Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyDeclaring that African American humor ``shadows, satirizes and humanizes America's main body,'' Watkins delivers a rich and ambitious history of such humor both in the mainstream media and in the black community. A former editor at the New York Times , he draws on prodigious research to describe such aspects of black humor as the African sources of slave wordplay, the sources of the minstrel tradition, the Negro caricatures of Hollywood silent films and the controversy over Amos 'n' Andy. He examines the contributions of the oft-forgotten early 20th-century comedian Bert Williams and the brillant Richard Pryor, and ventures into such topics as literary humor and street folklore. Because Watkins's research is so deep and his interest historical, his study of the varieties (and controversies) in black comedy after Richard Pryor is brief. This extensive compilation makes a valuable contribution to our cultural history. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Library JournalThis book is a detailed look at the history of black humor from slavery days to current times. The author has been an editor of literary magazines, lectured at several universities, and written numerous magazine articles. Here, he assembles every fact he could find on African American humor and demonstrates how it is different from the humor of other ethnic groups, and shows where pieces of it have found their way into mainstream comedy. He includes many examples of the comedy styles of prominent comedians of each era he discusses. The research here is carefully documented and detailed. Highly recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries with collections on humor, black studies, or entertainment.-- Anita L. Cole, Miami-Dade P.L. System, Fla.
Alice JoyceWatkins surveys African American humor in an expansive and penetrating study that probes many facets of black American culture. Exploring ties to tribal sources in Africa, Watkins traces modes of behavior employed by African Americans for coping with the untenable situation of slavery. He also examines traditions such as minstrel shows, where distorted portrayals of blacks were commonplace. Watkins goes on to examine images of black Americans in vaudeville and silent movies, and to highlight entertainers in radio and television, literature, film, and the music industry. Above all, Watkins comprehensively records the history of African American comedy performers and the social constraints affecting their artistry. Fascinating and highly readable, this is also a copiously researched work of scholarship.
- Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
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