BY WALTER OPINDE
On this day, May 23, 1975, the first African-American standup comedian, Jackie Moms Mabley, dies. She achieved a great professional and commercial success during the age in which there were very few African-American females on the comedy platforms.
Famous with her stage name, Jackie Moms Mabley; Loretta Mary Aiken was born on 19th March 1894, in Brevard, North Carolina. She was brought up in a family of 16 children. Her mother took care of the households while her father owned and operated several businesses successfully. At a mere age of 13 years, Jackie Moms Mabley had been raped twice (by an old black man, at 11, and a white sheriff, at 13).
At a teenage age of just 15 years of age, Loretta escaped from her parental home to Cleveland with a travel vaudeville-style minstrel show, where she realized her potentials of entertaining and singing. She later acquired the name “Moms” as indeed, she was a Mom to many comedians in the 1950s and 1960s circuit. She was one of the most successful entertainers of the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” the other name for the T.OB.A. (Theater Owners Booking Association), which was also satirically known as the “Tough On Black Asses” Circuit.
By the mid-20th century, the 1950s to be precise, Jackie Moms was already one of the most famous and successful female comedians in the U.S., receiving up to approximately $10,000 as her weekly earnings while performing at the Apollo Theater, in Harlem. Mabley recorded over twenty albums of various comedy routines. Some of her most well-known albums included “Jackie Moms Mobley at the U.N.,” recorded 1961, and the “Moms Mabley Breaks It Up,” which she recorded a year later, in 1962. She also appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and the Ed Sullivan Show.
Jackie Moms was billed as “The Funniest Female in the World” as she tackled a range of topics that were too uneasy to many mainstream comedians of her time, such as sexuality, romance, and racism. In 1969, Jackie Moms Mabley recorded a satirical song, famously known as “Abraham, Martin, and John,” which trended and emerged as hit number 35 on the Billboards and Charts. This song made her name a history after ranking as the oldest female ever to feature on the Top 40 hits in the U.S.
Jackie Moms Mabley is the subject of the “Whoopi Goldberg” Presents Moms Mabley- a documentary film that was first aired on 18th November 2013 on HBO. The film was nominated twice for the “Creative Arts Emmy Awards” during the 66th ceremony held at Nokia Theater on 16th August 2014, in Downtown Los Angeles. Recently, in 2015, Jackie Moms Mabley was named as one of the 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT Historical Month by the Equity Forum. She remains an iconic legend in the history of American black comedy.
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