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Thread started 10/18/12 7:09pm

LittleBLUECorv
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The legendary 'COMEDY ACT THEATER'

The Apollo Theater of Comedy Clubs

This club is not even 30 years old yet, it was at it’s peak a little over 25 years ago and the original closed down some 15+ years ago, but it was one of the most important comedy clubs around and maybe the most important of the 1980s.

STAND UP COMEDY

Stand Up comedy is not even 100 years old, and comedy clubs are barley 40 years old. When the forefathers of stand up comedy begin, like Bob Hope, Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx, there were no comedy clubs. They just played at bars and venues the, same places blues and jazz artist would perform. More times then other, they would be the MC or Master of Ceremonies. And usually, that meant they were the only comic performing that evening, maybe every once and a while you’d get 2 comics in those days but it was rare, Even as the 60s dawned, guys like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Bill Cosby would play those same venues and bars, but this time in between rock & roll and soul sets and now dancers. This was also the era of concerts at theaters, such as the Apollo and Regal in Chicago among others. Flip Wilson might play the Regal and at times, Nipsey Russell and Pigmeat Markham were the MC’s at the Apollo. But as the 60s came to an end, and comedy became much bigger with comics like Steve Martin, Flip Wilson, Bob Newhart and Redd Foxx getting’ TV deals, the Theater era came to an end and behold the birth of the comedy clubs across the US.

COMEDY CLUBS

Some of the first comedy Clubs included the Improv, The Comedy Club and The Laugh Factory in the LA/Hollywood areas in the early 70s and in New York, The Comic Strip, To Catch a Rising Star and Caroline’s. And it was no secret that those clubs catered to white comics unless you were Redd Foxx or Richard Pryor. Even well known comics like Paul Mooney and Franklyn Ajeye could barley get on at the hot spots, the 7 PM or 10 PM shows, they were usually performing at the late night times well after midnight. Comics like John Witherspoon and Keenen Ivory Wayans even took jobs as doorman at The Improv and Comedy Store just to try and get a spot. They would rarely let a Robin Harris work at those clubs in the early days ….


THE COMEDY ACT THEATRE

Enter Michael Williams, a former member of Quincy Jones productions and a concert promoter. After goin to the Comedy Store and having to wait until the late hours just to see one black comic, he decided to make a change. On August 5th 1985, he opened the Comedy Act Theater on Crenshaw Blvd in LA. He hired Robin Harris as the MC and he was the MC until his untimely death in 1990. H had met Robin at the Comedy Store in 1980 after a late night set that the audience didn’t receive well. On the first night, Sinbad played the club along with 17 other comics. By the second week, he was getting calls from (at the time) Robert Townsend and Damon Wayans, comics with a somewhat resume to play the club (Sinbad hadn't done anything in 1985.) And by September of that year, it would be sold out every night until once again Robin Harris’ death. Other early names to appear in 1985 included Darryl Sivad (I didn‘t even know he was a stand up until yesterday), director Rusty Cundieff (found out he was a stand up a few months ago also), Michael Colyar (check out the stache), Don Reed and the Mooney Twins.

BIG NAMES and MAKING NAMES

Those names, (more so Townsend and Damon Wayans) were the ones to make the CAT into the hippest club in LA and bought Robin Harris‘ legend with them. And by the next year, the hottest comedian, scratch that the hottest actor in the world was a regular, Eddie Murphy. Not only him, his ‘Black Pack’ buddies were now the main attraction any night for the next few years. Arsenio Hall, Damons brother Keenen and Paul Mooney were now perfecting their acts here. And Mooney wasn’t the only veteran to play the club. From time to time Redd Foxx, Rudy Ray Moore, LaWanda Page, Shirley Hemphill, Jimmy Walker, Franklyn Ajaye and others would play the club.

Eddie Murphy and Damon Wayans worked out materal for their sucessful specials, RAW and The Last Stand.

SHOWTIME WAS NOT ONLY AT THE GREAT WESTERN FORUM

Deals were made here, careers made, movies and TV shows created here. The first was ‘Hollywood Shuffle’ by regulars Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans. It featured Club regulars John Witherspoon, Mr. Paul Mooney, Michael Colyar, Brad Sanders, Franklyn Ajaye, Rusty Cundieff and Kim & Damon Wayans. Eddie Murphy even took it to HBO (as did Robert Townsend a little later and better.) The special Uptown Comedy Express was created to look just like the Comedy Act Theater. Even down from the acts to the MC (instead of Robin, Eddie's Uncle Ray.) It featured one of the female regulars Marsha Warfield. Eddie pals Arsenio and Robert and Eddie's protégé from back east in New York, a young Chris Rock who when in LA, would play the CAT.

Robert Townsend's Partners in Crime, similar to Eddie's Comedy Express with stand ups and skits. It featured of course Townsend, the Wayans, Mooney, Witherspoon, Don Reed, Reynaldo Rey, David Alan Grier and comics making their TV debuts like Tommy Davidson, Robin Harris, Myra J and Lewis Dix.

On regular TV, In Living Color came from Hollywood execs coming to the hood and noticing the improv teams that played at the theater like Dr. Purvey and the Free Clinic Players and the Theater's own Comedy Act Improv Players featuring Buddy Lewis and a young Joe Torry. Keenen held auditions there with the help of Robi Reed. Everyone from Martin Lawrence to DL Hughley, JB Smoove, among others auditioned. Even club regular TJ McGee apparently made the cast ...

BET even came calling in 1989 with a pilot for a TV series that never got off the ground. It starred of course, Robin Harris and his nemesis Myra J. Reynaldo Rey, Don Reed, Lewis Dix and actor Sheryl Lee Ralph. Russell Simmons even copied the format for HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and they even took half of their talent. But no credit given to Michael Williams ...

Even non comic talents make their rounds to the club. Spike Lee discovered the talents of MC Robin Harris and used him in a few films, Magic Johnson, Denzel Washington, Russell Simmons and Mike Tyson were regular guest.

CLUB WORKERS

But back to Robin Harris. Besides him, there were other workers at the club who went on the successful careers. Myra J was the female Robin Harris at the club. She would MC when Robin had a prior engagement and work with him when he was around. Ricky Harris appeared at the club first as a customer heckling Robin Harris, but he just didn’t know. His plan backfired and Robin destroyed him … for 30 minutes. He later would become the DJ of the club and then would double as a performer. Lewis Dix came from Philadelphia in 1986 and his first job was as the spotlight man. He’d graduate into a performer and after Rob passed, even host for a short time. TK Kirkland was a regular and double as MC when Robin wasn’t around. The CAT had it’s on Improv Team, the Comedy Act Improv Players that featured Buddy Lewis and Joe Torry. Joe would be the host until DL Hughley took over for him. DL would be the host until Speedy hosted the club for the final 3 years until it closed down in 1997.

AFTER ROBIN

Robin Harris died in his sleep 6 days after his biggest role yet, House Party had just hit theaters. The night before he had flew from his current home in LA back to his birthplace of Chicago. The Theater would never be the same, it wasnt't sold out every night anymore. One by one, the big names no longer worked the stage or even just to appear. Eddie Murphy had retired from stand up, Arsenio was now a big time TV host, Sinbad seemed to have a special a year on HBO, Robert was focusing more on his directing, Keenen and Damon were busy with In Living Color. Martin would make occasional stops, but maybe it was because he hadn't yet blown up. This was now the hang out for a new crop of comics looking to make it like the Wayans, Arsenio, Robert, Eddie, Sinbad, ect.

A NEW ACT

The cats in charge were now Joe Torry, Bill Bellamy, Jamie Foxx (pre-In Living Color), DL Hughley, Mark Curry, Lewis Dix, Ricky Harris, J. Anthony Brown, Sheryl Underwood, Shawn Wayans, Ajai Sanders, Angela Means, John Henton and Faizon Love among others. And even with all those great name, it just wasn't enough. It was never the same. And once Def Comedy Jam and BET Comic View came, that was it. These guys were gettin' TV and movie deals like the first crop and just like that it was over. Michael Williams developed cancer and had to close down the CAT for good in 1995.

WHO ELSE WAS THERE

Other performers at the Comedy Act Theater - LA include:

Whoopie Goldberg
Rossane Barr
Steve Harvey
George Wallace
Bernie Mac
AJ Johnson
Rondell Sheridan
Angela Means
Reggie McFadden
D’Millitant
Lester Barrie
Suzanne Suter
Chris Arseneaux & Norman Mitchell
Rodney Winfield
Charlie Barnett
Miss Laura Hayes
Anthony Anderson

Williams opened up clubs in Atlanta that featured Chris Tucker, Mike Epps, Sommore, Bruce Bruce, Earthquake, Arnez J and Don 'DC' Curry. And also one in Chicago that hosted the likes of Adele Givens, Kenny Howell and Damon Williams.

Robin Harris and Myra J at the Comedy Act Theater 1986 or 1987.

http://bingenow.com/video...8&res=

[Edited 10/18/12 19:21pm]

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Reply #1 posted 10/19/12 7:01pm

LittleBLUECorv
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https://netflix.hs.llnwd.net/e1/images/8655/1048655.jpg

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #2 posted 10/21/12 7:01pm

LittleBLUECorv
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PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #3 posted 10/21/12 10:11pm

Timmy84

Robin... sad

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Reply #4 posted 10/21/12 10:13pm

Timmy84

Interesting they billed Damon Wayans as "Damon Waynes". lol

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Reply #5 posted 10/22/12 5:13am

LittleBLUECorv
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Timmy84 said:

Interesting they billed Damon Wayans as "Damon Waynes". lol


At that time, he hadn't done anything but be the banana man in Beveerly Hills Cop. Keenen had stared in 2 TV series by then. I have a story on Damon and Robin when they first met I'll post when I get home from work.
PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #6 posted 10/22/12 8:17am

Timmy84

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Timmy84 said:

Interesting they billed Damon Wayans as "Damon Waynes". lol

At that time, he hadn't done anything but be the banana man in Beveerly Hills Cop. Keenen had stared in 2 TV series by then. I have a story on Damon and Robin when they first met I'll post when I get home from work.

Cool. That would be interesting to know. lol

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Reply #7 posted 10/22/12 4:49pm

LittleBLUECorv
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Timmy84 said:

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Timmy84 said: At that time, he hadn't done anything but be the banana man in Beveerly Hills Cop. Keenen had stared in 2 TV series by then. I have a story on Damon and Robin when they first met I'll post when I get home from work.

Cool. That would be interesting to know. lol

Michael Williams:

It didn't take long for things to pick up.

"The second week that I was actually open Robert Townsend and Damon Wayans showed up. I had never seen them and it kind of brought the Comedy Act to prominence in the fact that Damon did not like the way Robin had brought him on and the first thing he said was, 'Doesn't that guy look like a black, ugly Eddie Murphy?' and Robin heard what he said and ran back into the room and he said something back to Damon and Damon said, 'Ah, I got a movie' and Robin said, 'Well, I'm moving on your ass.' They played the dozens in which Robin Harris completely destroyed Damon. And that's how the rest of them found out because those two were so-called Hollywood comedians; black Hollywood comedians and they're the ones that took Robin's name and the Comedy Act's name to Hollywood."

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #8 posted 10/22/12 5:42pm

Timmy84

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Timmy84 said:

Cool. That would be interesting to know. lol

Michael Williams:

It didn't take long for things to pick up.

"The second week that I was actually open Robert Townsend and Damon Wayans showed up. I had never seen them and it kind of brought the Comedy Act to prominence in the fact that Damon did not like the way Robin had brought him on and the first thing he said was, 'Doesn't that guy look like a black, ugly Eddie Murphy?' and Robin heard what he said and ran back into the room and he said something back to Damon and Damon said, 'Ah, I got a movie' and Robin said, 'Well, I'm moving on your ass.' They played the dozens in which Robin Harris completely destroyed Damon. And that's how the rest of them found out because those two were so-called Hollywood comedians; black Hollywood comedians and they're the ones that took Robin's name and the Comedy Act's name to Hollywood."

Nice one. No shock Robin murdered him in the dozens. lol

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Reply #9 posted 10/24/12 7:34pm

LittleBLUECorv
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Ricky Harris:

I heard about this black comedy club. I went there and the host was Robin Harris and my friend had said "Yeah man, this dude is the funniest dude in the world and I'm like, 'Shit, I'm the funniest dude in the world.' So I walk in there with a fuckin' attitude and shit, thinking I'm funny and Robin's on stage doing his thing so I blurted out something to the effect of, 'Little black muthafucka.' That nigga tore a hole in my ass. That nigga said, 'Shine the light on that muthafucka' and I think that's the first time he said 'test tube baby' (a famous Harris putdown). They went bananas. And then he bagged on my curl because I had a jeri curl and he bagged on that. I had helluva acne and he talked about my acne, That was it! He just killed me, That nigga said my face was a cheese pizza with extra cheese. You better never do a crime because if you do a crime all they gotta do is follow the drip.

Ricky Harris remembers this new high and the regular comedians:

...Sinbad, John Henton, Don Reed, and there was a lot of teams back in the day: Dr. Purvey and the Free Clinic Players, of course Robert Townsend. He was like one of the hot niggas on the set. The hottest nigga was of course Eddie Murphy. Damon, Keenen. Female-wise it was Myra J., but the first lady of it was homegirl that was on Night Court, Marsha Warfield.. She used to always be at the Comedy Act Theater. The Comedy Act Theater, dawg - the vibe at the time was incredible. It was almost like being in Harlem back when Harlem was really cracking, the Apollo and that whole era. The era used to be cracking because everybody who was somebody in the entertainment business came to the Comedy Act Theater.

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
-----
Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #10 posted 10/24/12 8:11pm

Timmy84

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Ricky Harris:

I heard about this black comedy club. I went there and the host was Robin Harris and my friend had said "Yeah man, this dude is the funniest dude in the world and I'm like, 'Shit, I'm the funniest dude in the world.' So I walk in there with a fuckin' attitude and shit, thinking I'm funny and Robin's on stage doing his thing so I blurted out something to the effect of, 'Little black muthafucka.' That nigga tore a hole in my ass. That nigga said, 'Shine the light on that muthafucka' and I think that's the first time he said 'test tube baby' (a famous Harris putdown). They went bananas. And then he bagged on my curl because I had a jeri curl and he bagged on that. I had helluva acne and he talked about my acne, That was it! He just killed me, That nigga said my face was a cheese pizza with extra cheese. You better never do a crime because if you do a crime all they gotta do is follow the drip.

Ricky Harris remembers this new high and the regular comedians:

...Sinbad, John Henton, Don Reed, and there was a lot of teams back in the day: Dr. Purvey and the Free Clinic Players, of course Robert Townsend. He was like one of the hot niggas on the set. The hottest nigga was of course Eddie Murphy. Damon, Keenen. Female-wise it was Myra J., but the first lady of it was homegirl that was on Night Court, Marsha Warfield.. She used to always be at the Comedy Act Theater. The Comedy Act Theater, dawg - the vibe at the time was incredible. It was almost like being in Harlem back when Harlem was really cracking, the Apollo and that whole era. The era used to be cracking because everybody who was somebody in the entertainment business came to the Comedy Act Theater.

falloff

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Reply #11 posted 11/01/12 8:43pm

LittleBLUECorv
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Ajai Sanders:

I didn't know the what the rules were. I was wearing a green leather dress and a slit down the back and I remember having to go to the bathroom so bad and my girlfriend was like, "girl, do not get up yet." I was lik, "I got to go pee-pee girl I gotta go." So I got up and I go all the way around the back and I hear Robin go, "Uh uh - put the light on her" and I was like, "Oh, my God!" He said "look at her. She got one of them Alpha BEta booties. I get some I;m dam sure gonna tell a friend." I just kept walking because I didn't know what else to do, so I was like "hey" and I just walked away.

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #12 posted 11/24/12 11:32am

LittleBLUECorv
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PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #13 posted 11/24/12 11:40am

Timmy84

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Ajai Sanders:

I didn't know the what the rules were. I was wearing a green leather dress and a slit down the back and I remember having to go to the bathroom so bad and my girlfriend was like, "girl, do not get up yet." I was lik, "I got to go pee-pee girl I gotta go." So I got up and I go all the way around the back and I hear Robin go, "Uh uh - put the light on her" and I was like, "Oh, my God!" He said "look at her. She got one of them Alpha BEta booties. I get some I;m dam sure gonna tell a friend." I just kept walking because I didn't know what else to do, so I was like "hey" and I just walked away.

evillol

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