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Whiting UpWhiteface Minstrels and Stage Europeans in African American Performance$
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Marvin McAllister

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807835081

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807869062_mcallister

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White People Be Like … Black Solo and Racial Difference

White People Be Like … Black Solo and Racial Difference

Chapter:
(p.201) Chapter 6 White People Be Like … Black Solo and Racial Difference
Source:
Whiting Up
Author(s):

Marvin McAllister

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/9780807869062_mcallister.10

In this chapter, the author returns to whiteface minstrelsy, the more improvisational, free-form mode of whiting up. He places black stand-up comics such as Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, and Dave Chappelle in conversation with black performance artists/actors like Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Deavere Smith, and Sarah Jones to explore the perception and performance of cultural difference. Despite the low-brow connotations of stand-up and the highbrow patina of performance art, there is a shared emphasis on theatricality and self-reflexivity circulating among these solo artists. The fictional characters improvised by Pryor were just as compelling as the studied, mimicry-based re-creations of Smith and Jones. In the 1970s, as Pryor perfected his comedic voice, critics defined his work as “a new type of realistic theater” or “theater of the routine” because Pryor staged ordinary white and black folks in everyday situations. Although Pryor and Smith never shared the same artistic process or venues, they were both committed to fostering dialogues between multiracial publics in fully integrated spaces.

Keywords:   whiteface minstrelsy, whiting up, black stand-up comics, Jackie Moms Mabley, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Deavere Smith, Sarah Jones

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