Comedian, actress, producer, author, talk show host and now fan favorite Whoopi Goldberg has added feature film director to her ever-growing resumé. In honor of the iconic African-American woman who blazed through racial and sexual boundaries in standup comedy, she pays homage to a legend with WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY, which debuts exclusively on HBO on Monday, November 18 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT).
“Moms Mabley has been a huge inspiration to me and so many others, but not a lot of folks outside of the comedy world know about her legacy,” Goldberg says. “There are a lot of us who wouldn’t be working today without pioneers like her. HBO gave me my first break on TV, so it’s only fitting that Moms has a home there now.”
As the first female standup comedian, Moms Mabley started touring in 1929 and worked all the way up until 1975, paving the way for funny ladies of all color. “This documentary is not about her life; it’s about her impact,” says Goldberg, who also executive produces the documentary, along with Tom Leonardis and legendary producer/director George Schlatter, creator of ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN.
Rediscovered performance footage of Moms, along with newly discovered photographs and interviews with Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Arsenio Hall, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, all emphasize how Mabley paved the way for female comedians and performers everywhere in provocative standup routines that contested racism, sexism and ageism.
Labeled as one of the most successful entertainers to perform on the black vaudeville circuit, Moms Mabley’s toothless dialogues touched on topics that were, up until then, too hot handle. Infidelity, poverty, welfare and alcohol abuse were all confronted head on, as she found humor in just about everything. Having passed away from heart failure at 81, she was making people laugh up until the very end.