In the 70’s, Flip Wilson was the hottest Black comedian on TV with “The Flip Wilson Show.” His show featured the hot Black talents of the era, everyone from Lena Horne to the Jackson 5 who often paired up to perform with the white stars of the day. That and his famous characters Geraldine and Reverend Leroy were the inspiration for comics to come like Martin and Dave Chappelle.
His son, Kevin Wilson and a co-author, Kevin Cook have joined forces on a new bio “FLIP: The Inside Story of TV’s First Black Superstar” which is out today. His son, Kevin, says that his father was TV’s first groundbreaking comic. He even made the cover of “Time Magazine” as America’s first black superstar.
“Before [The Flip Wilson Show] in the 1970’s, Black television hosts were non-existent,” Wilson told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “Richard Pryor was one of the writers on the show. Louis Armstrong was on the show and on the very first show he had James Brown. He was the first Black television host to own his own show in history. He was the first Black male to dress up as a woman and make that character famous throughout the world.”
Wilson’s story should make a great biopic. The Jersey City, NJ native born Clerow Wilson was the 13th of 24 children who grew up in foster care for a portion of his life. He joined the Air Force at age 16 and got his first big TV break through fellow comic Redd Foxx. Wilson, through his On Golden Pond Film partnership with Atmosphere Entertainment is currently narrowing down an actor to play his famous father. Chris Tucker, Tracey Morgan and Cuba Gooding, Jr. are all being considered to play the comic icon in a film based on the book.
“This could be someone’s really breakthrough role. We’re looking at Oscar-type stuff with this project,” Wilson says. “The book is very, very personal to me. I think a lot of people have forgotten who he is.”
“The Flip Wilson Show” was on from 1970-1974. By that time, Wilson was the #2 show on TV, drawing in 40 million viewers. Wilson left the show after gaining custody of his four children and being asked to make budget cuts on his show. The famed comedian died of liver cancer in 2009 at age 64.