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Mom's Mabley: Comedy Ain't Pretty

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Album Review

While the dirty old man has been a comic standby for generations, Jackie "Moms" Mabley was one of the first female comics to turn the tables and define herself as an older woman who was looking for some good lovin' from younger men; she was also among the first women to rise to prominence in standup comedy, long an almost exclusively male field. Mabley had been a veteran of the so-called "chitlin circuit" for over 20 years (and supposedly appeared at Harlem's Apollo Theater more times than any other performer) before she began achieving mainstream recognition in the early '60s with a series of top-selling LPs for Chess, and Comedy Ain't Pretty is compiled from vintage Moms material recorded in the early to mid-'60s (unfortunately, no dates or sources are listed in the liner notes). While occasionally veering into mildly blue material (which would scarcely earn a PG rating today), most of Comedy Ain't Pretty finds Mabley as the foxy old lady who speaks her mind with little concern for what others might think, with her mush-mouthed and gravel-throated delivery adding to the comic impact of her jive-talking routines on child rearing, the modern age, air travel, and attending a summit meeting at the White House with Bo Diddley and Big Maybelle (and if only that had actually happened). Mabley's comedy was far from subtle, and not all of it has worn especially well, but as a sampling of classic African-American comedy from the days before Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, and Rudy Ray Moore entirely changed the playing field of the game, Comedy Ain't Pretty is genuinely amusing and historically vital, especially since so little of Mabley's material has been released on compact disc. Points added for Bill Dahl's comprehensive biographical liner notes. (So, does anyone want to follow this up with a DVD release of Moms' movie, Amazing Grace?)

Biography

Born: 19 March 1897 in Brevard, NC

Genre: Spoken Word

Years Active: '60s, '70s

At one time the most successful woman standup comic in America — she remains the highest-charting comedienne in Billboard history — social satirist Jackie "Moms" Mabley is largely unknown to contemporary audiences, but her impact on successive generations of both female and African-American comics remains estimable. Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, NC on March 19, 1894, her early life was marred by tragedy — one of a dozen children, when she was 11 her father, a volunteer fire...
Full bio

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