Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White

Overview

As the heady promise of the 1960s sagged under the weight of widespread violence, rioting, and racial unrest, two young men—one black and one white—took to stages across the nation to help Americans confront their racial divide: by laughing at it.


Tim and Tom tells the story of that pioneering duo, the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business—and the last. Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen polished their act in the nightclubs of Chicago, then took it on the road, ...

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Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White

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Overview

As the heady promise of the 1960s sagged under the weight of widespread violence, rioting, and racial unrest, two young men—one black and one white—took to stages across the nation to help Americans confront their racial divide: by laughing at it.


Tim and Tom tells the story of that pioneering duo, the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business—and the last. Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen polished their act in the nightclubs of Chicago, then took it on the road, not only in the North, but in the still-simmering South as well, developing routines that even today remain surprisingly frank—and remarkably funny—about race. Most nights, the shock of seeing an integrated comedy team quickly dissipated in uproarious laughter, but on some occasions the audience’s confusion and discomfort led to racist heckling, threats, and even violence. Though Tim and Tom perpetually seemed on the verge of making it big throughout their five years together, they grudgingly came to realize that they were ahead of their time: America was not yet ready to laugh at its own failed promise.


Eventually, the grind of the road took its toll, as bitter arguments led to an acrimonious breakup. But the underlying bond of friendship Reid and Dreesen had forged with each groundbreaking joke has endured for decades, while their solo careers delivered the success that had eluded them as a team. By turns revealing, shocking, and riotously funny, Tim and Tom unearths a largely forgotten chapter in the history of comedy.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In this eye-opening duel biography of the first and only interracial American comedy team, Reid and Dreesen share their own unique upbringings-overcoming the stigmas of poverty and prejudice and through sheer determination making a difference in many people's lives through a shared talent to entertain and educate. For five years, the duo dared to address the controversial, discriminatory realities of the 1960s and taught audiences to laugh at their troubles instead of joining the violence and destruction surrounding them. They were ahead of their time and paid the price for their efforts. After they split up as a comedy team, Reid was best known as Venus Flytrap on television's WKRP in Cincinnati and as the genius behind the highly respected but short-lived Frank's Place. Dreesen perfected his stand-up talents and was the opening act for Frank Sinatra for many years until his retirement from performing live concerts. A heartfelt memoir and a nice capsule history of growing up different, fighting the odds, and becoming successful on one's own terms, this is recommended for all libraries.
—Richard A. Dickey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226709000
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2008
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 512,069
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Reid is an actor, producer, and director who has created and starred in many movies and television shows, including WKRP in Cincinnati, in which he played the overnight disk jockey Venus Flytrap, and Frank’s Place. Tom Dreesen is a stand-up comedian who has appeared scores of times on The Tonight Show, Late Show with David Letterman, and other television shows. He toured the nation as Frank Sinatra’s opening act for fourteen years. Ron Rapoport has been a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Los Angeles Daily News and a sports commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition. He has written a biography of Bobby Jones and, with Betty Garrett, her autobiography.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    Wonderful look at a forgotten footnote in history

    Tim & Tom tells the story of two guys just trying to make it in this world, especially the world they came from.<BR/><BR/>From a moment of happenstance at a Jaycee meeting formed the kernal of comedy team that ultimately spawned two separate careers that the average person knows about but little about the background. From the good times to the bad times this book gives the reader that background.<BR/><BR/>I found the narrative style very enjoyable and easy to follow and made it seem more like a conversation between two old friends and cohorts rather than a dry dissertation of bombast about an interracial comic duo.<BR/><BR/>This book is a must if one wants to look at comedy behind the scenes as well as a cautionary tale of what can happen when those dreams don't come true.

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