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Flip Wilson, Trail Blazer Comedian

Updated on October 22, 2013
Flip Wilson
Flip Wilson | Source

Born Clerow Wilson Jr, in New Jersey, on December 8th, 1933.

Flip became his moniker while he was in the United States Air force, which he'd joined at age 16. He'd lied about his age trying to better his life and situation.

He became known for his funny stories and 'flipped out', kind of personality, because of this, Flip was asked to tour military bases to cheer up other servicemen.

Variety show

  • NBC
  • One hour
  • 1970 to 1974

His guest lineup was a list of who's who in Hollywood among black artists and white artists as well, and the up and coming struggling artists of that day. Flip's show aired at 8 pm, prime time for half an hour to an hour, in which audiences of every color were glued to the television wondering what he would do that night.

Flip entertained and broadened our horizons with sassy, intellectual ideas that not only made us laugh but think.


  • Characters, Geraldine, black minister/preacher -Reverend Leroy, roadside dinner owner / cook, the ice cream man, to name a few
  • Singing, with guests or alone
  • Monologue, sharing a joke or short story before introducing his guests for that night's show
  • Skits
  • Stand up
  • Phrases, "the devil made me do it." and "what you see is what you get."

Flip's show showcased his talents as well as his guests. He gave everybody the opportunity to see great performers without having to spend lots of money on concert tickets.

Comedy album

  • The devil made me buy this dress


  • Golden globes
  • Emmy
  • Grammy

He was married twice, first to Lovenia for 10 years and his second wife was Tuanchai

No matter what people may claim Flip Wilson opened doors for artists like Martin Lawrence, Jamie Fox, Tyler Perry and others to dress like women and make audiences laugh at ourselves and our own personal antics.

His daring in playing the role of a female character, emboldened others to portray their alter ego as a woman.

He was a trail blazer and no one can take that away from his legacy.

Enjoy some Flip Wilson on Aspire channel, Magic Johnson's new cable network in collaboration with Comcast. He's worth a half hour to an hour of your time.


Tidbits, He hosted greats like the young Jackson 5, and Mom's Mabley

Success story despite

Flip Wilson struggled from a childhood background that a lot of people would never have overcome. It did leave him scarred though, making him subject to substance abuse. He was one of nine / ten children who had to deal with being

  • abandoned by his mother
  • growing up in poverty
  • being shuffled around between family and foster homes
  • being separated from siblings
  • distrust of people

Flip Wilson is known as an comedian and actor, but when watching his variety show, it gives you a better idea of how talented this entertainment genius really was and will always be remembered for. He could sing, dance and write.

Watching Flip Wilson at work is fun from his development of iconic character's, irrepressible quotes and banter that causes one to appreciate him on all levels from slapstick levity to intellectual interest.

Despite his struggles. He left a legacy of successful artists behind him. Flip gave other's the opportunity to show case their talent by introducing them to prime time television allowing them to be themselves or utilizing their talents in skits and sketches that amused and entertained.

Tidbit, although he struggled with substance abuse, drugs and alcohol, Flip decided against heroine from one story because he wasn't as funny when he used it. His drugs of choice was pot, which didn't hinder his second 'drug' of choice, laughter.

TV appearances

Flip struggled until about 1965 when Redd Foxx mentioned him on the Ed Sullivan show as the funniest comedian at that moment.

From there he appeared on popular shows like

  • Laugh in
  • The Tonight Show
  • The Ed Sullivan Show

After he quit his popular show, Wilson made other appearances but he seemed to have faded from the lime light of his own choosing. Some for personal reasons like taking custody of his children and raising them to just living his life as he pleased, golfing, bowling, riding motorcycles among other things.


Time magazine cover

Second most watched show

Black superstar

Credited with launching George Carlin and Richard Pryor

Redd Foxx's endorsement as the funniest comedian, 1965


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    • Celiegirl profile image

      Celiegirl 4 years ago

      Thanks fastfreta, i love him too, he contributed so much! Envy you your personal view seeing him live. Great job on quiz! Watch him on Aspire.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 4 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for the article. I loved Flip Wilson, as a matter of fact I was in the audience on more than one occasion. He was just as good in person as on the screen, so natural. So sorry his life ended so early, no doubt he'd still be on top if her were around today. Very good hub Celiegirl. Took the quiz, scored 100, yea!