‘The One and Only Dick Gregory’ Review: A Peek at a Comic Legend

In a outstanding article from October 1960, Ebony journal requested why there have been no Black stars in comedy, blaming racist double requirements held by audiences and tv bookers in addition to a new sensitivity (the time period “politically correct” had not been coined) that wouldn’t tolerate performers trafficking in stereotypes from the minstrel period. Three months later, Dick Gregory, talked about briefly as a “newcomer,” made the query irrelevant in a single evening.

When the supervisor at the Playboy Club in Chicago found the gang was made up of white Southern businessmen on the town for a conference, he instructed that Gregory postpone. The comic refused, went onstage and killed. He did so effectively, his contract there was prolonged, and led to nationwide press and an look on “The Tonight Show.” Gregory grew to become a crossover star, a pioneering comedic social critic who impressed a era of stand-ups.

“The One and Only Dick Gregory,” an aptly titled new documentary, does justice to this fabled efficiency, setting the scene and the stakes. But what stands out most about this revolutionary second in comedy is what a small function it performs within the total portrait right here. Gregory, who died in 2017, lived so many lives that he presents a problem for anybody attempting to doc them. The director Andre Gaines tries to seize as many as attainable, to a fault. By overlaying a lot floor, it doesn’t have room to dig too deep. But together with some very humorous footage of a grasp of his craft, it presents a convincing argument that whereas Gregory grew to become well-known for his comedy, what made him such a riveting cultural determine is what he did after he left it behind.

Gaines recruits a talent-rich forged of comics (Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle) to explain the performer. Chris Rock is especially insightful and blunt, evaluating Gregory’s relaxed, affected person, cigarette-wielding supply with that of Chappelle. Gregory was forward of his time in his materials on police brutality and racism, however simply as he grew to become a star, his activism heated up. A demonstration for voting rights in Mississippi was a turning level, and the film covers his work and relationships with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the N.A.A.C.P. chief Medgar Evers. By the 1980s, Gregory had stopped taking part in golf equipment and grew to become an early well being and wellness guru whereas nonetheless waging a broad array of political fights, occurring fasts and lengthy runs to earn consideration for causes like combating starvation and weight problems.

There’s clearly a worth to pay for dwelling as energetic a life as Dick Gregory did. He was not often house to see his household (his youngsters are astute speaking heads), and towards the tip of his life, authorized troubles led to monetary collapse and the lack of his house. The final half-hour is jarringly downbeat if barely underexamined, with Gregory returning to golf equipment and showing in a Rob Schneider film, “The Hot Chick,” that enables him to get much-needed well being care protection.

The legend of Dick Gregory offers option to a peek of him as a extra complicated man, albeit one a lot funnier than most everybody else. On the reboot of his discuss present, Arsenio Hall requested him what drove him. Gregory retorted: “My bills.”

The One and Only Dick Gregory
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. Watch on Showtime platforms.