Loretta Mary Aiken (March 19, 1894 – May 23, 1975), known by her stage name Jackie “Moms” Mabley, was an American stand-up comedian and actress. Mabley began her career on the theater stage in the 1920s and became a veteran entertainer of the Chitlin’ Circuit of African-American vaudeville.
She came out as a lesbian in 1921 at the age of twenty-seven, becoming one of the first openly gay comedians. During the 1920s and 1930s she appeared in androgynous clothing and recorded several “lesbian stand-up” routines.
During the 1950s, Mabley—influenced by the maternal role she was filling for other comedians on the circuit—adopted the name “Moms” and the appearance of a toothless, bedraggled woman in a house dress and floppy hat. Mabley also credited the name to her grandmother, who had been a driving force in the pursuit of her dreams. The non-threatening persona aided her in addressing topics too edgy for most comics of the time, including racism, sexuality and having children after becoming a widow. A preference for handsome young men rather than “old washed-up geezers” became a signature bit.
Don’t Sit On My Bed
Moms Mabley – Don’t Sit on my Bed (1948)
In the 1960s, Mabley became known to a wider white audience, playing Carnegie Hall in 1962, and making a number of mainstream TV appearances, with multiple appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Music became a regular part of her act, and a cover version of “Abraham, Martin and John” hit No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 19, 1969, making Mabley, at 75, the oldest living person to have a U.S. Top 40 hit. She played the Harlem Cultural Festival during this time.
“Moms Mabley.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moms_Mabley. Accessed 16 July 2022.
Whoopie Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley documentary:
Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial debut dives into the legacy of Moms Mabley, the first female stand-up comedienne. Subscribe to the channel: https://goo.gl/dUmQ…
Wanda Sykes Plays Moms Mabley in the Marvelous Ms. Maisel
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