Dick Gregory to perform at Rrazz Room in New Hope

Dick Gregory

Richard Clax­ton Gregory is hav­ing a very busy day.

That’s be­cause this man, bet­ter known as Dick Gregory — comedi­an, au­thor, act­iv­ist and so much more — is fin­ish­ing up an ap­pear­ance be­fore ad­or­ing fans, as well as do­ing in­ter­views with na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al re­port­ers who nev­er tire of delving in­to the mind of a man who’s made him­self vis­ible in many ca­pa­cit­ies for al­most 60 years.

And now he’s get­ting ready to ap­pear at the Rrazz Room in New Hope Ju­ly 19-20 to make people laugh and think.

“Mak­ing people laugh was nev­er something I as­pired to,” Gregory said. “I just star­ted to do it and it worked.”

In fact, it wasn’t un­til he was draf­ted in­to the U.S. Army in 1954 that he got his comed­ic start when, at the ur­ging of his com­mand­ing of­ficer, he entered sev­er­al Army tal­ent shows — and won.

Ori­gin­ally from St. Louis, after his dis­charge he moved to Chica­go and tried his skills out in loc­al clubs, un­til one night he was spot­ted by Hugh Hefn­er per­form­ing in front of a mostly white audi­ence. Based on his per­form­ance, Hefn­er hired Gregory to work at the Chica­go Play­boy Club.

“Hefn­er offered me $50 for two weeks to per­form. I didn’t know there was that much money in the world,” he laughed. “Hefn­er was the per­son who ac­tu­ally launched my ca­reer.”

And then came The To­night Show Star­ring Jack Paar.

Gregory said, “I wanted to be on that show so bad. Every­one did. It could make you a star overnight. Jack had read a story about me in Time magazine, and his book­ers called me. But I turned them down be­cause I found out that black com­ics did their routines but after they were done, that was that. They were nev­er in­vited to sit on the couch and talk with Jack.”

Hanging up the phone, Gregory said he cried be­cause he wanted to do the show so badly but just couldn’t un­der those cir­cum­stances. But after that, Paar him­self called Gregory for an ex­plan­a­tion.

“And when I told him the prob­lem, he not only per­son­ally in­vited me on the show, but I ended up sit­ting on the couch,” Gregory re­mem­bers. “To show you how power­ful that show was, the very next day my fee skyrock­eted from $250 a week to $5,000 per night.”

Today, Gregory, 81, mar­ried to his wife for 53 years and the fath­er of 10, strives to keep people laugh­ing without ever giv­ing up his com­mit­ment to civil rights. And even as he grows older, he shows no signs of slow­ing down from com­edy or his be­liefs.

“Fight­ing for the civil rights move­ment, I’ve faced dogs, cats, ra­cists and a sher­iff who would kill me if he wasn‘t afraid of the pub­li­city. So do­ing com­edy is a walk in the park for me.”

In­deed, he’s single-handedly paved the way for oth­er black com­ics to make it in this busi­ness. But if asked what he would tell young people who want to do this, too, he said it’s simple: “Don’t do it. Be­come a writer in­stead. Writers make money, com­ic don’t. Be­sides, it’s a very, very tough busi­ness and cer­tainly not for every­one.” ••

Show times are 7 p.m. Tick­ets cost $35. Call toll-free 1-888-596-1027. 

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