Redd Foxx

By: Mimi Lipson
December 9, 2009

foxx-redd-3

“The only thing I can do from my nightclub act is smoke.” So said REDD FOXX (John Elroy Sanford, 1922-91) as he warmed up the live audience for the first episode of The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour in 1977. True enough, you’ll have to listen to one of the 50-plus comedy albums he recorded in every kind of room from Central Avenue to Harlem to the Vegas Strip if you want to hear his notoriously smutty material. Still, Foxx smuggled a bit of the chitlin circuit onto network television, using a Norman Lear sitcom (Sanford and Son, 1972-77) as his Trojan horse. Try getting this past the sensitivity police today: “Esther, you so ugly I could push your face in some dough and make gorilla cookies.” The secret weapon of Foxx’s comedy routine was its intimacy: he put his outrageous material over because it was understood that he was talking to an audience he knew inside out. He recreated that intimacy on Sanford and Son by bringing along other veteran black comedians like Slappy White and LaWanda Page, and also with the nuanced brilliance of his performance as that ripple-quaffing old junkman, Fred G. Sanford.

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What do you think?

  1. I had one Redd Foxx “Laff of the Party” album that was given to me by a young black man when I was about 12 or 13. This would be about 1960. It was without question the funniest comedy album I ever heard; nothing came close. The race at Santa Anita with the three horses: Cold Towel, Pussy Willow, and My Dick (“UP on Cold Towel is Jockey Arcaro, UP on Pussy Willow is Jockey Atkinson, UP on My Dick is Jockey Strap!”)

    Or, “now we’re going to have the drawing. Will everybody who was here by 5 pull out their stub, please? No, no, not that one. The white stub…” after which he reads an insanely long number (which had a number of jokes buried in it) and then says, “you’ve got that number? Bend over, I’ll drive you to the prizes.”

    You just didn’t hear stuff like that in the white suburbs 50 years ago!

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