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Did Moms Mabley Predict The 2008 Election?

25 January 2010 One Comment

Black female entertainers have always walked a fine line between the stereotype of the vulgar, oversexed temptress and the large, asexual mammy figure. When it comes to creating a comedic persona, there’s nothing less-funny to black audiences than trite, overdone stereotypes (or, so I thought until Madea came along, but I digress**). Moms Mabley circumvented all of that by presenting herself as an toothless old lady in a bathrobe and raggedy hat who also had the foulest mouth around and couldn’t keep her mind off of sex. In the 1930’s Chitlin’ Circuit world the combination was genius, as Moms was able to poke fun at anything she chose including racism, politics, and the undesirability of old men. That’s right, Moms Mabley was the original cougar of comedy, and extremely prolific as well. In addition to leaving behind dozens of comedy albums during her sixty year career, Moms even collaborated with Zora Neale Hurston to write and perform in the Broadway play Fast and Furious: A Colored Revue in Thirty-Seven Scenes.

Fast forward to today’s world, one that Moms Mabley never could have imagined…or could she?  Check out the cover of this album I just got my hands on, “Moms Mabley At The White House Conference.”

Does the young, almondy guy she’s dragging along look like anyone you know? Here’s a closer look:

Barack is that you…?

Moms Mabley really did visit the White House after being invited to by President Kennedy, so I can only imagine the wisecracks she makes on this album. Unfortunately, the record itself is cracked so I may never know, but check out some of her comedy from the album “Live at the Apollo.” She is a certified fool!

** When I call Tyler Perry loving terms like “King of Coonery,” objectors often bring up Moms Mabley as an example of a character that is just as much of a stereotype as his Madea. The two are about as similar as a Puff Daddy song and whatever track he sampled for it! One major difference between the two characters is Mabley’s authenticity, trail-blazing, and tongue-in-cheek satire on larger issues and the black community, in comparison to the Madea character whose exploits only extend to the ridiculous. The other large difference is that one is timelessly funny and the other is poor facsimile from the minstrel shows that WERE in fact great entertainment. An old bawdy lady in a bathrobe CAN be funny instead of coontastic, but Madea is the latter. I think that some of our best comedy revolves around negative stereotypes and we shouldn’t worry about how that is presented to white America and always entertain ourselves as if no one else is watching. In fact, most of our jokes are “inside” jokes and it’s beautiful. However, these images need to be something we can stand behind, those that are well done and accurate. THAT is how we laugh at ourselves.

One Comment »

  • Vonmiw said:

    We had several Moms Mabley and her buddy Pigmeat Markham albums in our home. Now I understand why we couldn’t listen to them. I never thought of this woman as a “Mammie” but merely an entertainer. Some of you seem to be having problems with the imagery of yesteryear as it applies to the roles that black women have chosen to play today, but fail to realise much of this had to do with the era and roles were limited to them at the time.They still knew who and what they were and they knew this was how they made a living and there was nothing indignant about that.

    Fast forward today, roles for black actresses are still limited to them and other women of color in Hollywood. Who’s producing the movies of today? Who’s showing black women as being diverse and capable of playing any character? Tyler Perry is producing movies and I respect him for that, but where are the rest with the wealth that can do that same thing? Those who have stepped forward to produce on Broadway and Hollywood should be commended for financing these ventures.

    “As the saying goes put your money where your mouth is.” Nothing could be more truer than that!If we want to see what we deem as our diversity as a people in this country than we need to be responsible for creating our own images, until then our story will continue to be told by someone else.

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