This year at the Tribeca film festival, a documentary called “I Got Somethin’ to Tell You,” was shown about a seemingly forgotten star, the quintessential Moms Mabley. Mabley was a stand up comedian that had a meteoric rise to superstardom during the first half of the 20th century. She served as an influence to a myriad of modern day entertainers, such as Whoopi Goldberg (who also directed the documentary), Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Eddie Murphy, Kathy Griffin, Jerry Stiller, among others.
The documentary chronicles Mabley’s life from her early performances all the way to her final years when she became the oldest person ever, at 75, to have a top 40 hit with her rendition of “Abraham, Martin, and John.”
Whoopi Goldberg was on hand to discuss the film as well as both Mabley’s legacy and the effect she had on Goldberg. A Q and A was done after the documentary with The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney. The event was open exclusively to American Express cardholders.
Q: So what drew you to her (Mabley) as a kid?
Whoopi Goldberg: Just that she was odd! Look at her, she had no teeth! Everybody that I knew was trying to keep their teeth! She didn’t have any teeth and she talked about things that I really didn’t understand. But I understood that my mother understood her. She dug it. And so she was smart enough to let me watch her.
Q: It must have been a part of you, even at that age, that registered that black Americans were just not that present in popular entertainment.
Whoopi Goldberg: No but here’s the thing, as kids you liked who you liked. Sometimes you saw some black people sometimes you didn’t! It wasn’t till the later part of the 60’s until they started saying “there’s no black people!” Cause as long as saturday morning Tarzan was on, you saw some black people on the air! (laughs)
HBO has acquired the documentary so it will be coming soon to a screen near you!