Flip Wilson doesn’t get enough credit for breaking down racial barriers in this country. He was the first African American to host a top-rated variety show. He was popular both with the Black community and with the mainstream White American audience. He managed to hang out with underground comedians and play golf with former presidents without losing credibility with either.
His influence on comedy in the 1970s is immense. He rescued both Richard Pryor and George Carlin from the depths of failure and hired them to write for his variety show, jump-starting both careers. He even co-owned the record label that released Carlin’s most cutting-edge material.
Yet, he was loved and accepted by TV audiences. Last year I reviewed a terrific book about his life, which was one full of triumphs and many tragedies, but tonight I’m just going to bring you one episode of his show, with his guests, Joe Nameth, George Carlin and Miss Black America, Joyce Warner. He brought all this into American households and made it seem like no big deal. This was really a major breakthrough for its time.