In Performance: Dick Gregory returns to the scene | Calendar | Chicago Reader

In Performance: Dick Gregory returns to the scene 

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Folk philosopher, civil rights activist, and vegetarian Dick Gregory got his start as a comedian in the late 50s at little nightclubs on the south side. His pointed jabs at American racism won him gigs at north-side places like the Fickle Pickle, Mister Kelly's, and the Playboy Club.

Gregory spent his busiest years as a comic and activist in Chicago. He was even in a crowd of protesters bashed by the cops at the '68 convention. He's captured in a 1969 documentary on the riots, American Revolution II, inviting the battered and bloody protesters to his house for some peace and barbecue.

In 1973, disgusted by Nixon's landslide victory and increasingly devoted to vegetarianism, Gregory moved his family to a farm in eastern Massachusetts. "It bothered me that my kids, who were used to walking past pimps and drug dealers on their way to school, were scared of butterflies and the night sky."

Gregory currently spends most of his free time working with the National Organization for Women to protest the punitive welfare reform bill--"Even the farmers [on subsidies] get seven years to adjust." But he's back in town for the Democratic convention and to perform his one-man show, Dick Gregory Live, to help raise funds for the recently resurrected Kuumba Theater.

Does Gregory have any plans for the convention? "I'm going to follow the politicians into restaurants and weigh them as they go in and as they come out," he says.

He also promises to find "some kids with big hungry eyes" and have them press their noses against the windows of restaurants and peer hungrily at the conventioneers chewing their expensive dinners.

While performing at Malcolm X College, he'll be only a tear-gas canister's throw from the United Center. Gregory will perform at the college, 1900 W. Van Buren, Thursday, August 22, through Saturday, August 24, at 8 PM. Tickets are $25, $35, and $50. For more info call 421-7880. Gregory will also join Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Clifford Kelley, Conrad Worrill, and others in a forum on black patriotism Saturday at 2 PM.

--Jack Helbig


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