(Dewey Markham) April 16, 1904 - December 13, 1981
A burly burlesque comedian, raucous Pigmeat Markham starred in dozens of classic sketches including "Here Come De Judge." He played the world's funkiest judge: "The judge is high as a Georgia pine! Everybody's goin' to jail today! And to show you I don't mean nobody no good this morning, I'm givin' myself six months! And if I'm gonna do six months, Mr. District Attorney, you can imagine what you're gonna do!"
Born in Durham, North Carolina, Markham began his show biz career as a tap dancer before breaking into the "T.O.B.A." circuit of black vaudeville. He was in the "Sugar Cane Review" in 1925 and through the late 20's and the 30's played in many more variety shows perfecting his tried-and-true sketches. In 1935 he journeyed to The Apollo Theater in New York, sometimes appearing on the bill every week for an entire year. His nickname came from a character in an old vaudeville routine: "Sweet Papa Pigmeat, with the River Jordan at my hips, and all the women is just run up to be baptized!"
Pigmeat played "Alamo the Cook" on the brief run of the Andrews Sisters' radio show, and made films that circulated mostly to black movie houses. In the 40's, a time when "Amos and Andy" was popular on radio and snappy burlesque sketches were being adapted to film by Abbott & Costello, audiences enjoyed hearty belly laughs at Pigmeat's "low" comedy and didn't worry about any possible "stereotype" behavior in his renditions of "Open the Door, Richard" and the rest of his classics. Into the TV era, Pigmeat guest-starred on "The Ed Sullivan Show" bringing his lively humor to a new generation. He issued many record albums, though they could only hint at the kind of broad gestures and costumes that were making the audiences crack up even on the straight lines.
Markham's national fame took hold after Sammy Davis Jr. popularized the old "Here Come De Judge" catch-phrase on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." Davis brought Pigmeat to Vegas with him for a $5,000 a week taste of big-time success. A novelty tune version of "Here Come De Judge" became a Top Ten hit for Shorty Long and was then covered by Pigmeat for a Top Twenty success. He went on to issue more albums that revelled in the funky black dialect though now there were more and more people in the audience feeling some embarrassment about his brand of broad ethnic comedy.
George Kirby wrote the notes for Markham's "Here Come the Judge" album and praised the old veteran: "This comic was one of the few greats who walked in the back door so that we young comics of today could walk in the front, and thank God he has a chance to walk in the front with us...Pigmeat Markham is the greatest."
New generations enjoyed Markham's classic routines, including his variation on "Who's on First," with Pigmeat explaining the game to an old deaf man: "Ball one!" "Huh?" "The man said I got one ball!" "Ohh, the man said you got one ball. Too bad." "Ball two!" What's that?" "The man said I got two balls!" "Oh...ain't nothin' news about that..." "Whee! I knocked up a fly!" "Say what?" "I knocked up a fly!" "Oh, you knocked up a fly. Uh-uh. It can't be done!"
Markham appeared on TV variety shows but was most popular in live concert dates for predominantly black audiences. "Here Come De Judge" had brought him fame -- now he could enjoy some of the fortune, collecting star billing and star payments when he toured. Living in semi-retirement at home in New York, he was even called upon to lecture on comedy and the golden era of vaudeville.
Mr. Smith Goes Ghost (1940), Am I Guilty (1940), One Big Mistake (1940), Fight that Ghost (1946), House Rent Party (1946), Shut My Big Mouth (1946), Fight That Ghost (1946), Pigmeat's Laugh Hepcats (1947)
The Trial (Chess), Anything Goes (Chess), World's Greatest Clown (Chess), Tune Me In (Chess), This'll Kill Ya (CHess) ,Save Your Soul, Baby (Chess), Open the Door, Richard (Chess), Mr. Vaudeville (Chess), Mr Funny Man (Chess), If You Can't Be Good Be Careful (CHess), Here Come the Judge (Chess), Pigmeat's Bag (Chess), Hustlers (Chess), Crap Shootin' (Jewel), Would the Real Pigmeat Markham Please Sit Down (Jewel)
” There ain't nothin' an ol' man can do but bring me a message from a young one.” – “Moms” Mabley
The name “Moms” Mabley is a name that comedians and fans alike are familiar with. She influenced comedians past & present such as Rudy Ray Moore (aka “Dolemite”), Richard Pryor, Lady Reed (aka “Queen Bee”), Whoopi Goldberg and Mo’Nique (“The Parkers”).
Born Loretta Mary Aiken in 1894 as one of 12 children, “Moms” gained national recognition as a comedian in the early 60’s. Onstage, her trademark clothing: oversized clodhoppers, gaudy housedresses, & floppy hats along with a toothless smile. Her comedic style was right on target with her frumpy, sassy, granny-like stage persona.
” I liked Moms Mabley. She was fabulous.” – Rudy Ray Moore (2001)
As one of the first female comics to star at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Mabley was a regular performer there from 1939 until the 1960’s. She was also a performer at Harlem's Cotton Club, where she appeared in bills with Count Basie Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway. She also performed in early black theater, and collaborated with Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston in the 1931 Broadway play Fast and Furious: A Colored Revue in 37 Scenes.
As with most comedians, they get their material from social satire. They also get material from real life, personal pains & struggles. At the age of 11, an older black man raped young Loretta then horrifically 2 years later she was again raped...this time by the town’s white sheriff. Both incidents resulted in pregnancy and both children were put up for adoption. Loretta’s father, a volunteer fireman was killed when his fire truck overturned & exploded. More tragedy would follow with the death of her mother who was struck by a truck coming home from church on Christmas Day.
Factoid: Whoopi Goldberg briefly starred in a San Francisco production entitled "Moms," a one person show which she co-wrote, based on the late comedienne's original material.
While dealing with such adversities on a personal level as well as with the state of racial tensions in the country, she was still able to hold her head high and become a comedy legend. “Moms” recorded more than 20 albums of her comedy routines and appeared on various television shows hosted by Harry Belafonte, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin & Bill Cosby. “Moms” Mabley died of natural causes at the age of 78 in 1975, a year after starring in the feature film Amazing Grace.
” A woman's a woman until the day she dies, but a man's only a man as long as he can.” – “Moms” Mabley