THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY, THE NATION PAYS HOMAGE to the great legends of Black history and reﬂects on the hardships these pioneers endured in order to blaze a trail through the thorny and violent jungle of American racism. There are lessons on Black pioneers in politics, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports. For the trails that they individually blazed, America has become a different society and many Blacks hold to a responsibility to extend the trail forward. In opera, there was Marian Anderson. In dance, there was Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham. And in comedy, there was Redd Foxx and Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Five exceptionally gifted Louisianans are keeping the trails blazed by these pioneers. In New Orleans, there’s OperaCréole founder Givonna Joseph and in Monroe, comedian Robert Powell III. In Baton Rouge, there’s businessman Cleve Dunn Jr., stand-up comedienne Tiffany Dickerson, and choreographer Winter McCray. They are our modern day keepers of the trail. Here are their stories.
Comedy Trailblazer: Jackie “Moms” Mabley
Comedy Trail: keeper Tiffany Dickerson
At the age of 14, Loretta Aiken left home for a career in show business, where she would sing and entertain before joining the Chitlin’ Circuit. As Jackie ‘Moms” Mabley, Aiken become the “funniest woman in the world” during the early 1900s, making audiences laugh through her raunchy, yet warm stand up routines. At the height of her career, Moms had produced more than 20 albums of comedy and earned $10,000 performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
She was known to use her humor to tackle edgy topics like racism and lesbianism. As the ﬁ rst Black comedienne, Mabley became “Moms” to future stand-up performers including Redd Foxx. As her popularity grew, she began performing in Carnegie Hall and on mainstream TV where a young Tiffany Dickerson would sneak to watch her.Dickerson is one of about a dozen female comediennes in Louisiana, including Anjelah Johnson, Carissa Mabry, and Jinny Henson.
“Moms is legendary,” she said. “Whoopie (Goldberg) is about the only person comparable. I look to pioneers who were doing comedy when it wasn’t the norm.” And the industry is still male-dominated.
“There still just isn’t enough of us,” said Dickerson who is a local communications professional and national motivational speaker. She has wholly embraced her comedic side and began an aggressive stand-up career as the “Mic Chick”. “It’s been a whirlwind with the comedy,” she said.
Dickerson performs original stand-up and improv that combines lip-syncing, jokes, and acting. “I like to interact with the audience…I do a lot of other work, so I’m not just doing stand-up. It’s a combination and a true performance,” she said.
For her, stand-up comedy is about presenting real life and “having the guts to be able to share it…We are never out of shortage of topics to talk about but it’s about stepping out… My intent is to make the audience laugh at the end of the night.”
Like Moms, Dickerson said, “everything in life I have experienced—whether the happy or the painful things—have truly prepared me for the stage.”
A self-deﬁned introvert, Dickerson said she wrestles with the professional image and the parts of her that is also extrovert. “When I am preparing, I, focused and tucked away. When I’m out on stage, I’m at 110! I’m turned up!” she said. “My material incorporates little nuggets of knowledge in the performance.”
She said she lives a very purpose-driven life and when she hears someone say “I haven’t laughed this hard in so long, then it make me feels like everything I’m doing is worthwhile.”
“I want to be a legacy for when my kids reﬂ ect back, I want them to know that every day I was trying to bring laughter and happiness to people.” For that, comedian Tiffany Dickerson is keeper of Moms Mabley trail.
Dickerson will host her” I’m about to Pop” comedy show this Friday, March 28th. Find out more information here.