Once Upon A Time, Flip Wilson Fell Into a Pop Culture Void…

We had this as a final trivia question on Monday night – in 1972, what comedian/actor was named Time Magazine’s “first black superstar?”

We had three players on our trivia team, two born in 1972, and one born in 1961. NONE OF US WERE ABLE TO COME UP WITH THE CORRECT ANSWER. And to make things worse, when the answer was revealed, we all had only vague ideas who the guy was. And this guy was Flip Wilson.


Comedian Flip Wilson as his “Geraldine” persona. I actually don’t mind “drag” comedy!

Wikipedia tells me that Flip Wilson had his own variety show that ran from 1970 to 1974, though Wilson wound up making guest appearances on many, many TV shows after his show went off the air. The wiki article does not say anything about syndication, which means that if you missed him the first time around (by virtue of say, being a toddler), you’re not likely to catch him again…or know who he is. Because no reruns!

I am a bit surprised that the older guy playing with us, Brad (the one born in 1961) didn’t think of Flip Wilson for this answer. Though I think he at least had a better idea who Flip Wilson was!

This is not to say that just because this series aired mainly before I was born that it’s an excuse to not know about it! Gilligan’s Island aired 1964 to 1967, which is before I was born. But thanks to “reruns,” Gilligan’s Island does not fall into pop culture “void” territory! And likewise, neither does “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Laugh In,” “Bewitched,” “Dragnet,” “I Love Lucy,” “The Honeymooners,” or other older TV series.

I’ll have to ask my parents about whether they ever tuned in to Flip Wilson’s show. I’m guessing this kind of comedy wasn’t my dad’s cup of tea (he is kind of a doctor-cop-lawyer/news shows kind of guy), but my mom could be kinda goofy. She loved “Laugh In,” and she liked “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” She also liked some older series like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,”  “Mr. Ed,” and “Green Acres.” Did I just name the “TV Land” lineup?

Usually missed trivia questions don’t haunt me like this. But I’m finding it a mystery as to how Flip Wilson managed to escape my “pop culture radar.” And I almost feel bad about it! If I ever manage to run into Flip Wilson’s ghost, I will tell him the story about how we all drew blank faces when we had a trivia question about him. And I’ll quip, “The devil made us miss that trivia question about you.”


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