Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Color of Comedy

Earlier today I had a chance to watch an insightful documentary on Black comedy in the 20th century that also discussed the role it's played within the plight of Blacks in America of the course of the last 100 or so years. There were several things that resonated with me, but perhaps more than anything there were a good three that stuck out:

  • Comedian Richard Pryor received due praise for his role as a social commentator.
  • The Cosby Show changed the paradigm of what a Black family in America looked (or at least could look) like.
  • Some of the best talents were and are universal, and are not just limited to playing in front of the same crowds.
The first one was mainly a surprise because of how many people gave Richard Pryor his props. I mainly know him from biographies depicting his life and rough upbringing, and not to mention his rough language during his acts. Sometimes I wonder why more talents can't see past the money or whatever physical items phase them and entertain while provoking thought, like what Bill Cosby did with the Cosby Show.

I've heard and read (not to mention have watched) so much of and about the show since I was a small kid, but as someone who came up in a modest, military family, I never realized what the show represented to less fortunate families of color out there. Comedian Bill Billamy expressed with emphasis what it was like for him growing up as a kid in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey and watching a prominent Black family living in a house on TV. To him, that was unprecedented.

Finally, and perhaps most important to me as a creative individual, was the fact that true talent reaches its potential when it's universal. Don't get me wrong, I love my niche acts and talents that attract cult followings, but to see someone like Chris Rock reach the success he has is impressive. He is himself, and he realizes that if there is nothing else he can do to the best of his abilities, it's to make people laugh. Not Black or White people, but people. Isn't that special? Sometimes we get so caught up in why we're different that we should appreciate what makes us as people so similar.