She deserves all the flowers!
There are trailblazers who defy norms, challenge stereotypes, and make audiences laugh from the depths of their souls. Among these pioneers is Moms Mabley, a groundbreaking comedian, who holds a special place in the history of comedy. With her unique humor and unapologetic wit, she shattered barriers, transformed the comedic landscape, and became an enduring icon. Here’s what you need to know about her remarkable journey and the lasting impact she has made on comedy and representation.
Born Loretta Mary Aiken on March 19, 1894, in Brevard, North Carolina, Moms Mabley emerged as a comedic force during an era when opportunities for Black performers were scarce, Biography.com reports. Taking her stage name, Jackie Mabley from an ex-boyfriend, and being coined “Moms” due to her mothering nature towards others, Mabley fearlessly tackled taboo topics such as racism, sexism, and social inequality, using her sharp comedic timing and distinct voice to shed light on the realities of the time.
Her style was a mix of stand-up comedy, storytelling, and musical performances. Her stage presence was larger than life, with her signature toothless grin and vibrant personality captivating audiences. Her humor was relatable, often drawing from her own experiences as a Black woman in America.
Throughout her career, Moms Mabley achieved numerous milestones that solidified her legacy as a trailblazer in the comedy world. In 1939, she became the first female comedian to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, earning at her prime more than $10,000 a week for her performances, The Legacy Project Chicago reports. Mabley’s performances at the Apollo were legendary, earning her a devoted fan base and paving the way for future generations of Black comedians.
Mabley’s impact extended beyond the stage. In 1969, at the age of 75, she became the oldest person to debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television program at the time. Her appearances on national television introduced her humor to a wider audience, solidifying her status as a comedy icon. She passed away on May 23, 1975 at the age of 81.
Moms Mabley’s influence on comedy and representation cannot be overstated. She defied societal expectations, using her platform to challenge stereotypes and advocate for social change. Through her humor, Mabley empowered Black women and paved the way for future generations of Black comedians to share their unique perspectives.
Today, we celebrate Moms Mabley for her groundbreaking achievements, her infectious laughter, and her unwavering commitment to speaking truth through comedy. Her legacy lives on, inspiring comedians of all backgrounds to fearlessly use humor as a vehicle for social commentary and change.
Cover photo: Moms Mabley: The hilarious comedian who broke barriers and paved the way for Black women in comedy/Photo Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images