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The 47th and Drexel Bit. Remember It?
September 20, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Tim and Tom. The first interracial comedy duo are on a book tour.
posted by Xurando (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
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People were laughing hard, but then, as the comedians prepared to move on, a man stood up in the back of the room and began shouting.

“Hey, white boy!” the man yelled. “Hey, white boy! I’m talking to you, goddammit! Listen to me now! I’m talking to you, honky!”

Reid and Dreesen were used to hecklers, but this one was different. “Are you listening to me, white boy?” the man called. “Why don’t you call him a nigger? That’s what you’d call him in Mississippi.”

For the first time since the crowd had started to fill Club Harlem the room fell silent—Reid and Dreesen could hear them breathing—until with no hesitation, without so much as a thought, Dreesen said, “Hell, I’ve called him a nigga in Chicago.”

To Dreesen, it seemed as if all the air had been sucked out of the room, and he could feel his heart beating in his chest. He’d screwed up, he thought. His past had betrayed him. All the hanging out with black guys back home in Harvey, all the scuffling around they’d done together, the trouble they’d gotten into, the sports they’d played, it had all come back to haunt him.

“Nigga” was a sign of affection—of respect, of a friendship so tight it could be symbolized by the most loaded of epithets. And it was true. He had called Tim nigga in Chicago. He’d said it to every one of his black friends at one time or another, just as they’d said it to each other. He wouldn’t think of saying it to anyone except a friend, in fact. But now he had gone too far. He was sure of it.

Suddenly, the room was rocked by an explosion of laughter. The sound started out loud and grew louder, then louder still. In a moment, it was echoing off the walls and people were pounding the tables, a few even standing and applauding, including the man who’d asked the question. Nodding, he pointed a finger at the stage, and Dreesen could see him mouthing the words, “That’s real, brother.”

posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:45 PM on September 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business--and the last

What, Cheech and Chong don't count?
posted by decagon at 4:26 PM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Holy Shit! "Tim" is Venus Flytrap! Why was I not informed of this earlier? As a WKRP fanboy, I'm thrilled. I just found this clip from the show featuring both gents.
posted by Optamystic at 4:28 PM on September 20, 2008


Just watched the second clip, aaaaaannnd, I'm an idiot.
posted by Optamystic at 4:31 PM on September 20, 2008


Thanks for this, Xurando! I'm sure I'd have never heard of them otherwise ('cept for Tim Reid being Venus Flytrap).
posted by not_on_display at 4:48 PM on September 20, 2008


Good Link. I'm a huge WKRP fan (Johnny Fever was my role model) and I was unaware of this. I'll have to hunt it down.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is great stuff, but I'd bet money they weren't the first interracial comedy duo.
posted by languagehat at 5:17 PM on September 20, 2008


I'd bet money they weren't the first interracial comedy duo.

Would the Rat Pack count? Maybe Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder (movie-wise anyway)? Like the hat, I'm sure there has to be one, but I can't think of a name.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on September 20, 2008


Optamystic, you missed a great opportunity to allude to thinking that urkeys could fly.

For my part, I never knew this entire back story. Thanks!
posted by yhbc at 5:52 PM on September 20, 2008


Turkeys, even.
posted by yhbc at 5:53 PM on September 20, 2008


Lord Buckley was the first interracial comedy duo.
posted by not_on_display at 6:23 PM on September 20, 2008


A little Amazon.com love for Tim & Tom (Amazon has video for books, now?). Also, but tangentially, in which episode does Mr. Carlson throw his drawer out the window?
posted by steef at 7:39 PM on September 20, 2008


Another interracial comedy duo: Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in "I Spy"
posted by Jahaza at 7:55 PM on September 20, 2008


"I'm a huge WKRP fan (Johnny Fever was my role model) "

We would never have guessed.





BOOGER.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 8:57 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


decagon: "the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business--and the last

What, Cheech and Chong don't count?
"

Nah, Interracial is only between a white and some other race. Merriam Shitster definition.
posted by zouhair at 9:31 PM on September 20, 2008


Yes!
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 10:01 PM on September 20, 2008


First interracial comedy team?

Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson (Rochester) certainly predated these guys.

Of course, it was a different sort of interracial comedy.
posted by three blind mice at 10:38 PM on September 20, 2008


Ummmm.... Williams and Ree. The Indian the white guy were on this way sooner...
posted by killThisKid at 10:49 PM on September 20, 2008


The Indian the white guy were on this way sooner...

Benny and Rochester started their act decades before in the 1930s. As mainstream entertainment generaly rips from local culture... I would wager that Benny got the idea from someone else who was doing it even earlier.
posted by three blind mice at 10:55 PM on September 20, 2008


Context: Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by Shutter at 11:26 PM on September 20, 2008


All this time and I had no idea Lucille Ball was hispanic. You live and learn.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:29 AM on September 21, 2008


OK, let's have that argument about whether Hispanic is a race again.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:21 AM on September 21, 2008


Putting aside for a moment the pedantic argument of who did it first, The first clip linked is a reflection of how a lot of people view race. In the '60s it was fear of the unknown. Everybody lived in their own worlds with very well defined racial boundaries. The suburbs where I was raised had a few people of color, and diversity within a community was pretty much unheard of. That reality fueled the fear, which was only amplified by the political climate of the day.

In the meantime, American society became a bit more homogenized, thanks to improved education, opportunities and media exposure. There is still a long way to go, but at the very least people are exposed to others who fifty years ago were seen to be not "like them."

Fast forward forty years, and we find ourselves in a situation where a person of color is a serious contender to be president of the United States. To those under forty, it's not a very big deal, but to the older generations there's still that innate fear that this change won't be a good thing. This Obama guy has a strange name and doesn't look like us.

Tim and Tom are more about selling a book than social justice. That said, I think there's a valid idea in there about how seeing two guys of different color working together could be used to make change more palatable.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:22 AM on September 21, 2008


To those under forty, it's not a very big deal, but to the older generations there's still that innate fear that this change won't be a good thing.

Steve, from a person way over 40, please remember to put some kind of qualifiers in when you make that kind of statement. If you don't, it's bullshit.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 AM on September 21, 2008


Is it an interracial comedy duo if they aren't funny?
posted by pracowity at 4:26 AM on September 21, 2008


To most of those under forty, it's not a very big deal, but to many of the older generations there's still that innate fear that this change won't be a good thing.

Fixed that for me.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:10 AM on September 21, 2008


As mainstream entertainment generaly rips from local culture... I would wager that Benny got the idea from someone else who was doing it even earlier.

Exactly. I was thinking of vaudeville, not the '60s.

Putting aside for a moment the pedantic argument of who did it first

For Christ's sake, can't you just make a point you personally find interesting without feeling it necessary to insult people who find other things interesting?
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2008


All this time and I had no idea Lucille Ball was hispanic. You live and learn.

I think Desi Arnaz would have been astounded to discover that someone considered him part of an interracial comedy duo, since he was neither black nor mestizo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2008


Dude, those comedy clips are the weirdest -- sounds like a laugh track?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2008


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