Before there was a Paul Mooney, a Red Foxx, or a Richard Pryor, there was a hilarious woman on the comedy scene who could probably get a shoe to giggle. If you haven’t heard of Moms Mabley or listened to some of her stand-up, you have been missing out on a beautiful piece of American cultural history and downright comedic genius. To put it simply, Moms was fly. Her artistic prowess traversed the lines of singing, acting, and comedy. Mabley’s career spanned nearly forty years and included performance on film, television, and in clubs throughout the nation and abroad. In the 1930s she performed regularly at the Apollo alongside artists such as Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and Billie Holiday. By the 1960s she had crossed over into the mainstream, making multiple appearances on shows such as The Merv Griffin Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. Moms not only used her voice to garner laughs but also to engage in political activism. She became famous for her rendition of “Abraham, Martin, and John,” a song about social change, which hit the top forty in 1969. Moms was also one of the boldest pre-sexual revolution celebrity voices of the 50s and 60s. Through her comedy she perfected the art of sexual innuendo. Moms was feminist. She was funny. And she said what was on her mind for the good of us all.
Check out a few of my favorite pieces of Moms Mabley feminist advice below.