In a career that has spanned nearly 60 years, comedian, political activist and social critic Dick Gregory has had many lives. He started out in the 1950’s as a comedian and MC and eventually starting toplining at the Playboy Club in Chicago. He was soon discovered by TV talent scouts, and became a regular fixture on TV talk shows throughout the 60’s. Long before Chris Rock or Richard Pryor, Gregory’s humor was searing and cutting edge, dealing with topics such as racism and other social ills, but with his own patented barbed wit.
However, producers treated him, as well as other black performers on the shows at the time, as hired help, and would not let him sit down with the various talk show hosts on whose shows he appeared, until he began to turn down gigs and was finally allowed to sit with the host and talk, just like the white guests. But that’s one of many instances of Gregory fighting against what was unfair and unequal treatment against black people.
During the same period, he became a committed civil rights and political activist, even going on several hunger strikes (as late as 2010), and in 1968 he actually ran for President of the United States, with a campaign in which he said that his fist act if elected would be (and I still remember it) to “paint the White House black.”
Later on during the 1980’s, he became a fanatical health food and weight loss advocate (remember Gregory’s Bahamian Diet mix for which he introduced a new and improved version last year).
But today Gregory is better known as a conspiracy buff, to put in mildly. Since the mid 70’s, Gregory has been known for advocating what many people believe are some of the wackiest and most unbelievable conspiracy theories, making outrageous statements such as when he stated last year that the United States is “the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet,” adding, “As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 96 percent of the world’s hard drugs” (though one has to reluctantly admit that many of the things that Gregory says and believes do have some kernel of truth in them).
So it’s not surprising that, finally, a documentary on the life, career and work of Gregory, entitled “Dick Gregory; How to Survive in America,” which will be directed by Andre Gaines (“Brazilian Western”) and produced by Michele Farinola, is in the works, scheduled to be completed in 2017.
To that end, the filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 to complete the film, and have already attracted a major contribution from director/writer/producer Judd Apatow, who donated $5000 towards their campaign.
For the film and the campaign itself, Gregory (who turns 83 next month) couldn’t be more excited: “This is more than just a film, it’s a movement. What you’re going to see in this film is information. Education is not power and money is not power. Information is power. The time is now. We have no more time. If we think we do, I say have fun, and have fun now, because recess is just about over. The time is now.”
The director also shared that they chose Kickstarter to finance the film since it’s in keeping with Gregory’s mission: “We are financing this film through Kickstarter because Mr. Gregory’s mission is about uplifting communities. He has been such a powerful force for good that it was only fitting we rally these very communities and his fans to help finance the project. Kickstarter allows us to freely and honestly tell our story and share Mr. Gregory’s mission with the help of the communities he serves.”
To go to the film’s Kickstarter page click here.
Below is a very brief clip from the film in which Gregory explains why he likes Queen Elizabeth: