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TV Review: ‘Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley’

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Poster of HBO's "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley"

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley is part of HBO’s Fall Documentary Series and Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial debut. The documentary places the spotlight on the groundbreaking Mabley, who inspired some of today’s most famous comediennes.  The film was also produced by Ms. Goldberg and Tom Leonardis.

Moms Mabley, known to most simply as Moms, spoke truth through comedy.  She addressed subject matters often overlooked during her time because of the situations they involved:  segregation, sexual relations, money, etc. You name it, and Moms talked about it.  Her “punchlines” (because they did have a punch that knocked an audience out of its comfort zone) delivered the realities of African-American life.  With her gravelly voice, weird clothes and missing teeth, Moms rendered herself “harmless” to audiences, making it much easier for them to hear what she had to say without feeling threatened.

Young Moms on the T.O.B.A. Circuit

Young Moms on the T.O.B.A. Circuit

Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, NC, Moms Mabley, like most black artists of her time, became famous by traveling the Theater Owners Booking Association (“T.O.B.A.”) circuit, commonly known as the “chitlin” circuit. Moms made a name for herself, and worked with some of the greatest artists to have come out of the T.O.B.A.: Pigmeat Markham, Cab Calloway, and Count Basie, just to name a few.  Her popularity eventually led to appearances on the The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Bill Cosby Show.  She also appeared on The Playboy Club After Dark, where she performed a very emotional rendition of her song Abraham, Martin and John.  That song spoke to Mom — and the entire country —  after the assassinations of Dr. King and President Kennedy.

Moms Mabley

Moms Mabley

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley is a must-see, particularly for those wanting to know more about this iconic, but often overlooked, entertainer — and her times. Moms touched the lives of so comedians, including Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers and the documentary’s producer Whoopi Goldberg. Eddie Murphy revealed that the grandmother in his Nutty Professor films was based on Moms. 

But what struck me most about Moms Mabley was her ability to talk about so many controversial topics without using foul language. Moms was funny and told the truth to audiences, but she did it with class. She was neither hard nor trashy, she was just Moms.

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley is currently airing on HBO, HBO2, HBO On Demand and HBO GO.

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About Writergirl2009

Writergirl2009 is a Paralegal by day, but wishes to release herself from the tedium of her daily life to write full-time. She loves writing about films, televisions shows, books, music or people on the New York subway, where she currently lives (in New York, not on the subway).