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Whoopi Goldberg Talks Sexuality, Comedy and Crowdfunding at Tribeca Premiere of Directorial Debut 'I've Got Somethin' to Tell You'

By Erin Whitney | Indiewire April 24, 2013 at 11:10AM

Whoopi Goldberg, already the versatile actress-comedienne-talk-show-host-songwriter-activist, has added a director title to the list of her many talents with the debut of her first documentary "I’ve Got Somethin’ to Tell You," at the currently underway Tribeca Film Festival. The film resurrects Jackie "Moms" Mabley, the forgotten pioneer of not only comedy, but of both female and black comediennes. The film has been acquired by HBO Films, but currently has no set release date.
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Whoopi Goldberg on Kickstarter
Whoopi Goldberg on Kickstarter

On how Mabley is left out of the conversation about women pioneers of comedy.

"When I discovered that she was the first and only for 40 years before anybody else shows up, I thought ‘How come I didn’t know this? Why is there no Moms Mabley Award for comedy?’ (to much applause). To have lost this, and I include myself, seems a real shame. It’s insane because we all thought we knew and as it turns out very few of us did. But maybe the adults did. The first time I came across that card with her as Mr. Moms I was like 'What the!' How come nobody talked about this? They didn’t talk about it because it didn’t matter, it had nothing to do with her comedy and no one was interested in her personal life. Yeah (she says to cheers in the audience), remember that? I’m just saying."


Goldberg discusses Mabley’s sexuality and the lack of public knowledge about it.

"If people start to say ‘How is that possible?’ just think Rock Hudson, because I know many of you were shocked as hell when you found out Rock was gay! Folks took care of each other they looked after you because you would keep your job and they would keep working. It was a whole other groove, it wasn’t this everybody’s-gotta-know-everything-about-your-business, it just wasn’t like that. She was a great comic and being gay had nothing to do with it.

"The first time I came across that postcard of 'Seasons Greetings From Mr. Moms' and she’s dressed as a man, it was pretty clear! I was like 'What the! How come nobody talked about this?’ They didn’t talk about it because it didn’t matter, it had nothing to do with her comedy and no one was interested in her personal life. They were talking about how funny she was, always. I kind of like that, that people got to have their life.

On why Mabley disappeared from the popular history of comedy.

"It wasn’t a race or gender thing, it was just time. Unless someone is talking about you you’re dead. People die when you don’t remember them. Now she’s been a little bit resurrected in your minds and maybe other people’s. 

"This is a black woman, rolling around America telling jokes. Nobody chronicled this, because you know they weren’t chronicling us [black people] then, they just didn’t do it. We know everything about Gracie Allen and George Burns and they were magnificent comics, but we know nothing about Moms because the material is not there."

Goldberg reveals the most difficult part of the film to nail.

"It’s going to sound a little odd, but they key was me. I had not planned to be in the film, because you never see the filmmaker in these documentaries. Then suddenly I thought, ‘I think I have to be in this,’ sort of explain and be that explanation through. I think I had to unlock it or it would’ve just been on the surface."

On getting all the comedians, actors and entertainers in the film involved.

"These were all people I knew, which made it easier. But the most fascinating for me was Sidney. You’re used to Sidney Poitier being Sidney Poitier and you never think of Sidney arriving in America and coming from the islands and totally into the Apollo. One of my favorite things he talked about [in the film] is he said, ‘I couldn’t really figure out things they were talking about [at the Apollo], but they looked like family so I was comfortable.’ The impact that Moms had was far-reaching in terms of entertainment, that she was able to grab Sidney who had just arrived, or she was able to grab Jerry Stiller and Brooklyn, was kind of phenomenal. Kathy Griffin said it that she was able to reach through the television and say ‘Yeah, you know me!’ It’s kind of amazing because when we think about black-white relationships we never talk about this, that we are one people, that regardless of what the media says we really are just one. When we’re hungry, we’re hungry. White people will feed you just as much as black people will feed you, Asian people; poor folks will take care of each other. Rich people, I’m not too sure about that, but poor people will always feed you."

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Whoopi Goldberg, I Got Somethin' to Tell You







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