Comedian and actor Flip Wilson was a popular entertainer in the early ’70’s that was the main star of a popular variety show on the NBC Network. The Flip Wilson Show made its debut on this day in 1970, drawing millions of viewers and becoming one of the top two shows in its first couple of seasons.
The comedian was born Clerow Wilson Jr. on December 8, 1933 in Jersey City, N.J. At 16, Wilson lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force. A known prankster, Wilson was always known for “flipping out” and entertaining his fellow soldiers with jokes, thus earning the “Flip” nickname. After he was discharged from the service, Wilson worked in San Francisco and began honing his comedian skills.
Wilson then began landing routine gigs around the country and performed on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and Laugh-In. Wilson was also a regular performer at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and won a Grammy Award in 1970 for his comedy album, The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress.
The NBC series debuted that same year, and Wilson featured a diverse cast of performers, musical acts and people behind the scenes. Redd Foxx, Bill Russell, The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin and Diahann Carroll among several other stars of the day. Late comedy legends George Carlin and Richard Pryor worked on the staff of the show as writers.