With all the stuff I threw at y’all yesterday, I hope you didn’t miss the Lenny Bruce uploads. I continue my little standup-comedy history tour with Dick Gregory, a pioneering “crossover” star among hip nightclub comics.
Hugh Hefner first exposed Mr. Gregory to white audiences by booking him at Chicago’s Playboy Club in 1961. (Gregory’s first LP, “In Living Black and White,” was recorded there.)
Dick Gregory spoke openly about America’s racial problems... but with a laid-back, ironical approach that went down well with Caucasian sophisticates.
With his fast success, Gregory devoted himself to civil-rights activism. And within three years of becoming famous, he started to lose bookings because of his politics.
After a five-year pause in his recording career, Gregory started making albums again in 1969. Albums that were much harsher, much bleaker, than his early ones. But by now Gregory’s outspokenness – against the Vietnam war, against the U.S. government, against the “white racist system” – made him a counterculture hero.
Let’s give a listen to Dick Gregory, before and after:
Click here to hear a few minutes of his 1962 LP, “Dick Gregory Talks Turkey,” recorded before a black audience.
Now, click here and see the difference a few years can make. This is a 9-minute chunk from the double-album “Dick Gregory’s Frankenstein,” released in 1970.