, and on how technology changed
Dick Gregory on the then-current state of race relations in America
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On racism in America; on how comedy reflects society; on what he wanted to accomplish with his stand-up comedy, and on his early experiences with nightclubs
On how he came to appear on Tonight Starring Jack Paar; on the challenges of an African-American comedian working nightclubs in the early 1960s; on Hugh Hefner hiring him to perform at the Playboy Club, and on Hefner's impact on comedy
On his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement; on his relationship with Martin Luther King, and on when it's appropriate to joke about tragedy; on taking a stand on civil rights issues, and on the power of music
On the then-current state of race relations in America; on using humor as a coping mechanism, and on Hurricane Katrina; on coming up with material for his act
On defining what a comedian is; on using his life experiences as fodder for his act; on the notion of African-Americans getting reparations, homosexuality in America, and the advancement of women
On advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy; on comedians developing a technique; on racism in America, on how people dress, and on his childhood in school
On how entertainment has changed in America, and on how technology changed; on if it was worth it, and on summing up his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement; on the role of the comic in society
Shows

Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show

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Dick Gregory on how he came to appear on Tonight Starring Jack Paar
Topics

Advice

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Dick Gregory on advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy

Civil Rights Movement

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Dick Gregory on the challenges of an African-American comedian working nightclubs in the early 1960s
Dick Gregory on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
Dick Gregory on his relationship with Martin Luther King, and on when it's appropriate to joke about tragedy
Dick Gregory on taking a stand on civil rights issues, and on the power of music
Dick Gregory on if it was worth it, and on summing up his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Diversity in Television

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Dick Gregory on racism in America

Historic Events and Social Change

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Dick Gregory on the challenges of an African-American comedian working nightclubs in the early 1960s
Dick Gregory on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
Dick Gregory on his relationship with Martin Luther King, and on when it's appropriate to joke about tragedy
Dick Gregory on taking a stand on civil rights issues, and on the power of music
Dick Gregory on if it was worth it, and on summing up his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Minorities

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Dick Gregory on racism in America

Television Industry

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Dick Gregory on advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy
Professions

Comedian

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Dick Gregory on what comedy can do and cannot do for society
Dick Gregory on what he wanted to accomplish with this stand-up comedy, and on his early experiences with nightclubs
Dick Gregory on coming up with material for his act
Dick Gregory on defining what a comedian is
Dick Gregory on using his life experiences as fodder for his act
Dick Gregory on advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy
Dick Gregory on comedians developing a technique
Dick Gregory on the role of the comic in society

Performers

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Dick Gregory on what comedy can do and cannot do for society
Dick Gregory on what he wanted to accomplish with this stand-up comedy, and on his early experiences with nightclubs
Dick Gregory on coming up with material for his act
Dick Gregory on defining what a comedian is
Dick Gregory on using his life experiences as fodder for his act
Dick Gregory on advice to aspiring comedians, and on profanity in comedy
Dick Gregory on comedians developing a technique
Dick Gregory on the role of the comic in society
Genres

Late Night

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Dick Gregory on how he came to appear on Tonight Starring Jack Paar
People

Hugh Hefner

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Dick Gregory on Hugh Hefner hiring him to perform at the Playboy Club, and on Hefner's impact on comedy

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Dick Gregory on his relationship with Martin Luther King, and on when it's appropriate to joke about tragedy

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