The 60’s brought an onslaught of comic talent whose presence soared like comets for decades. Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley, Paul Mooney and Dick Gregory. Being from St. Louis, Missouri, I was more than a little familiar with Dick Gregory. He attended Sumner High School with my Mom and my Uncle (who he shared on spot on the track team wtih). The world know him as a acerbic comedy talent who used his word to bring attention to the heated issues of race and politics during the Civil Righs movement.
Written and directed by Andre Gaines, through archival footage (nightclub appearances, political rallies, television interviewss and personal video) we learn about the man behind jokes and activism. Contemporary interviews with Gregory’s wife Lillian, son Christian, and daughter Ayanna show his family speaking of Gregory’s home life and dedication to his work, which at times, proved to be more important to him than his family.
Comedy heavyweights Chris Rock, Dave Chappell, Kevin Hart, W. Kamau Bell and Wanda Sykes appear praising Gregory’s influence on them, the impact his brand of humor had on the comedy world, while simultaneously letting us in on some of the good and bad moments in their friendships with comedy legend.
Moments like seeing a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. laugh at Gregory, that pivotal moment where his activism stepped up after Medgar Evers was slain and watching him glide like a viper thorugh a joke while puffing on a cigarette. But the most powerful lingering image is the montage featuring side by side race riot footage from the 60’s and Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 haunts me to the point of inarticulation. It punctures my heart in a way I could never begin to express. It’s like having a callus around your soul to the point where your feet will be worn out. Those are the word sof Dick Gregory that are more profound today than ever.
Having been arrested over 100 times, he never wavered in his quest for equality for Black people. Not even when Herbert Hoover becaame hellbent on taking him down and keeping Gregroy quiet by any means necessary.
Dick Gregory passed due to blood vessell issues in 2017 and his beloved Lillian passed in June 2020. His eowrd, legacy and life has now been preserved for posterity for generations to come thanks to Kevin Hart, Lena Waithe and Andre Gaines. All I can say is THANK YOU. I’ll let Mr. Gregory have he last word. “I’m not gonna leave America until I straighten it out and I’m not love her until she become lovable and I’m getting the F*&k out of here.