*If you were scrolling through the channels over the weekend and came across old Moms Mabley clips, chances are you stumbled upon PBS’ new “Ed Sullivan Comedy Special,” which the network is using as part of its fundraising programming.
Arsenio Hall is featured in the special, which is hosted by Mary Tyler Moore and includes classic clips from comedy icons who appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including Mabley, Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson. [Scroll down to watch clips.]
“I never really heard the word ‘standup’ or ‘standup comic.’ And that’s where I first heard it, on ‘Ed Sullivan,’” recalls Arsenio during a panel for the PBS special at the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “I was going to an Al Green concert because I got good grades, and he had a standup comic who opened for him. And I actually went early so I could see the guy. But I first heard of what a standup was [on ‘Ed Sullivan’].
“I think I became kind of obsessed with standups watching that show. I mean what brother even knows the words Shelley Berman?”
In the audio bonus below, Arsenio and fellow panelist Robert Klein tout the groundbreaking comedy of Jackie “Moms” Mabley – the original “cougar,” whose infamous “Ed Sullivan” appearance is included in the PBS special. Arsenio is asked how it’s possible that Mabley fell so far out of the American consciousness.
Below, audio from Moms Mabley’s “Ed Sullivan” appearance, video from Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor.