Flip: The Inside Story of TV’s First Black Superstar

Kevin Cook, Author
Kevin Cook. Viking, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-02570-1
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 04/18/2013
Compact Disc - 978-1-4708-8127-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-4708-8128-3
MP3 CD - 978-1-4708-8125-2
Paperback - 242 pages - 978-0-14-218075-4
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4708-8131-3
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In the early 1970s, the phrases “The Devil made me do it!” and “What you see is what you get!” rolled easily off of people’s lips and entered our cultural vocabulary, thanks to a young black comedian named Flip Wilson. Drawing on interviews with family, friends, and Wilson’s colleagues, journalist Cook delivers a candid and entertaining look at Wilson’s meteoric rise from struggling stand-up comedian playing segregated nightclubs and bars on the Chitlin’ Circuit to his bursting onto the scene after several momentous appearances on the Johnny Carson Show, to Time magazine’s cover story on him as television’s first black superstar. Cook chronicles Wilson’s impoverished and abject childhood, when he was shuttled from foster family to foster family. Other topics include Wilson’s early memories of another comedian’s show-stopping performance, his escape from poverty into the military, and his own initial and wildly successful stand-up performances at his military base. Wilson’s ascent to the top of the television and comedy peaked in 1970 with The Flip Wilson Show, where on a given night, viewers might have found “B.B. King paired with Sid Caesar, or Andy Griffith paired with Curtis Mayfield.” Cook’s story also reveals a man vulnerable and unable to love deeply, as well as Wilson’s insecurities and his insatiable appetite for drugs. Cook’s fiercely honest biography captures the tumultuous and winning personality of the man who introduced many memorable characters to the world and who paved the way for black comedians such as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry. (Apr.)
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