Saw it last night. I remember this stuff well, being a seventies child for whom Flip Wilson was a Thursday night ritual.
Those of us of that era may have fond memories of Variety shows on TV, but watching them on DVD 30 years later forces one to seperate nostalgia from real entertainment value. This actually holds up quite well. Richard Pryor (who occasionally wrote for Flip) does some interesting, and apparently improvised, skits with Flip. Ray Charles’ appearance is excellent, and Flip’s clowing with Ray gives everything an added dimension. The Committee does some skits that are more interesting than funny, that presage the kind of humor to be found on Saturday Night Live a few years later.
As the Flip profile points out on Disc 3, some African-Americans at the time cirticized Flip for pandering to stereotypes (especially with Geraldine and the crooked Rev. Leroy). The first episode of this disc (from 1972) shows where Flip’s heart was and should quiet such critics. He has some contestants for Miss Black America appear and a couple of them do some really positive afrocentric skits for that era. George Carlin does a few Vietnam gags and his famous “Hair” routine, and Flip closes the show by proudly standing alone in the center of the stage with a very serious expression giving the peace sign before it was a cliche.
This is a Flip with GUTS for that time. The fact that he could do such things during a polarized era and be loved by such a wide variety of people says a lot for his memory.
The real stunners in this piece are the “Clerow Wilson” (Flip’s given name) cartoons that are known mostly to us 70s children who remember them. Based on episodes from Flip’s own childhood, these cartoons are the darker twins of Fat Albert, very mauldin situations. “Clerow Wilson’s Great Escape” is about Flip running away from an evil foster family “where they put water in the milk and milk in the water.” “The Miracle of PS 14″ is about a school so bad that the statue of Liberty turns its back on it. An animated Geraldine appears here (“she was nine, going on 26.”). Rather grim (in spite of the attempts to wring humor from the situations, as evidenced by the above lines), but realistic cartoons about ghetto life. Way ahead of their time, but worth seeing and the price of admission.
People today tend to recall Flip as a sort of also-ran comic of his era compared to the likes of Cosby and Pryor. This set proves that he deserves a bigger place in history.
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Rhino Entertainment has put together a great package. For those who don’t remember, Flip Wilson was the first African-American comic to host his own weekly variety show. His female alter-ego, Geraldine, was the precuror to Big Momma, Madea and Rasputia from Norbit. It was the number2 show the first 2 years of its run and won 2 Emmys in its first season. Flip, who was in his early 30s when he got the show was a perfect fit for this type of show. Perfectly unoffensive, his style of monologue was similar to that of Bill Cosby. Today many of the sketches seem not just tame, but downright corny. But so was Sonny and Cher and The Captain and Tenille and Dean Martin, for that matter. Much of this material repeats on the less expensive, but soon to be out-of-print single discs, which feature half-hour versions of the shows. This 3-disc set could’ve been better if included more musical performances. However it contains 6 full-length episodes, plus two long lost “Fat Albert” style animated TV specials narrated by Flip. Picture and sound quality are very good considering the source. Flip passed away in 1998 and this is a very good testament to his legacy. The price may be a little high for newbies, but if you are a true fan and want to relive the memories, by all means add this to your cart. Hopefully there will be more volumes to come.
Flip Wilson was such a wonderful & talented man. He was so funny without being nasty. We need more comedians like him, Bill Cosby and Lucy. People who are fun, funny and clean. This DVD is great to enjoy with others.