Dick Gregory: Serious about humor

Dick Gregory has long proved he could find humor in our country’s race relations while confronting racism, often at great personal cost. Erin Moriarty of “48 Hours” takes us through his career from its early days – and fair warning, there’s language ahead some will likely find offensive: 

In the early 1960s, a young Dick Gregory emerged as one of the hottest comics in the country. Today, at 84 years of age, he is still saying it as he sees it.

“If them cops was shooting your children, if they shot dogs like that, white folks would burn the police station down all over the f****** world, right?” he said recently at an appearance at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York.

Gregory first made his name, along with contemporaries Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, by focusing his wit on something that was no laughing matter: racism in America. A half-century later, that humor has been revived in a one-man play called “Turn Me Loose.”

Actor Joe Morton, who plays Gregory, took a break from his starring role in the hit TV drama, “Scandal,” to channel the comic and his groundbreaking performances.

A Greenwood police officer removes comedian Dick Gregory in Greenwood, Mississippi, April 2, 1963, as he left the County Court House after a group registered. Gregory was escorted across the street by a police officer when he was told he was moving too slow.


“I needed to do this play so that I can face people and say, ‘Here are the things we need to talk about,'” said Morton. “I mean, we live in a world where racism hasn’t changed at all. It’s that old thing of, you know, the more things change, the more things remain the same.”

The play, which ran in New York and is expected to open next in Los Angeles, reenacts the brutal heckling during Gregory’s early live appearances.

Moriarty asked Gregory, “How did you have the strength to deal with that, especially with humor?”

“Before I ever got to that…

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