The television station TV ONE is bringing the celebration of Black History Month to the fore front for me this year. Sometimes the month flies by so quickly that I really don't get the chance to engage in a particular celebration or true acknowledgement of the months events. I would never intentionally ignore the fact that we have a lot to be proud of as Black Americans but I do become overwhelmed with the everyday ins and outs of being American and unfortunately some years my time doesn't really allow for a full commitment celebrating Black History month. This year is different. I may not be doing a concert celebrating the month or joining any festival s but I am catching up on some incredible history. Thank to TV ONE.
I grew up in front of the television set in the 70's and 80's. I loved every single variety show that was aired whether it be Donny and Marie, Sonny and Cher, Hollywood Palace, or the Carol Burnett Show. I actually used to run home after school so I could plop myself down in front of an episode of the Flintstones followed by Carol Burnett and The Gong Show. I was in heaven. I think it is where my interest in performance really grew. Day after day I was seeing raw talent from these shows. Comedians and Entertainers at the top of the craft sharing ideas and having a great time. The amount of stars and innovative personalities that appeared in cameo performances are now household names and have been for years. The best of the best had their own show and all of the top stars would perform on each others program. Robin Williams on Richard Pryor show or Lily Tomlin on The Flip Wilson Show. The programs were great and I was definitely inspired to sing and dance as a result and there was nothing like seeing your "own" on TV at that time. It was magical for me to see Sammy Davis, Jr., Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson and many more hosting shows at that time.
This past weekend I found myself glued to TV ONE watching episode after episode of Sanford and Son, The Richard Pryor Show and The Flip Wilson Show. Unbelievable and provocative. So well produced and funny. The audiences were open to presentation and the shows weren't tainted with a fear that exists in performance today. America has become a country that has no sense of humor. Ex: Ricky Gervais. They hired him; get over it.! It is obvious that we cannot say on TV today what was said in the past. We couldn't even have comedy sketches about half of the issues these unbelievable pioneers introduced in their storytelling.
With SAMMY & ME looming and the multitude of other projects I have floating around in my brain finally being put down on paper, i find that the majority of my stories have a racial connection or underlying theme in them. I tend to address race in my stories by asking questions or putting my characters in situations that involve race. Why? For many years I've been wondering why I can't just write something that has nothing to do with race. Well now I know! I was influenced by some of the greatest entertainers of all time. As I watch the Richard Pryor show today my mouth hangs open in shock and disbelief. Were jokes about the differences of Black people so absolutely prevalent in images and during the time that I became a young man. I guess so. Of course I still carry on the idea that humor can have tension and stories can have conflicts that deal with race. Isn't it the only way to actually get people closer to one another? Really? If we can't laugh at ourselves how can anyone laugh with us? It's kind of like RuPaul says at the end of every Drag Race episode, "remember...if you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?" Funny. I now know that the Pryors, Wilsons, Davises, Mooney's and all the comedians that TV One so incredibly gave me the chance to watch again this month laughed at themselves and opened doors for others to get closer to the Black Community which in 2011 is everyones community.
That's amazing. Truly Amazing. Thanks TV ONE.