Why Whoopi Goldberg wants you to meet Moms Mabley

"Whoopi Goldberg presents Moms Mabley" premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO. Credit: Timothy White/ Courtesy of HBO
“Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley” premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Credit: HBO

Even Whoopi Goldberg needs a little money help sometimes.

The Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner ran into trouble funding her documentary “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley,” a 71-minute look at the life of comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley. So she did what 21st-century filmmakers short on funding have done: She turned to Kickstarter.

“People were like, ‘Why do you need this?’ It’s like, what do you think I do for a living? I work every day. I mean, you’d think that I’m swimming in dough, but it doesn’t work that way,” Goldberg says. “I had a couple of those conversations with folks, and then people went, ‘Oh, you’re really serious about it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, do you think I would expose myself to you like this?’”

After the initial surprise of her fundraising efforts wore off, Goldberg says donors “lost their minds and just gave and gave and gave.” And she’s grateful for that outpouring, because with the money she was able to hire the type of editor who would benefit the film most.

“Mabley” is a labor of love for the 57-year-old star, who says she had wanted to make a film about the comedian “for quite some time.” She says she used to impersonate Mabley, known for her commentary on race and other taboo topics, on stage early in her own career as a comedian. But years later, when Goldberg wanted to reprise the role on stage, she realized her audience didn’t know the trailblazing comedian.

“Folks of a certain age remember her but don’t know a lot about her,” Goldberg says. “But [younger] folks don’t know about Moms because all the places that you would have seen her now have disappeared, like ['The Ed Sullivan Show.'] You don’t have a lot of outlets where you can see comics and folks that spin plates. You have ‘America’s Got Talent’ but those are talent shows — these were professionals.”

With a movie on Mabley under her belt, Goldberg next hopes to bring to light stories of other black artists whose works may have eluded the public.

“One of the things that you discover when you’re looking for black performers is there’s just not a lot of information out there,” she says. “There wasn’t anyone documenting any of it, and no one has done the full Ken Burns rendition of black people in America as a documentary. So that’s what I think the next thing I want to do is, so that the next person who’s maybe looking for someone like Peg Leg Bates can go to one of those documentaries that I’m hoping we get to do and say, ‘Oh, here’s some information I can use.’”

Famous friends

Comedians like Kathy Griffin, Eddie Murphy and Joan Rivers all appear on camera, singing their praises of Mabley. Goldberg says that industry pals of hers were at first a bit hesitant to speak on the comedian, but that once they opened up “you couldn’t stop them from talking.”

“One of my favorites is Sidney Poitier,” the documentarian says. “We see Sidney talk about coming from the island, coming to Harlem and not really understanding what Moms was talking about when he saw her, but he felt like he was comfortable with her. Even though he didn’t really get what she was saying, he recognized her in his soul as being like the woman he knew from the island he had come from. You would never think of things like that or how people see you. She was very influential on a lot of people and it knocked me out to discover it.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Easter 2014: The year's best bonnets

It's Easter, and that means it's time for Fifth Avenue to turn into a veritable catwalk of bonnet-wearers. The annual march, which kicks off at…

Local

Woman arrested for attempted kidnapping of baby in…

Authorities said that a Queens woman behind an attempted kidnapping of an 8-month-old baby boy was arrested on Saturday.

Local

Hate crime charge in attack on Sikh Columbia…

A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime after he allegedly pulled the beard of a Sikh Columbia University professor as part…

Local

NYPD arrest man after finding body inside plastic…

Police said they found a man stuffed inside a plastic container in a Brooklyn home. Authorities arrested Joshua Simser, 24, in connection to the death

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

NHL

Rangers blow two-goal lead in Game 2 loss…

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2 and the Garden was rocking. But it went downhill quickly from there.

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.