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by Erin Whitney
April 24, 2013 11:10 AM
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Whoopi Goldberg Talks Sexuality, Comedy and Crowdfunding at Tribeca Premiere of Directorial Debut 'I've Got Somethin' to Tell You'

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."

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1 Comment

  • B J Robinson | April 29, 2013 5:46 PMReply

    Yes, thank you Ms Goldberg. I said Ms Goldnerg to show my respect for her talent, character and contributions to society! We need to hear this story about Moms Mabely and our history. Thank you for making the effort to create this documentory. I appreciate HBO's interest in the project but I wish the networks or basic cable would pick it up so it could reach a wider audience. I like many others can't affford HBO.