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East & West (Live)

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Album Review

As the title implies, Dick Gregory's second long-player East & West (1962) is comprised of one show recorded at the legendaryBlue Angel in New York City, and another at San Francisco's venerable hungry i. Gregory was gaining a sizable reputation as one of (if not the) only black comedian and public celebrity to deal with the increasing racial tensions that were concurrently permeating the United States social culture. He makes a full-contact strike barely a minute into his Big Apple appearance with the stunning — even by 21st century standards — one-liner: "wouldn't it be wild if 20 years from now ya'll really found out your mayor was Adam Clayton Powell?" Directing the discourse to then-current world affairs, H-bomb testing is commented upon by noting that the Chinese were upset because "China's got so many people and there's not enough fallout for all of 'em." He also claims that he is in a better position than President John F. Kennedy to negotiate with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev because "if he were to do something against my will, I can get the NAACP on him." Some of Gregory's undeniable genius lies in his ability to couch or buffer the jokes regarding the "alleged" voting fraud where he quips that "...the nice thing about our system of voting in Chicago [is that] we have the same kind of voting machines you have here. And it looks just as legal...." This is met with uproarious applause before he delivers the final blow that "a lot of them people go in and really think they're voting once." He says those who win elections based on promising the cops a 40 hour work week should implore criminals to abide by the same schedule. There is a noticeable difference in his degree of professionalism and the bi-coastal content as the San Francisco set seems to push the envelope more as Gregory engages the audience right from the start, telling attendees "...if there is any resentment in the house at all, get up, burn your cross and leave" — garnering hearty laughs from those who clearly understand the nature of the comedy is not to offend or in any way be divisive. In fact, it's the contrary, as he confronts all of the audiences' prejudices immediately. His survey of the hungry i denizens by asking where they are from allows for a one-on-one engagement as well as a perfect platform for Gregory to unleash his extraordinarily nimble mind — especially when he picks on a Louisiana native when he replies that "you people [could] go to South Africa and be considered liberals. That's why I feel so happy for France that we made the Louisiana Purchase...[they'd] own Algiers and New Orleans." The seemingly off-the-cuff remark garners several rounds of laughter as the duality of the comment circulates through the room. The layers in essence capture the magic of Dick Gregory as he works on multiple levels at once. The sole drawback is the abundance of dates and references that will mean infinitely more to parties who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance, than most 2000s listeners. In 2008, Collectors' Choice Music issued East & West along with Gregory's debut In Living Black and White (1961) — making each available on CD for the first time ever.


Born: October 12, 1932 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Comedy

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the first African-American comedians to cross over to mainstream white audiences, Dick Gregory was also one of the fiercest sociopolitical satirists of his day; using the nightclub stage as his soapbox, he provocatively explored the racial inequities of the civil rights era with compassion, acute insight, and blunt, direct humor. Born October 12, 1932 in St. Louis, Gregory spent his childhood shining shoes in order to help feed his family; in high school, he made headlines for leading a march...
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East & West (Live), Dick Gregory
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