Dick Gregory died

Yesterday the comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died in Washington, D. C. He was 84; the cause was heart failure. Although he started his comedy career as a convention funnyman, he gradually incorporated more material about racism into his routines. The New York Times gives some of his bon mots:

He would plant himself on a stool, the picture of insouciance in a three-button suit and dark tie, dragging slowly on a cigarette, which he used as a punctuation mark. From that perch he would bid America to look in the mirror, and to laugh at itself.

“Segregation is not all bad,” he would say. “Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?” Or: “You know the definition of a Southern moderate? That’s a cat that’ll lynch you from a low tree.” Or: “I heard we’ve got lots of black astronauts. Saving them for the first spaceflight to the sun.”

Some lines became classics, like the one about a restaurant waitress in the segregated South who told him, “We don’t serve colored people here,” to which Mr. Gregory replied: “That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Just bring me a whole fried chicken.” Lunch-counter sit-ins, central to the early civil rights protests, did not always work out as planned. “I sat in at a lunch counter for nine months,” he said. “When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.”

I well remember Gregory marching on the front lines of many civil rights demonstrations, and he was arrested a gazillion times. Here’s a short monologue about “black power”:

Kudos to a great (and funny) force for racial justice.


  1. Posted August 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    So sad, such a marvelous man! R.I.P. sir! My condolences and blessings to all friend and family! ⛪

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Gregory was part of a wave of smart, young, politically and socially hip comics — along with Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce and Nichols & May and Woody Allen — who came along at the end of the Eisenhower years and helped pave the way for the Sixties.

    I was too young to exercise the franchise then, but if I could’ve, I would’ve voted for him for president in ’68.

  3. RPGNo1
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Another great man died, too:
    Jerry Lewis 😦

    He was one of the best comedians. I loved to watch his films with Dean Martin in my youth.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 20, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Wow, that is a shocker. Certainly had a very long run.

  4. prinzler
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    My favorite line by Dick Gregory was (approximately):

    “Selma, Alabama? Yeah, I spent a week there one night.”

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I saw him twice.
    The first was him giving a serious straight talk on University of Pennsylvania in 1973, where he talked eloquently of corruption in the CIA.

    I saw him do stand up comedy about 3 years ago here in San Francisco. I was mildly disappointed on the 2nd occasion to discover he believes in the moon landing conspiracy theories- that we never went to the moon, and it was all filmed in a studio. (Apparently, Whoopi Goldberg thinks likewise.)

    I suspect DG has been on the receiving end of so many police and FBI coverups, and is so knowledgeable about the CIA, that it might be hard to convince him that NASA is an agency with far more integrity.

  6. Dale Franzwa
    Posted August 21, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I voted for Gregory in ’68 because I didn’t believe either Nixon or Humphrey would be able to end the Vietnam war. I was wrong about Nixon on the war but couldn’t stomach him throughout his presidency.

  7. Posted August 21, 2017 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    A bit before my time, been playing catch up via a Pandora “station” his material / content / observations are exquisite poignant and still very timely. With a great melodic delivery that keeps you hanging on every word. Also one of George Carlin’s influences.

  8. Posted August 21, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    In May, 1966 there was a sit-in, 452 strong, in the administration building of the University of Chicago, protesting the University’s craven new policy of providing class rankings to draft boards. That evening, Dick Gregory showed up and did his comedy routine for us in the Ad Building lobby. He wasn’t being paid for it, and didn’t have to show up, but he did. We roared. We loved the man.

    Dick Gregory was there over the years for many good causes. I may not be too impressed by his conspiracy-mongering or his diet faddism, but he was a guant

    • Posted August 21, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      (Fat finger syndrome, while I was commenting from my phone — posted prematurely)

      … he was a giant force for human rights.

      • Posted August 21, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        … except, I discover, the rights of gay and lesbian people. Oh well, still a brave and committed man on the right side of many other issues.

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