Often referred to as “the funniest woman in the world,” the iconic African-American standup comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley broke racial and sexual boundaries and continues to inspire comedians to this day. In her directorial film debut, a modern-day comedy favorite pays homage to this pioneering talent.
“Moms Mabley has been a huge inspiration to me and so many others, but not a lot of folks outside of the comedy world know about her legacy,” says Goldberg. “There are a lot of us who wouldn’t be working today without pioneers like her. HBO gave me my first break on TV, so it’s only fitting that Moms has a home there now.”
Goldberg also executive produces the documentary, along with Tom Leonardis and legendary producer and director George Schlatter, creator of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
Featuring recently unearthed photographs, rediscovered performance footage and the words of entertainers and historians, the film includes interviews with Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Arsenio Hall, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, who emphasize how Mabley paved the way for female comedians and performers everywhere in provocative stand-up routines that challenged racism, sexism and ageism.
In addition, archival footage showcases Mabley in performance at the Playboy Mansion with Sammy Davis, Jr., and on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, NC on March 19, 1894, Jackie “Moms” Mabley was one of the most successful entertainers to perform on the black vaudeville stage, also known as the “chitlin’ circuit.” Mabley’s monologues touched on traditional topics such as family, as well as more controversial subjects that were typically avoided by comedians of the era, regardless of race, including infidelity, poverty, welfare and alcohol.t
Mabley’s successful career spanned five decades (though white audiences generally did not learn of her until the early 1960s). In 1939, she became the first female comedian to play the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where she earned $10,000 a week at the peak of her career. Mabley performed at Carnegie Hall in 1962, and appeared on such mainstream TV programs as "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (1967), “The Ed Sullivan Show” (1969) and “The Bill Cosby Show” (1970).t
Jackie “Moms” Mabley passed away from heart failure at age 81 on May 23, 1975 in White Plains, NY. She was survived by her children, Bonnie, Christine, Charles and Yvonne Ailey.t
HBO Documentary Films and Whoopi Goldberg present A WHOOP INC Production; a film by Whoopi Goldberg; produced by Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Leonardis; directed by Whoopi Goldberg; supervising editor and creative producer, Geeta Gandbhir; editor and associate producer, Maya Mumma; archival producer, Prudence Arndt; consulting producer, Ellen Sebastian Chang; executive producers, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Leonardis and George Schlatter.