WASHINGTON WATCH: Dick Gregory And Paul Mooney On The Notion Of A Post Racial America, Comedy, President Obama (VIDEO)

Roland Martin talks with comedians Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney duding the Essence Music Festival.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER):  Two men who do not need a full-page ad to sing their praises are Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney.  I caught up with them between shows at the festival.

MR. MARTIN:  When you hear “post-racial,” what’s the first thing you think of – when you hear we’re in a “post-racial” America?

MR. PAUL MOONEY:  America’s not in a “post-racial” [phase].  That’ll never happen.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-um.

MR. MOONEY:  It’s habit, and the – White people are habit creatures.  I think people misjudge White people in a lot of ways.  I don’t think race is a big deal with White people.  I really don’t.  I think it’s all a pretense –

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum?

MR. MOONEY:  — you know, because they created that environment, the racial environment – you know, the jokes.  I mean if you watch White folks’ old movies and old cartoons and old magazines and read their – you know, go read their books and – from a long time ago, they’ve always made fun of anybody who wasn’t White.  You know?  They’ve always got a joke out of it.  They always find it very funny.  They always find it very comical.

MR. MARTIN:  So, when you flip it –

MR. MOONEY:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — you’re sayin’ – [crosstalk] –

MR. MOONEY:  I just think, basically, they can dish; but they can’t take it.

MR. MARTIN:  — [chuckles].

MR. MOONEY:  That’s just how I feel about it.  Or, maybe they can take it.  I don’t – sometimes they confuse me.  Sometimes, they laugh.  They don’t laugh.  They – you know, it all depends on what makes them comfortable, what – what time is it, what – what fits for them, what works for them.

MR. MARTIN:  When you talk about “uncomfortable,” I want to bring in Dick Gregory right now.  Here’s somebody I – Dick, come on in.  The two of you can truly make folks uncomfortable.


MR. MOONEY:  I don’t – I don’t think s- — I don’t think – I think – I think we work well together.

MR. DICK GREGORY:  We do.  And, you know, really, what is “uncomfortable,” you know?  You go back, and you look at all the Bob Hope jokes, and you could tell when he’s gon’ talk about a Black person.  He say[?], “I was walkin’ down the street and saw this bebopper the other day.”

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  And – and so if you look – you see, people look at us, but there’s a slew of young White and Black comics that’s comin’ out, and they don’t care.  They get up on that stage, because what they talkin’ about is today’s time.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MR. GREGORY:  Today’s time, a new rhythm.  That’s what they talkin’ ’bout.

And here’s the genius.  He – he[’ll] bring from back there all the way up to here and then go beyond.

MR. MARTIN:  I just interviewed Ice T about his new documentary, “Something Out of Nothing:  The Art of Rap,” and he talked about it’s a[n] art.  You talk about “genius.”  This is – this isn’t just you just hop up on a stage and just start spoutin’ stuff off.  There’s a real art to what you do.

MR. GREGORY:  The – the greatest laugh you ever had in your life didn’t come from professional comedians.  It come from friends and relatives.  When you’re talkin’ ’bout comedy, it’s the timing.  And so when you look at what – what – Ice T talkin’ ’bout rap, rap go all the way back to Africa when it wasn’t no instruments.  [Does some body percussion.]  “Boom-da-bah-ba-doom-boom-bom-pah.”  And if you look at the Black folks in colleges doin’ the steps, but the difference was in – in Africa way back there, you rapped what was happenin’ in the local environment.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MR. GREGORY:  They didn’t have no instruments.  And then all at once, they come up here.  People talkin’ ’bout these rappers – what they talk like.  There ain’t – I’m 80 years old.  There ain’t been a new cuss word invented since I was born –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. GREGORY:  — you know.  So, where did they hear it?

MR. MARTIN:  Comedians I talk to talk about your genius.  Who is it today you like to listen to, you want to hear do comedy?

MR. MOONEY:  Today?

MR. MARTIN:  Today.

MR. MOONEY:  Nobody.

MR. MARTIN:  Nobody.

MR. MOONEY:  Him.  [Gestures toward Mr. Gregory.]

MR. GREGORY:  And him.  [Gestures toward Mr. Mooney.]


MR. GREGORY:  [Crosstalk.]

MR. MARTIN:  — this current —

MR. MOONEY:  [Laughs.]

MR. GREGORY:  Don’t –

MR. MARTIN:  — generation – [laughs] –

MR. GREGORY:  — don’t – don’t ask me –

MR. MARTIN:  — no, no, no.  The reason I ask – ’cause you wr- — in your book, you talked about Dave Chappelle being on the show – things along those lines.  I’m just curious.  For you, who do you say, “If I had to drop down $25, I wanna go pay to hear that cat do – [crosstalk]”?

MR. MOONEY:  Well, they’re all dead – the ones I like.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.  And the other thing is –

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  — if you’ve –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  — got time to go see somebody else’s show, you ain’t workin’, you know.

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  But, no.  They’re all dead.  I mean Flip Wilson’s gone.  Slappy White is gone.


MR. MOONEY:  Richard Pryor’s gone.

MR. GREGORY:  But, see, I didn’t like none of them.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  Richard Pryor – [he mugs].


MR. GREGORY:  Slap- — Slappy White was tryin’ to behave.  He’d come out with a white glove and a black glove.


MR. GREGORY:  He had a white – [chuckles] – glove and a black glove.

MR. MOONEY:  What’s the other one that used to sell drugs in Vegas?  He used to go on?  The big, fat one.

MR. GREGORY:  George Kirby?

MR. MOONEY:  Yeah, he’s –


MR. MOONEY:  — gone.


MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  They’re all – they –


MR. MOONEY:  — you know, they’re – they’re –

MR. GREGORY:  But – but –

MR. MOONEY:  — but do you know [the?] nigger came up to me and told me he was George Kirby?

MR. GREGORY:  [Chuckles.]  Well – well, he didn’t only sell drugs.  He [wa]s still usin’ ’em!

MR. MOONEY:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  But, you –

MR. MOONEY:  I said, “George[?]” –

MR. GREGORY:  — know, it’s like you, you know.  What commentators do you like to listen to you?  You understand?

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MR. GREGORY:  They all different.  See, when I was a little boy, I thought whiskey was whiskey.  I didn’t know there was bourbon, scotch – you know – wine.  And then as –

MR. MOONEY:  — vodka.

MR. GREGORY:  — you get up here –

MR. MOONEY:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  — then you see the – the breakdown.  And he’s — [gestures toward Mr. Mooney] – at the head of the class.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotta ask you this.  And I did a piece for “Ebony” magazine on the comedy issue.  I said, “Who was” – “Who was the funniest person in your life who was a non-comedian, who was just flat-out funny?”

MR. MOONEY:  [Unintelligible.]

MR. MARTIN:  One guy talked about a guy who was a tailor he worked with.  This dude was just funny.

MR. GREGORY:  Uncle Dudlow.  We got ’em in – all of ’em’s in the family.

MR. MARTIN:  Uncle Dudlow.

MR. GREGORY:  All of us have ’em.

MR. MARTIN:  For you?  Somebody – friend, family member, whatever – that this cat – never been onstage, but just funny.  Just flat-out funny.

MR. MOONEY:  Nigger Bob.


MR. MOONEY:  Nigger Bob was real funny.

MR. MARTIN:  And that is?

MR. MOONEY:  He was just funny – ’cause he was Nigger Bob, and he’d just get up and just talk about everybody.

MR. GREGORY:  Anything.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  Yeah, just anything.

MR. GREGORY:  Just – you could –

MR. MOONEY:  Anything – [crosstalk].

MR. GREGORY:  — drop a glass, and he could talk about it –

MR. MOONEY:  [Laughs.]

MR. GREGORY:  — for 30 minutes.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotta go political.  If you had one question, sitting in front of Pres. Obama, what would you ask him?

MR. GREGORY:  I need a co-signer.  For the new car I’mma get.

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  That’s what I’d ask ’im – to be my co-signer.  You said the one question.

MR. MARTIN:  One question.

MR. MOONEY:  I would say, “Stop making White people mad.”  He makes – he pisses White people off.  He just does.  That’s – that’s his gift.  That’s his gift as a Black man.  He makes White people very angry, and he does it on purpose.  You know that by the people he picks to be in office.


MR. MOONEY:  He – you know?  I made a prediction.  I said he’s gonna make a midget head of the Army.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  I love it.  I love it.

Now, if I had my way, I’d – I’d tell ’im I have to dress ’im.  [Unintelligible] – I’d give ’im a conk and some shoes with bunion pads on ’em.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  You know.  See?  They used to that.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]  Last question for both of you.  Is there any other thing that you would’ve liked to do in your life other than comedy?

MR. MOONEY:  Anything other than make people laugh?

MR. MARTIN:  Right.


MR. GREGORY:  Not me.

MR. MOONEY:  No.  Like what?  What would you suggest?

MR. MARTIN:  Not suggestin’.  Just askin’.

MR. GREGORY:  But remember.  We didn’t choose it.  We didn’t come up ‘n’ say, “I’mmo be a comic.”  You got people say, “I’mmo be a singer.”

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  “I’mmo be a dancer” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. GREGORY:  — you know.  Ain’t nobody ever walked out the crib –

MR. MOONEY:  That’s funny.

MR. GREGORY:  — first and second grade, talkin’ ’bout, “I’mmo be a comic!”

MR. MOONEY:  That reminds me of when they asked Miles Davis – they said, “If you had 15 minutes to live, what would you do?”

And he said, “Choke a White man” –

MR. GREGORY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  — “to death.”

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  Now, that’s a hell of a state- — I mean, no.  I’m not – this is true.  I’m not making this up.  I’m not that good.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay, Paul.  So, if you had 15 – [chuckles] – minutes to live, what would you do?

MR. MOONEY:  If I had 15 minutes to live?

MR. MARTIN:  To live.  What would you do?

MR. MOONEY:  I wouldn’t choke somebody to death.  I wouldn’t do that, but –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  Let me see.  How ’bout drowning them?

MR. MARTIN:  [Cracks up.]

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. GREGORY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  Okay.  Teasing.  Teasing, ’cause your – your show’s so serious.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MOONEY:  [Looks at the camera.]  Teasing.

MR. MARTIN:  No, no.  Trust me.

MR. MOONEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Trust me.  We are not serious –


MR. MARTIN:  — every, single Sunday.