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On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy
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On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  48 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
This comprehensive history of black humor sets it in the context of American popular culture. Blackface minstrelsy, Stepin Fetchit, and the Amos ’n’ Andy show presented a distorted picture of African Americans; this book contrasts this image with the authentic underground humor of African Americans found in folktales, race records, and all-black shows and films. After gene ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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J.M. Hushour
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm a huge Richard Pryor fan and I'll be shallow and admit that I bought this book years ago solely because he was on the cover. I've passed over it for years but I'm circling the steaming carrion of a novel I want to write about a stand-up comedian so I thought I'd finally give it a whirl.
Let me just say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this book. I'll explain my personal three-star rating in a moment.
Watkins does a fine job taking us back, pretty much to distant West Africa to show
Oliver Bateman
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
watkins did something valuable here: despite not being employed in a lofty academic post, he assembled the first major scholarly work on a heretofore ignored topic in cultural history. the book is "dated" and "uneven" only in the sense that it's a starting point. as with all books of this kind, its very existence is a miracle.

if you're doing research on humor, here's where you go first.
Anne Libera
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
In depth and scholarly look at African American comedy from minstrelsy to Richard Pryor. A great deal of insight into comedy as a whole as well as highlighting areas of comedy history not often seen.
Diann Blakely
Lawrence Hill, perhaps the best independent presses specializing in African-American literature, published this updated edition of Mel Watkins' ON THE REAL SIDE: A HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN COMEDY FROM SLAVERY TO CHRIS ROCK around the millennium. Watkins, a former editor of the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, uses humor as a lens for exploring American race relations. "For a vulnerable black minority," he writes, "surreptitiousness and trickery were the principal defenses against repression." The ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is one of my favorite history books of all time. It has all the elements I like: a history that is not about the dominant culture, that takes a unique approach to understanding history, and provides connections between the approach and the larger questions confronting American society. The jokes are really funny as you learn the history of African American comedy and show business. Really great.
Sonja Williams
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great historical account of black comedy and comedians
John senesy
While this book was interesting and informative it fell into the trap that many books of its type can not seem to bypass: it reads like a text book. There is almost no personality to the book.
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A truly amazing book. Obligatory for anyone interested in american culture, humor and in the ways opressed groups find to subvert the negative image that the ruling class establishes around them.
rated it really liked it
Dec 15, 2016
Mark Richardson
rated it it was amazing
Dec 22, 2013
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