A Reboot of Comedy Classics

Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!


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The Laff of the Party: Redd Foxx

The Laff of the Party: Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx is most known for his role on Sanford and Son, but his career dates back all the way to the ’40s. When he was 17 he was a member of the trio “The Bon Bons,” for a while he wanted to be a singer and even released 5 singles, and he was friends with Malcolm X. Most of Redd’s comedy career consisted of blue party albums, but there is so much more to his lengthy career. Listen in to find out all there is to know about Redd Foxx…..including why there are 2 Ds and 2 Xs!

Listen to the album we're talking about, the album that started it all Laff of The Party Volume 1 (click HERE)

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Kelly Thewlis

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Dave Schwensen

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Dave Schwensen:
Hi, welcome back to What's So Funny! I'm Dave Schwensen. And today I'm joined by two of my favorite co-hosts, Logan Rishaw and Kelly Thewlis. How are you guys?

Kelly Thewlis:
Hey.

Logan Rishaw:
Great, it's good to be back on the show, Dave.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, it's good to have you here. I haven't seen you in a while Logan, what's going on?

Logan Rishaw:
Ah you know, not much. Just postponing festivals left and right. In the meantime-

Dave Schwensen:
That's always a joy isn't it?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, but in the meantime I put together a small book of short stories. It's called Albert Catmus, C-A-T-M-U-S. And it's just a bunch of funny stories and essays that you can find on Amazon.

Dave Schwensen:
Really?

Logan Rishaw:
Little shameless plug there.

Dave Schwensen:
Kelly, what's going on with you?

Kelly Thewlis:
Hey, hey, it's going to be here.

Dave Schwensen:
Well first of all, I just want to bring up, in case someone hasn't listened to us in a while, we have changed our format a little bit from what you remember from last season of What's So Funny! Instead of playing comedy albums, what we do now is we pick out a classic comedian from whenever, the '50s, '60s, '70s, and we talk about that comedian and their life and their work and their comedy and their influences.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah and we focus in on some of their more popular albums and sort of how that-

Dave Schwensen:
Notoriety.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
The scandals. We'll talk about whatever. And we've got a good one to kick us off today, is ready for this? Okay. Family listeners, are you ready for this? Redd Foxx.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah, talk about an innovator.

Logan Rishaw:
I am so excited about this one.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
I like Redd Foxx. I've always liked his comedy. And then I was like, "You know what? I'm going to pick up a biography, find out what his early life was like," and I could not put it down. He is one of the most fascinating people that we've probably talked about. And I think I say that about everyone we talk about, but I really mean it for Redd Foxx.

Dave Schwensen:
He's got quite a story.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. I also. I knew nothing about his background or his personal life. I just knew him from Sanford and Son and a couple of his albums. And yeah, it's just incredibly interesting.

Dave Schwensen:
Well I want to say, I think most of the listeners will know him from Sanford and Son. Before that he was a standup comedian, a little bit obscure back in the '50s and '60s, getting more and more popular. But when he hit that TV sitcom Sanford and Son. And when was that? That was like the early '70s?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Early '70s.

Dave Schwensen:
That came out and that was a massive hit. So all of a sudden he was a household name. And before that the name Redd Foxx meant you put the comedy material in a brown envelope and hid it somewhere so nobody knew you had his albums.

Logan Rishaw:
It's crazy that he broke through mainstream through Sanford and Son, but he had this entire adult oriented comedy career beforehand.

Dave Schwensen:
He came out of St. Louis, and poor, dirt poor. He was actually trying to make it as a musician I think. A singer and a dancer.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. He's got I think five singles that were put out a while before he got into really being a comedian. But he was trying to be like a blues singer. Like you said, he grew up in St. Louis, but his dad left, then his mom moved to Chicago so she could raise money for the family and send it back to him and his brother who were living with their grandmother. Early on he went to boarding school and got kicked out of that. Went back to live with his grandma. Didn't go great. She eventually shipped him off to Chicago to live with his mom. And there he started hanging out with rougher crowds and started a little wash tub band, and they went to New York to try and make it big. I think the biggest thing I saw on their resume was they did major Bowes Original Amateur Hour.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh that was popular.

Logan Rishaw:
Under the name The Jump Swinging Six. And they did not do great.

Dave Schwensen:
But that's why he became a comedian instead of a singer and a dancer. I also remember hearing one time, I think he got kicked out of a school on the very first day because he threw a book at the teacher.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah he was expelled. He was expelled. And that's actually what led him into show business, because he was just sort of like a kid wandering the streets after getting expelled. He was in fifth grade. He just wandered into a theater called the Plantation House and saw the comedians in there. And that's sort of when he discovered and fell in love with show business.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, I know he went up to ... wound up in Harlem, in New York City, up there in 125th street. And Harlem was known for the black, just the entertainment industry. And they were just so ... I mean, just amazing musicians and singers and dancers and comedians. And that's where Redd Foxx really started to put his act together. He worked up there in a restaurant. He was known as the funniest dishwasher, I think, in Harlem.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah that's what Malcolm X said about him.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. His friend, Malcolm X. Okay. Now the civil rights, and Malcolm X is a legendary figure. But he and Redd Foxx were like best friends.

Kelly Thewlis:
As kids, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
They were best friends. And I guess they looked similar. So they had like a team nickname where-

Kelly Thewlis:
Well they both were called Redd.

Logan Rishaw:
... Redd was known as Chicago Redd and Malcolm was known as Detroit Red.

Dave Schwensen:
Right.

Logan Rishaw:
And people thought they were brothers.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh that's interesting. See, and I had heard it was a little different. I had heard Malcolm X was called Big Red and Redd Foxx was called Redd Foxx because they thought he was clever. So that's kind of where that came from. I don't know. A lot of rumors, a lot legends.

Logan Rishaw:
Tall tales with Redd Foxx for sure.

Dave Schwensen:
Malcolm X, his real name was Malcolm Little. And of course Redd Foxx, his real name was John-

Logan Rishaw:
John-

Dave Schwensen:
John Sanford.

Kelly Thewlis:
John Sanford.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay? And his brother's name was Fred Sanford, which is what we're going to talk about when we get to Sanford and Son. One was Detroit Red and the other was Chicago Redd. And they did some illegal activities together.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Were like running small crimes and eventually Redd Foxx wanted to kind of branch away once it got into harder crimes, because he wanted to have a showbiz career and he was worried about that derailing it.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They used to steal suits from the laundry mat and sell them on the building on the roof where they were sleeping. But yeah, I think Malcolm Little got into some real trouble. He got like a 10 year prison term or something. And Redd Foxx avoided that.

Kelly Thewlis:
That seems to be kind of Redd Foxx's thing though, because I mean in my research there was a couple of times where even when he was with the trio in that band that was named the Bon Bons. To get to Harlem they were on a train that they hopped, and then they got caught.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah they were hopping freight trains.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, yeah. And they like survived in an onion car that they specifically lived in for three days and just ate onions. And his band mates got caught, but he didn't. So his band mates ended up arrested. He like jumped in the Hudson or something and made it to New York. So it just sort of seems that's a pattern. He's just lucky in that regards, or he seems to be missing arrestment all the time.

Logan Rishaw:
He was always definitely near crime.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Definitely.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Always on the outskirts or doing some of the petty stuff himself. But then he got into doing standup comedy. Redd Foxx got famous, I guess you could say, from doing these party albums. Logan and Kelly, I mean, have you ever really listened to a party album? And I'll answer that question myself. No. And it was the kind of thing I look back and imagine it, it was very X-rated, dirty records. And I always think about the adults, maybe in the '50s or the '60s, you see the stereotype pictures, they've got the Manhattans in their hand or Old Fashioned with the cherry in a drink and a cigarette. The kids are in bed, and mom and dad sneaked down the basement and they put on these party albums, which were just nothing but dirty jokes. In your face, dirty jokes. And that's what Redd Foxx was known for.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. He did like 40 of them.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I mean, it was ridiculous.

Logan Rishaw:
It's really impossible to keep track of how many there were, because that first label he was on just kept re-releasing the same stuff over and over, or like pairing different tracks that they've already released onto a new album and calling it something new.

Dave Schwensen:
But I remember being a kid and going to grade school, and the bad kids, not like you, Logan or Kelly or me, we're the good kids.

Logan Rishaw:
Of course.

Dave Schwensen:
The bad kids who didn't really ... they were coming into school telling these dirty jokes when you were like in grade school. Someone would tell you a dirty joke, like in the bathroom, in the hallway. And they were basically telling Redd Foxx jokes.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
They must have heard from their parents or their grandparents or someone who had these albums telling these dirty jokes.

Logan Rishaw:
That's kind of the thing with the party records too. It's not normal standup in the sense that it's some guy or girl telling you their life story and trying to make it funny or giving you their personality. These are just jokes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah the quick-

Logan Rishaw:
It is story joke, one liner, maybe some audience interaction. But you don't know who Redd Foxx is as a person when you listen to these. You just know he's funny.

Dave Schwensen:
No. He's more known for breaking the color barrier a lot, like Dick Gregory, getting up in front of a white audience. But he came out of that, what they called the Chitlin' Circuit. And the white comics back in the '20s, '30s, '40s, they were all doing the same act.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, I'm sure. And it's probably a lot of what we would call today street jokes.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. So these old, as dirty jokes as you could possibly get, I think they were all kind of saying it. And I think Redd Foxx just said the better than the others. I don't know. His albums just sold like crazy.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. And they were a lot to sell. I think between '56 and '58, they were like 14 full albums. But then there were also just tons of EPS and singles that were put out in that same two year gap.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think it's really interesting too if we're looking just at the party albums on a whole and why they were so popular. I mean if you look at 1956, the most popular film that year was The Ten Commandments, which was a big bible story. Elvis was just sort of taking off and was causing all sorts of controversy because he was too risque. And then it's like at the underground, you had Redd Foxx telling these insanely dirty jokes. Mainstream culture was just so tame at the time.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. I mean, it was definitely underground too. Because you didn't see these albums on the shelves. You had to hear about it from someone who really knew what was up. And then you had to go to the record store and ask them for it. And they pull it out in a paper bag from behind the counter.

Kelly Thewlis:
It was illegal to sell them.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. They were worried about indecency laws.

Dave Schwensen:
Well it was, you know your history, was like the Eisenhower era in the '50s and the TV shows like Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best, and all those wholesome American shows, and everybody's happy in the suburbs and all this. But no, there was an underground scene, and he was popular, and there was an audience for him.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Well it's the same as any, I mean, comedy during any time. There's different tastes and different styles, and no matter who you are or what kind of jokes you tell, there is an audience for you out there.

Dave Schwensen:
That's for sure.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Yeah. And this was Redd Foxx's audience, and he nailed it. He found it somehow, and really like just took off with it.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah I think some of the appeal was you were all kind of listening in on something you weren't supposed to hear.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I know, when he first got his first album deal, he was hesitant to do this because he didn't want to give up his material. The audience wouldn't come see his live shows anymore. But they sold something like 250,000 copies or something of his first album.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, turns out he had plenty of material.

Kelly Thewlis:
That was Laff Of The Party Volume One. Right? That was this first album.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Laff of the party was the first.

Kelly Thewlis:
Okay. Was the first one.

Logan Rishaw:
And can we talk about how that album sounds? You both listened to it I think.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
It's not high quality. They put a reel to reel recorder in the back of the club and just recorded whatever they could. So it doesn't sound pleasant.

Dave Schwensen:
No.

Logan Rishaw:
It is just like if you had your phone recording from the back of a comedy club, it's not high quality.

Dave Schwensen:
And I think if, I remember correctly, listening to the album, it seems like there were a lot of cuts. He would tell a joke and then cut, tell a joke, cut. It wasn't a lot of room audience play to it.

Logan Rishaw:
It was made as cheaply as possible so they could churn it. And they just kept doing that with them. But there was so much material that it was just funny. And if you can get through that it didn't sound great, there's good stuff there.

Dave Schwensen:
It was a popular thing to do, all these party albums. It wasn't just Redd Foxx. There was a whole circuit of comics coming out with this stuff, but he outlasted everybody. And again, moved on to become a star because he continued into the night. The thing that amazes me. Here's what I'm going to say. These comedy albums, these party albums, it was underground, you had to buy it in brown paper bags in a record store. Redd Foxx had a temper.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yes.

Dave Schwensen:
He always wanted his fair share of the money. Okay. He's a businessman. I shouldn't say he had a temper. He wanted his money. Show me the money. And he felt the guy who was selling these albums was making a ton of money and he wasn't sharing it all the way. So he got out of his contract. He said, "That's it." He made such a stink about it the guy let him out of his contract. And then he signed with Frank Sinatra's record label.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, [inaudible 00:13:05] Records.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, he saw Redd Foxx and he signed him. Frank Sinatra signing Redd Foxx.

Kelly Thewlis:
I know. That's crazy.

Logan Rishaw:
So they actually, he wanted to get out of his record label, but they wouldn't let him out at first. He actually took them to court for a few years when he had about two years left. And they had a long two year court battle where he wanted to be released from his record contract. He said they owed him money and he wanted the masters to all the recordings they had. And after two years, the court found that he actually owed the record company money. That they could definitely, they had all of the rights to the masters, and he now had to do two more years with them to make up for the time he wasn't recording during the lawsuit. And then that's when Sinatra came around and suddenly they were really cool with letting him go.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well-

Kelly Thewlis:
That's also a sort of a theme in his life as well. He ends up in a similar dilemma with other companies and other producers later on.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Especially when he got into television. It seemed to be a pattern.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
But I will say, the one I wanted to talk about the album a little bit came out in like 1967, '68.

Kelly Thewlis:
'68.

Dave Schwensen:
'68. Foxx-A-Delic.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Another great one.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean that was around the time of, what, all the psychedelic music and the hippies and all that kind of stuff. And so Foxx-A-Delic. I thought it was a great title. But he finally had an album that had some decent quality to it. It does not sound bad.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. It's recorded in Vegas. It sounds great. It's got some money behind it.

Dave Schwensen:
And I think it's one of his first performances in front of a white audience. Even when I compare it to like the party albums. The party albums to me are very basic, just dirty jokes. One after another, after another, after another, each one raunchier than the one before. In this one it's kind of like he gave some of this material some thought.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, it's definitely more like a traditional standup style. Still like very heavy with innuendo and all that. But it's not just quick jokes.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Innuendo and right in your face.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. But he actually has one or two jokes on it that he could possibly have said on television.

Kelly Thewlis:
Which we even jokes about that? He's like, "Oh this one's for the television."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Yeah. He also started doing some films. What was that? Cotton Goes to Harlem? He did-

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, Ossie Davis's film.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
That's the film that the producers of Sanford and Son saw him in.

Dave Schwensen:
That's the one?

Kelly Thewlis:
To my knowledge. Yeah. That's the one that really he stood out. He didn't have a huge role in that if I'm not mistaken.

Logan Rishaw:
No he was like a supporting actor in it. But he stood out from the rest.

Dave Schwensen:
When they decided to do Sanford and Son, one of the producers or whatever, they saw him. And he said, "Oh my gosh, that's the guy for this show." And it became, again, I mean, you'll think back at the times, 1970, there were not very many black people on television at that time. I mean Bill Cosby broke the color barrier as being one of the first leads, a black man having a lead on a primetime show with I Spy. And Redd Foxx came along and had the whole show, where I want to say black actors, Demond Wilson, Sanford and Son, Fred Sanford. And that was breakthrough. That was a big deal.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. I don't even think they had a white actor on the show until about like three or four episodes into it.

Dave Schwensen:
Uh-uh (negative). And I mean the other shows that came after ut like Good Times and The Jeffersons, they were all after this. I mean Redd Foxx was a ground breaker. And they picked him, because it could have gone either way. The fun thing about Sanford and Son, that's based on an old British sitcom called Steptoe and Son. It had been around about 10 years before. The same format. They're call the rag men rather than trash garbage men, like junk guys.

Logan Rishaw:
This was sort of like Norman Lear's project that he came up with after All In The Family. So this was his big followup. And the entire point of casting it was to find a pair of actors who would have a good chemistry.

Dave Schwensen:
And they certainly did.

Logan Rishaw:
And they tried all sorts of different like races and nationalities and backgrounds. And then finally once they found Redd Foxx they were like, "This is going to work."

Dave Schwensen:
When I say it was a ground breaker, he brought in a lot of his friends from the black entertainment Chitlin' Circuit. He brought them onto his prime time NBC show to play characters. Like Lawanda Page who played, what, Aunt Esther?

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. He gave her a big breakthrough that way. But even people who just had one line, he would find someone he worked with in the past that wanted to get on television. He'd say, "Hey, can you say a line? We'll bring you in."

Dave Schwensen:
Lawanda Page, they grew up together. They were childhood friends.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. They were from back in the early days together.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
She's so funny. I watched a documentary, and she just kept saying, she's like, "Oh, he was a rascal. He was a rascal." And like a wonderful, from a woman who has known him his entire life, what a wonderful way of describing him. Because he really was. Even though he was, even at the height of his success here, he still had a little bit of a gambling problem. And he had some anger issues like. Yeah, they said that you never really knew which Redd you're going to get on set from day to day.

Dave Schwensen:
And the thing is, I'll say he was loyal to his friend. He may not have been loyal to his three wives, but he was-

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, definitely loyal to his friends at least.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. His friends, the ones he did the Chitlin' circuit with and the comedians and the entertainers and stuff. I mean, he helped them out all he could. But at the same time, he's one of these guys, again, he's looking out for himself. He's like, "Something's not right here. Sanford and son is this huge hit. It's making all this money for all the producers and everyone," but where's his cut? And that, like his early record deals, that became an issue. And all of a sudden he was not going to work anymore. He wasn't going to show up and film any more shows. He wanted a cut of the money. And they were saying, we're paying you well, take it or leave it. And he says, "Oh, I'll leave it." He left that show. He left it. It was a big hit show. And he walked away from it.

Logan Rishaw:
Okay. He had a weird relationship with the character of Fred Sanford too, because he still wanted to do his club act where he could be dirty, but he was getting all these new audience members who were expecting like a happy go lucky sitcom star. And some shows people would walk out, and he'd say, "Listen, I'm sorry. The name on the marquee says Redd Foxx, not Fred Sanford."

Kelly Thewlis:
Did we mention this? That was named after ... He wanted it to be named after his brother Fred Sanford, which is very interesting. I'm sure that added a lot of complexity to the character for him as well.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, it did. And here's something interesting. His father's name was Fred Sanford and his older brother was Fred Sanford Jr. And he insists that Fred Sanford be in honor of his brother, not his father, because his father left him.

Kelly Thewlis:
Right. And his brother had passed away by that point as well. Yeah. So I'm sure that just sort of added an odd level to his relationship with the character. And then you add on top of it this dispute over salary, and then you add onto it that he's not able to do his act that he loves the same way. And it just ends up being a real struggle, I'm sure.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well, he still did his act. Now I know [crosstalk 00:20:03].

Logan Rishaw:
[crosstalk 00:20:04] happy when they showed up.

Dave Schwensen:
They just weren't happy when he showed up. Redd Foxx just exploded in the early '70s. He was a major star, and making millions of dollars and everything he'd worked like decades to achieve. Yeah, he did network television. I think I even saw a clip of him doing a show like the midnight special or a concert, rock concert show, something like that. And he had to do five minutes clean, relatively clean. But what he did, and he loved Las Vegas, and he loved gambling, he loved the whole thing. And when he went out there he didn't change. He was triple X rated. And if you didn't like it, he said at the end, "If you were disappointed, I really don't care."

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, I think Vegas is definitely where he belonged.

Dave Schwensen:
He kind of said it in different words.

Kelly Thewlis:
"If you don't like it, tough," is kind of his motto on a lot of things.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. If you don't like it, lump it. I think that was his attitude. And really, I mean, NBC made him a star. Sanford and Son, and was it Norman Lear? The whole thing. But again, he was like, "No, you're not treating me fair. And I'm going to walk out." And he did that. They made him come back from his contract. Once the contract was up, he left. And he went over to ABC, a rival network, and he got a variety show, the Redd Foxx Show. And that didn't do as well. It got canceled. Matter of fact, I think he's the only person, leading man or whatever you want to call it, to have three starring shows on three rival networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh yeah, probably.

Dave Schwensen:
Because he came back I think to NBC and did a show called Sanford. At the end of his career, at the end of his life, he had another sitcom called, I think the Royal Family.

Kelly Thewlis:
The Royal Family, yeah, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, the Royal Family.

Kelly Thewlis:
Which was the-

Dave Schwensen:
That might've started. Like Della Reese was with.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yes. That actually, it was created by Eddie Murphy. They came up with it on the set of Harlem Nights. It was just Redd and Della Reese were kind of riffing on something. And Eddie just said, "This is going to be a sitcom." And they kind of were like, "Oh okay. Yeah." And he went to his trailer and he came back, so the legend goes anyways. Eddie Murphy went to his trailer that moment and came back with like an outline of a pilot. And he was like, "No, no, no. This is going to be something." And sure enough, however long later, it was actually, it was happening. And they got one season in. I'm not sure if they recorded an entire season or what, but this was the end for Redd. This is where he ended up passing away, was on-set of the show.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They just finished, what, rehearsing a scene or filming a scene, whatever it was.

Logan Rishaw:
Rehearsed a scene. And he did an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. And the sad and ironic thing is, so if there's any youngsters out there who hadn't seen Sanford and Son, the notorious joke in it was, he would fake a heart attack and call out to his wife Elizabeth who had passed away.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm coming Elizabeth, I'm coming!

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. He's like any time he wasn't getting his way he would end up throwing this thing. And that was the big-

Dave Schwensen:
This is the big one.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, that was the act. That was the shtick, that was the thing that that show was like so well known for. And then he had a real heart attack and the cast and crew on the Royal Family recognized it as his shtick from Sanford and Son, and literally laughed as he died. They just watched him laughing, because they thought he was faking a heart attack as he had done 100,000 times before.

Dave Schwensen:
And then he dies of a heart attack and they're all sitting there looking at him. They expect him to stand up again.

Kelly Thewlis:
His last words were like, "Ah, give me a break." Even as he's passing he's saying these things that just sound wildly familiar to what he would do on the set of Sanford and Sons. So yeah, I mean, just crazy.

Logan Rishaw:
So crazy.

Dave Schwensen:
That was it. But it's funny you mentioned that show is, you said it might've been produced by Eddie Murphy?

Kelly Thewlis:
I believe so.

Dave Schwensen:
Or created-

Logan Rishaw:
Created by at least.

Dave Schwensen:
Created by Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy was a big fan of Redd Foxx. And when I look back at Redd Foxx, his career, and again, start with the party albums, I don't really hear anything original. All right. I just don't. To me he's just repeating a bunch of dirty jokes. However, it's his personality, the way he sells it, the way he does it, and how he broke into the mainstream. Again, from the Chitlin' Circuit to Las Vegas. By opening these doors, censorship and everything else, it allowed people like Richard Pryor. Okay? Richard Pryor, even George Carlin. But Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy, you look back at his stuff from the '70s, his specials. I mean, he was just as X rated as Redd Foxx.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh sure.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Richard Pryor especially. I mean, they were pretty good friends for a lot of Redd's life. And he was sort of like a mentor to Richard Pryor. And they would party together all the time. But you could hear that sort of like personality of Redd Foxx coming through when Richard Pryor speaks. Even though his was comedy was so different there's still some of that Redd Foxx personality in there.

Dave Schwensen:
Almost like teasing the audience. Like I'm saying this anyway, whether you like it or not. This is what's happening. So yeah. So he was a big influence. And I even think like Chris Rock, and many other comedians.

Kelly Thewlis:
Sinbad for sure.

Dave Schwensen:
Sinbad. And it's amazing because you do mention Sinbad, and he does say Redd Foxx was an influence. And Sinbad is so clean, his material, compared to Redd Foxx.

Logan Rishaw:
Absolutely.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh sure.

Dave Schwensen:
So I think it was just a lot of the attitude and playing with the crowd. And when you listen to Redd Foxx's comedy, he does crowd work. If someone doesn't laugh or something, he'll say something. He points them out. Or he calls them ugly.

Logan Rishaw:
He's very in the moment on every album.

Kelly Thewlis:
And I think one of the other things that was so inspirational about him, as we mentioned before, he was like, "It's my way, take it or leave it. This is what we're doing." And to have such a clear, I guess, vision or authenticity, it means so much. It's why his albums, like you said, they're not all that original, but it stands up and stands the test of time because it's just so refreshing to always hear that boldness in his own personality. And I think it meant a lot, especially breaking through the color barrier of that time, it meant a lot to have him just be like, "No, I'm not doing this."

Kelly Thewlis:
I mean, one of the things too, when he was doing the Chitlin' Circuit and such, and he couldn't perform in front of white audiences, there was this sort of thing where you could perform in front of a white audience if you did black face. And he was like, "Absolutely not. There's no way. I don't care what it means for my career. I'm not doing that." And so to have that sort of like, "I've got clear cut boundaries. I know what I deserve. I know what I want." That is to so many comedians who were being held back during that time that meant everything, I'm sure.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I mean, he stuck to his guns. He knew who he was and what he was doing. And I don't think he took a lot of nonsense from people.

Logan Rishaw:
No, absolutely not.

Kelly Thewlis:
He would also, he got into some trouble with the IRS, especially later on in life, but in the documentary I watched, they interviewed his lawyer. And he was like, "Oh yeah. No, he would file his taxes every year. He just decided he would never send in a check."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, he just wouldn't pay it.

Kelly Thewlis:
He just did what he wanted.

Logan Rishaw:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And they took everything back.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah. They did take everything. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
They took everything he had.

Logan Rishaw:
He lost his house, his cars, he had a diamond watch that was gifted to him from Elvis that they took.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
Wow, not the Elvis. I mean my [crosstalk 00:27:24].

Kelly Thewlis:
No, geez. Yeah, they-

Logan Rishaw:
Well he got some of it back, but the watch was auctioned off to pay off the taxes.

Dave Schwensen:
When he died in Los Angeles, Eddie Murphy actually shipped his body back to Las Vegas and paid for the entire funeral.

Kelly Thewlis:
That is so crazy.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh wow.

Kelly Thewlis:
I had no idea of that. I mean, that's just really speaks to how much of a fan and admirer Eddie Murphy was of Redd Foxx, or how respected, I should say, how much respect he had for him.

Dave Schwensen:
Eddie Murphy just did it up as a great farewell to the great Redd Foxx.

Logan Rishaw:
That's amazing.

Kelly Thewlis:
That's wonderful.

Dave Schwensen:
Unreal. Well, yeah. It wasn't an easy life, but he did it his way. Like Frank Sinatra, there you go.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's what he [crosstalk 00:28:05].

Dave Schwensen:
Did it his way. We look at nowadays you can pretty much think you can hear everything in a club, but everything goes in cycles. As far as I'm concerned, like comedy. I mean, everything's going to come around again. See, Redd Foxx was so shocking. And then I'll look at someone like Howard Stern when he came out. Okay. And who were some of the other shock jocks at that time? But they got huge because they were saying all this stuff that people weren't saying out loud anymore. They had been in the '60s or whatever. Then it kind of went underground. These guys came back. And I was thinking also about the kind of humor when I was listening to Redd Foxx, and it made a big comeback in the '90s. Andrew Dice Clay.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah, yeah. That's right.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
As far as I'm concerned he was doing Redd Foxx's act. You listen to some of these old party records with Redd Foxx and he's doing these lyrics, the Hickory Dickory Dock, and I won't say anymore. But he does-

Logan Rishaw:
Good.

Dave Schwensen:
... an Andrew Dice Clay standing on stage in the '90s, or whenever he was big. And he's Hickory Dickory Dock, and he's doing all the same. It's the same thing. But it's a whole new generation. It's like two or three generations removed from the Redd Foxx crowd. And to them this is all new.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, interesting. So what that means, we're probably, we got 10 more years before we see the next rendition of Redd Foxx. Right?

Dave Schwensen:
All right, so we can start writing our material right now.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Come on. Logan, is it you?

Logan Rishaw:
Somewhere out there is a 10 year old that's going to be the filthiest comedian of all time.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes, yes. Could you believe it? That's what's coming up. That's the prediction on this show. You heard it right here.

Kelly Thewlis:
He's already got some party tic-tac following.

Logan Rishaw:
Probably.

Dave Schwensen:
All right. Well listen, I'm going to sign off here because I've had too much fun and I don't want to get too carried away with this. I want to save some more fun for the next time we talk. So I'm going to say goodbye to Logan.

Logan Rishaw:
All right. Kelly and Dave, it was great talking with both of you.

Dave Schwensen:
It was always good to talk with you. And Kelly.

Kelly Thewlis:
Ah, thanks again guys.

Dave Schwensen:
Great to have you here. We had a fun time didn't we?

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, this was great.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. I just want to make sure you're happy. Signing off. Like our listeners. Okay. All right. Well, I'm going to sign off. I'm Dave Schwensen, and thank you for listening to What's So Funny! Until we come back, keep laughing.

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