I never thought that I would ever get to see either one of them play, so for me it’s a big night for comedy as two legends are due to perform on the same bill here tonight.
Before these comedy masters take to the stage, there’s a full evening of comedy and spoken word hosted by poets Floetic Lara and Comfort Cydell as well as comedian Leo Muhammad. Formerly know as Leo Chester, he used to appear on “The real McCoy” and has been a follower of Minister Louis Farrakhan for a number of years. He’s a fine host and keeps things moving. No mean feat as the whole evening runs for nearly four hours with a twenty minutes interval.
All the acts make great use of their short spots though. Comedian Mr. Cee is good in the difficult first warm up spot. His set is reasonably crowd pleasing but nothing too ground breaking, decent enough for the first comedian on though.
Suli Breaks comes on and delivers his hard hitting poem about knife crime called R.I. P.
Poet Anthony Anaxagoru has some clever rhymes in his piece If I told you
Akala did two poems which were both well received. Witty and insightful, he’s an energetic performer but slightly rushes some of his lines making it hard to follow in places.
I could have done with slightly less of Floetic Lara who as well as hosting, came on at different points to either do poetry or sing. Comfort wasn’t on nearly as often, her allocated time feeling just right.
Dick Gregory was very active in the Civil Rights movement, knew Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, is an outspoken political activist who has been arrested around 150 times in his 79 years, has acted, written books and created his own diet and fitness programme. He was also one of the first black comedians to play the big white clubs in the Fifties. A man who has had an eventful life, it’s great to see him here tonight and he’s given a huge reception when he steps onto the stage. His intermittent periods of fasting over the years (sometimes for several weeks at a time) has given him a lean and wiry frame, not bad for a man who is 80 in October. Not surprisingly, he jokes about how he’s getting on in years, but firmly stating that his doctor has been dead for 30 years. Looking comfortable as he strolls around the stage, his comedy is in the Bill Cosby style of being witty, deadpan and observational. Although clearly spiritual he rails against Catholic priests, Baptist ministers and organised religions. There’s a bit about the billions spent on the black hair care industry and also about how he started out in the black clubs but now working class black people can’t afford to go and see him. He could clearly have gone on until the end of the night, someone who has lived a varied life and seen things change while remaining the same. Long may he be around.
Prior to Paul Mooney’s appearance, black British comedian Curtis Walker does a short set with material covering the Olympics and how he needs to have more of an ego as he walked to the gig tonight. Once he’s finished, Floetic Lara starts another one of her poems and the heckling that forces her to restart it is a testament to her overlong presence on the stage tonight.
Finally, it’s time for Paul Mooney. He worked with the great Richard Pryor for 32 years, writing material for all Pryor’s filmed stand up performances as well as “The Richard Pryor Show”. He also wrote for “Saturday Night Live”, was head writer on “In Living Color” and worked with Dave Chappelle. He’s also an actor, having worked with Spike Lee, and also wrote comedy roles for Sandra Bernhardt and Robin Williams when they were starting out.
If you’re not familiar with his stand up there’s lots up on YouTube to give you an idea. Primarily dealing with race and racism and how it’s polarised America for generations, he can be hard hitting in his opinions of white people, appearing delighted when someone walks out of his show.
He comes onto the stage helped by his daughter. He’s limping slightly and uses a walking stick but appears to be in a good mood. My only disappointment was his liberal use of the ‘N’ word. When Michael Richards had his very public meltdown a few years back Paul Mooney was one of the first to condemn him and said he was not using the word in his stand up from now on. He’s clearly changed his mind on this though and his act is more like the Mooney of old.
He covers lots of topics, from Obama and how his mixed race is still not good enough for some people to the Bridgette Neilsen/Flavor Flavor relationship. There was a bit about the side effects of over the counter medication and how us West Indian and English blacks think that we’re better than Americans when we were just “dropped off first “. It’s standard Mooney stuff, irreverent, witty and sometimes painfully true. He puts on foppish English accents and pulls faces as he imitates the people he talks about. Both acts also had critical opinions on the Royal family and, although he wasn’t as on point as Dick Gregory was tonight, Paul Mooney showed true flashes of wit throughout his set.
A great night and incredible to have seen two proper living comedy legends in one night.