Upon taking the stage at Clowes Memorial Hall, Saturday, stand-up comic Whoopi Goldberg forewarned the audience that what they were about to experience was not the Whoopi of “The View,” “Sister Act,” “The Color Purple,” or any of the roles in films or on television that have made her famous. A comedian, actress, singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk show host, Goldberg, whose real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson, is one of the few entertainers to have won an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy.
Before she commenced with her act, Goldberg also made it clear that she would be using coarse language and if there were any present who might be offended by words such “f____ ,” that they should leave immediately. Her disclaimer was greeted with screams of laughter from what was obviously a crowd of fans. As far as this writer could tell, not one person left. And as far as the F-bomb, the impish Goldberg used it frequently. Spoken in the African American vernacular, amazingly, it sounded different every time she said it and when she did, it was always hilarious, if not thoroughly charming.
Goldberg performed her routine dead center near the lip of the Clowes Hall Stage next to a stool which held a bottle of water from which she sipped throughout the evening. Sprouting her signature dreadlocks, she wore slacks tucked into high heel boots. Goldberg also wore a long white blouse and a patterned light weight coat which she said was meant to cover her behind and breasts, which she said she no longer encases in a bra. A long time smoker, she confessed to the audience that since giving up the habit (which she says she thoroughly enjoyed), she’s gained extra weight from eating.
A lot of Goldberg’s no holds barred material centered on subject matter that is fairly taboo. Her jokes centered on such topics as menopause, how women use restrooms, how men use restrooms, women’s periods and sanitary napkins, teaching her grandson how to curse, and disciplining other people’s kids.
Goldberg’s extraordinary talent as a comedian was not only demonstrated within the confines of her side-splittingly funny material but also in the broad physical comedy she expressed while sharing uproarious gags about men’s inexperience at giving women oral sex, getting high on pot, the difference between how blacks react differently to horror films than whites, a vagina exploration workshop, wearing miniskirts as a young woman, and her first time getting waxed.
Following the performance portion of her appearance, Goldberg took questions from the audience assembled in a house which was only partially filled. It was a situation that was not lost on Goldberg, who remarked once the lights came up, “Last time I was here this place was full.”
One of the first questions was about “The Color Purple,” which Goldberg said lost out in the Oscars because Academy members were afraid of backlash from some black organizations that were offended by it. Another fan asked her why she appeared in a reoccurring role in the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” to which she replied that she wanted to “pay it forward,” in gratitude to Nichelle Nichols, the African American actor who played Uhura in the original “Star Trek” TV series and films. Yet another audience member asked Goldberg, who grew up Catholic, what she thought of Pope Francis. Goldberg said she likes him because “He admits he’s a sinner like the rest of us.”
A poignant moment occurred when a man in a wheelchair told her he was a comedian and that he was experiencing a “dry spot.” He asked her what she did for inspiration during those times in her own career. She reminded him, “Don’t look for others to inspire you. Inspire yourself. Don’t give up. Get out there and show people what you can do and how good you are.”
At one point during the Q & A, a young lady asked Goldberg if she would have a photo taken with her, but Goldberg declined, telling the fan that if she took one with her that she (Goldberg) would have to take one with everybody. She also explained that immediately following her performance she was getting on her bus (it’s well known that she hates flying) to travel to Stone Gap, West Virginia, where she will be shooting a film titled, “Big Stone Gap,” with Ashley Judd and Patrick Wilson.
Prior to leaving the stage, Goldberg reached out specifically to young people of color in the audience, telling them to “Be aware of what’s going on around you. Get involved. Vote.” Referring to the Trayvon Martin tragedy, she encouraged them to “Know the laws that affect you,” implying that Martin might still be alive had he known about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
There is no question that Goldberg’s material, consisting primarily of subject matter that most people would never discuss openly, much less in mixed company, might be shocking to some. But due to Goldberg’s artistry and talent as a brilliant actor and story teller, those present at her Clowes performance were not only reminded of their own foibles as human beings but able to laugh at them too.
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