Flip Wilson

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Clerow "Flip" Wilson (December 8, 1933November 25, 1998) was an American comedian and actor. Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, his flippant sense of humor earned him his nickname while he was serving in the United States Air Force.

From 1970 to 1974, he hosted the popular television program The Flip Wilson Show. Guest stars such as Ed Sullivan, Ray Charles, Raymond Burr, B.B. King, and many others appeared on his show. As one of the few black men to host his own network television program, Wilson was an influential cultural figure in the 1970s. Comedians Robin Williams and Billy Crystal both made their broadcast television debuts on the Flip Wilson Show.

Wilson's stand-up comedy routine "Columbus," from his key album Cowboys and Colored People, earned him the good notices which led to his getting his own television show. Wilson re-tells the story of Christopher Columbus from a slightly 'urban' perspective, with Columbus finally convincing the Spanish monarchs to fund his voyage by noting that discovering America means that he can thus also discover Ray Charles. Hearing this, Queen Isabella, sounding not unlike Wilson's celebrated "Geraldine," says that "Chris" can have "all the money you want, Honey--You go find Ray Charles!!" When Columbus departs from the dock, Isabella is there, testifying to one and all that "Chris gonna find Ray Charles!!"

On his show, Wilson was known for creating characters such as "Reverend Leroy" (pastor of "The Church of What's Happenin' Now"), a 'dead-on' satire of not a few black pastors. The character that endures in viewers' memories was "Geraldine," with Wilson (in drag, with a falsetto voice) portraying a vivacious woman who often spoke of her boyfriend "Killer," and who coined such catch phrases as "The devil made me do it," "You Devil, you!", and "What you see is what you get!"—later borrowed by various technology workers to become the term "WYSIWYG".

He made many guest appearances on other TV comedies and variety shows, such as Here's Lucy starring Lucille Ball and The Dean Martin Show among others. Ed Sullivan gave Wilson numerous guest shots on his popular Sunday night show, and Wilson would single out Sullivan as providing his biggest career boost. Wilson acted in TV and theatrical movies including Uptown Saturday Night and The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh.

From 1985 to 1986, Wilson played the lead role in the sitcom Charlie & Co..

Wilson's humor was at the same time insightful, self-effacing and often intellectual. One of his best jokes (the re-tell of a very old joke) was relayed as follows: "Lots of crazy things happen in traveling. Just last week I was on a train. There was a woman traveling with a baby. UGLY baby! I mean, I'm not one to make comments about anyone's kid -- but this was an UGLY baby. A guy walks down the train -- he's half smashed -- and he stops. And he stares. And the lady says "What are you looking at?" The guy says "I'm looking at that ugly baby." A scene ensues, whereupon the conductor arrives. He says "What's going on here?" The woman says "This man just insulted me!" The conductor says "Now calm down Madam, calm down. We here at the railroad want to make sure that there are no altercations between our passengers and that everyone's trip is as relaxing as possible. Accordingly, if you allow us, please step into the dining car and the railroad will buy you a free meal. And maybe we can find a banana for your monkey."

Another joke went like this: This is a story about a Roman. His name was Herman. His name was Roman Herman. The fad of the era was berries. People collected berries. They were a status symbol. One day, while Roman Herman was roaming the outskirts of Rome, he spied a berry. It was the most beautiful berry he had ever seen. He took the berry and brought it to his wife, who loved berries. She saw the berry. She praised it. She said "That's an awful nice berry you got there Herman!" Pretty soon, word got around about the berry. People came from all over Rome to see the berry, and to praise it. One night, there was a menacing knock on the door. It was late. Herman opened it. He said "Who are you?" They said "We've come for your berry." He says "It's not my berry, it's my wife's berry. Have you come to praise her berry?" They say, "No, we've come to seize her berry, not to praise it."

Flip Wilson died of liver cancer in Malibu, California at the age of 64.

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Flip Wilson

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