Interview with Tim Reid, Tom Dreesen and Ron Rapoport
I was intrigued by the only Black & White comedy duo in history – Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen.
Back when you started off as a comedy duo, race relations weren’t what they are now. Why did you think it was important to joke about race during a time when it wasn’t “cool” to talk about racial differences/issues?
Tim Reid: It wasn’t that we thought it was important…It would have been strange if a black man and white man walked out on stage and didn’t mention race. That being said, not all our material was about race.
Tom Dreesen: In those days all we wanted to do was make people laugh. As far as it being important it seems now that I look back it was very important but it wasn’t on our minds every night we went out there. As I said, all we wanted was for the audience to enjoy our humor and have a good time. That being said, even back then I thought as I do now that “If people can sit down and laugh together then perhaps we can live together.”
If you could go back in time, what would you change about how you dealt with an adversity during your earlier career?
Tom Dreesen: Nothing. It all happened for a reason. I learned and more important “grew” from each and every diversity and that’s why I’m a success today.
Tim Reid: I would have enjoyed the journey more.
More with TIM REID:
I have been a fan of Tim Reid’s since I first saw him portray “Venus Flytrap” on WKRP in Cincinnati. A new generation of children are able to see him in re-runs of Sister Sister. I was a regular watcher of Frank’s Place and was disappointed when it went off the air.
How did you deal with the racial slurs and not getting the respect that your white counterparts would have gotten in the same situation?
Tim Reid: The racial slurs came with the territory and wasn’t anything that I had not faced having grown up in the segregated south. Again remember this was America five years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Our respect grew as we became more professional with our performances.
In your opinion, what are two factors that have changed considerably for AA behind the scenes over the years?
Tim Reid: In reading the book, one will see that I was blessed with the opportunity to be involved with the rise of Blacks in the productions side of television and film. We have come a long way. My only hope is that we don’t forget the lessons learned and assume that we have gone far enough.
What do you think AA writers and producers have to do to get projects green-lighted?
Tim Reid: Take control of our own destiny by financing, producing and distributing our own projects.
More with TOM DREESEN:
Tom has appeared on The Tonight Show and toured with Frank Sinatra. If you want a good laugh, you must listen to his comedy album.
Do you think being part of a comedy team helped or hurt your career?
Tom Dreesen: Without a doubt it helped. Stage presence, delivery, timing, discipline. Working on all these things gave me a foundation when I set out on my individual career.
What piece of advice would you give up and coming comics on the topic of diversity in their jokes?
Tom Dreesen: Try to write material that can make Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad and the kids laugh. That’s real diversity.
Ron Rapoport is a highly respected author and sports columnist.
You’re known for being a sport columnist. Why did you think it was important to share Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen’s story?
Ron Rapoport: I had two initial reactions when I first learned about Tim and Tom having been a comedy team. One was, “You guys did what?” and the other was, “Why don’t I know about this?” And as Tim and Tom began to tell me their story–not only of when they were a team but also of their lives before and afterwards–I thought it was funny, fascinating and very important. I think Tim and Tom have lived great American lives, filled with excitement and adventure on the one hand, and danger and heartache on the other. Theirs is a story both of the sacrifices people will make as they try to succeed in show business and of race in America through the prism of popular culture.
I would like to thank Tim, Tom and Ron for taking time out to answer my questions.
Tim & Tom share their detailed stories in the book: Tim & Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White. You will find the book intriguing. Reading about their story will help shed insight on those times and help open up dialogue with people of various races. The book is available now or you can also order it from online retailers like Amazon.com.
Interview by Shelia M. Goss entertainment writer and Essence bestselling author of My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Paige’s Web, Double Platinum and His Invisible Wife. For detailed bio, visit www.sheliagoss.com.