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Whoopi Goldberg On Moms Mabley’s Broadway Collab w/ Zora Neale Hurston + Her Documentary

Whoopi Goldberg On Moms Mabley's Broadway Collab w/ Zora Neale Hurston + Her Documentary

Last summer, despite some criticism of her use of the online crowd-funding website, Kickstarter, to raise funds for her Moms Mabley documentary, Whoopi Goldberg did reach her campaign goal, actually surpassing it, raising over $73,000, when her goal was to raise $65,000.

Goldberg has been working on a documentary feature on the life of pioneering comedian Moms Mabley for at least 3 years now, and it looks like she’s reached the tail-end of the production phase, as she told Jimmy Fallon on his show last night, she’s currently in post-production, although she doesn’t say when it’ll debut.

Titled I Got Somethin’ To Tell You, Whoopi says we can expect the following from the film:

“Moms Mabley was a pioneer in the comedy world and this documentary will showcase her talent and pay homage to a woman who is still relevant today. … Moms helped shape the idea that comedy could make a political and social statement and still be hilarious. She’s one of my role models and her comedy is still poignant today. This documentary will delve into the comedy of Mabley, as well as help define her significance through clips, old photographs, television show appearances and interviews, conducted by me with famous and influential people who either knew and worked with Moms or were inspired by her.”

In the Fallon interview below, she talks about her inspiration for making the film, giving audiences some history on Mabley, and the legacy she inspired and left behind, and more. One fact she mentioned, which I only just heard for the first time, is that, in 1931 Moms Mabley collaborated with Zora Neale Hurston on the Broadway musical titled Fast and Furious: A Colored Revue in 37 Scenes. Keep in mind, during those years, black shows on Broadway weren’t exactly a routine occurrence; although, to be frank, not much has changed over 80 years later. But I’d say that a Broadway show with black creators and a black cast in 1931 was likely more of an achievement than the same kind of show in 2013.

A Trip to Coontown (1898) was the first musical comedy entirely produced and performed by African Americans in a Broadway theatre (although it was mostly inspired by minstrel shows). It was followed by followed by the ragtime-tinged Clorindy the Origin of the Cakewalk (1898), which  Paul Laurence Dunbar was a co-creator of. And then there was In Dahomey (1902), which is said to have been quite successfull, according to my research.

But who knew that Moms Mabley and Zora Neale Hurston collaborated on Broadway show together? According to the Internet Broadway Database (, the show ran from September 15, 1931 to September 19, 1931, for a total of 7 performances. And, by the way, Zora Neale Hurston was one of the show’s performers as well – the only time she performed on the Broadway stage.

Lots of history here worth looking in to; I’m sure our theatre buffs are already on top of it.

Here’s Whoopi talking to Fallon about the documentary:

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She revealed to Katie Couric today that she interviewed everyone from Kathy Griffin to Eddie Murphy to Arsenio Hall. This should be a great documentary.


There was some minstrel-style comedy in that show, which also starred Tim Moore (Kingfish from "Amos and Andy"). One skit had Moore as a football player and Mabley and Huston as cheerleaders. It was relatively well reviewed, but reviewers noted that it borrowed from the minstrel tradition. Hurston made it clear in her writings that she was not a fan of minstrelsy by whites in blackface, but admired black performers who engaged in low/vaudeville/minstrel/burlesque entertainment, and from the accounts that survive, the comedy in this show reflected that.

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