1. Whoopi Goldberg’s latest project, a documentary that will air on HBO, chronicles the audacious career of black lesbian comic Jackie “Moms” Mabley.
The film, Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ To Tell You, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this week.
4. Moms Mabley was a stand-up comic and Vaudeville performer who is widely regarded as one of the most important African-American entertainers who ever lived.
She was the first bona fide female stand-up comedy superstar. She would be launched into national fame on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. All the while, she was an openly out lesbian.
10. She could hang with the boys, and even beat them at their own game:
She took her talents to New York City in the early ’20s. She opened for the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway at famous venues like The Cotton Club and The Savoy.
13. She wasn’t afraid to go where no woman had gone before:
In 1939 she became the first female comedian to perform at The Apollo. This landmark establishment, in operation for 35 years at the time, had opened its doors to Harlem’s black population only four years earlier. Badass? Badass.
20. A year after staring in the feature film Amazing Grace (1974), she passed away in White Plains, New York, on May 23, 1975.
In the middle of filming Amazing Grace, Moms Mabley had a heart attack. The shoot was put on hold for three weeks while she had emergency surgery. A pacemaker was installed. She returned to the set considerably weakened.