Dave Chappelle won his first Emmy Award on Sunday, thanks to his “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut just days after Donald Trump was elected president. Chappelle’s November 12 “SNL” episode delivered the franchise’s season high in adults 18-49 and total viewers, and the show’s highest 18-49 rating since 2013.
And now, it has delivered Chappelle an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. The comedian won the statuette Sunday in a field that included two other “SNL” hosts: Tom Hanks and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Dick Gregory, who became the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s, a decade in which he satirized segregation and race relations in his act and launched his lifetime commitment to civil rights and other social justice issues, died Saturday. He was 84.
His death was confirmed on his official social media accounts by his family. “It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote. Even before the confirmation from the family, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend of Gregory’s, had memorialized him in a tweet: “He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live. Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”
In a life that began in poverty in St. Louis during the Depression, the former Southern Illinois University track star became known as an author, lecturer, nutrition guru and self-described agitator who marched, ran and fasted to call attention to issues ranging from police brutality to world famine. An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.” He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters.
In the late ’60s, Gregory began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War. In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.
But before Dick Gregory the activist, there was Dick Gregory the groundbreaking comedian. He was a struggling 28-year-old stand-up comic in Chicago who had launched his career in small black clubs when he received a life-changing, last-minute phone call from his agent in January 1961: The prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago needed someone to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey on Sunday night. Gregory was so broke he had to borrow a quarter from his landlord for bus fare downtown. Never mind that his audience turned out to be a convention of white frozen-food-industry executives from the South.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Gregory said, coolly eyeing the audience. “I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night. …“Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ ”Despite having to deal with what he later described as “dirty, little, insulting statements” from some members of the audience, the heckling soon stopped as Gregory won them over with his provocatively funny but nonbelligerent satirical humor.
“Segregation is not all bad,” he said on stage. “Have you ever heard of a wreck where the people on the back of the bus got hurt?” What was supposed to be a 55-minute show, Gregory later recalled, went on for about an hour and 40 minutes. And by the time he walked off stage, the audience gave him a thundering ovation. He did so well, he was booked at the club for two weeks and then held over for several more.
After his scene-stealing turn on 30 Rock, the NBC series’ co-star Tracy Morgan is starring in his own single-camera comedy project, this time on cable. FX has given a pilot order to Death Pact, from writer-creators Rob Long (Cheers) and Tad Safran (The Long Weekend) and producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum. In Death Pact, Morgan stars as a formerly lazy, pot-dealing assistant high school coach who returns to his hometown as a decorated war hero. He runs across three down-on-their-luck friends and former students and sucks them into his new radical self-help philosophy, which involves harsh consequences for failure. The pilot, produced by FX Prods, will film this summer in New York or New Jersey. “Needless to say anything starring Tracy Morgan could be off-the-charts hilarious and we’re betting this one is,” said FX’s EVP Original Programming Nick Grad. “Rob Long, Tad Safran, Eric Tannenbaum and Kim Tannenbaum have delivered a terrific starring vehicle for Tracy. We look forward to casting the other three co-stars and getting started with production. This is going to be fun.”
The edgy FX should be a suitable home for Morgan’s sensibility, as showcased in his not-always politically correct stand-up. At the cable network, he would join other stand-up comedians including most notably Louis CK. Since 30 Rock ended its run in January, Morgan has been focusing on his stand-up with his international Excuse My French tour. Before his seven-season stint on 30 Rock, which earned him an Emmy nomination, Morgan spent seven years on Saturday Night Live. FX Networks is ramping up comedy development and production as the company is preparing for the launch comedy-focused channel FXX, which will join flagship FX.
NEW YORK, NY – Ed Gordon Media announced today the syndication of “Conversations with Ed Gordon,” a quarterly, one-hour special with award-winning journalist and renowned interviewer, Ed Gordon, serving as host and executive producer. The specials will be aired nationally, including on all ten NBC owned and operated affiliates. The first special begins airing April 28, 2013. Airdates, times and markets can be found on www.edgordon.net/conversations.htm.
Gordon, known for in-depth and exclusive interviews, will do it again with a stellar line-up of guests for the first special. Comedian Kevin Hart, one of today’s hottest entertainers, talks with Gordon on location in Los Angeles about his record-breaking concert tour and hit television show. Hart also confronts recent criticism surrounding a controversial “color” joke.
Kevin Hart on why he doesn’t address media/social network criticism:
“They want to make something out of nothing. So if you give ammunition, which is a reply, an excuse or a constant apology, you’re setting yourself up for more comments.”
On wanting to be on the list of the greatest comedians of all-time:
“As long as my name is in there, I don’t care if it’s dead last, as long as I am in there. That means people understood my work ethic and understood that I love to do what I am doing now…making people laugh and that’s it.”
The long-gestating Richard Pryor biopic is starting over from scratch with Forest Whitaker now in charge.
Fresh from producing the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner “Fruitvale,” Whitaker has taken over the nearly two-decade effort to bring the legendary comic’s life of the big screen, reports Deadline.com.
Whitaker is teaming with the late comic’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, to produce the film through his Significant Productions shingle. Whitaker will develop a new script with input from Jennifer Pryor, and Significant Productions’ Nina Yang-Bongiovi, will also produce.
The Pryor biopic has been attempted numerous times, and the most recent version had Bill Condon poised to direct Marlon Wayans in the starring role for Sony Pictures, where Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison had set the project. Condon was certainly passionate about Pryor, but everything took a back seat when he signed on to helm the final two “Twilight Saga” installments. The project languished.
The first Pryor project was a Martin Scorsese-directed drama to star Damon Wayans, this well before Pryor died in 2005. Later, there was a Showtime pic that was to star Eddie Griffin and another attempt at a feature that was to star Mike Epps with Kasi Lemmons directing.
Condon’s first flirtation had Eddie Murphy briefly interested, and then Chris Rock was briefly in the conversation.
The question now is, who will be Whitaker’s Richard Pryor? Deadline.com’s Mike Fleming Jr. thinks he should look no further than his “Fruitvale” star, Michael B. Jordan, “who by all accounts crushed it in that film.”
Fleming writes: “Jordan, who grew up playing roles in ‘The Wire’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’ before starring in ‘Chronicle,’ certainly has the charisma and should be established enough as the lead on a modestly budgeted film after The Weinstein Company releases ‘Fruitvale’ later this year.”
Brooklyn, NY native Christopher Julius “Chris Rock” III was born on February 7, 1965 and began to build his stand-up career by working at New York City’s Catch a Rising Star in the 1980s, earning small parts in movies like Beverly Hills Cop II and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and landing a featured role on NBC’s late-night comedy juggernaut Saturday Night Live in 1990. Rock went on to write and star in rap mockmentary CB4 before re-inventing himself through a series of HBO comedy specials starting with 1996’s Emmy Award-winning Bring the Pain. Rock later went on to produce the television show Everybody Hates Chris for UPN/CW and star in feature films such as Death at a Funeral, Down to Earth, The Longest Yard and I Think I Love My Wife. To learn more about his life and career, click here.