Flip Wilson Biography

Flip Wilson was an American comedian and actor. This biography profiles his childhood, life, career, achievements and timeline.

Flip Wilson
Quick Facts

Birthday: December 8, 1933

Nationality: American

Famous: Black Comedians African American Men

Died At Age: 64

Sun Sign: Sagittarius

Also Known As: Clerow Wilson Jr.

Born in: Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S

Famous as: Comedian & Actor

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Lovenia Patricia Wilson (m. 1957–1967), Tuanchai MacKenzie (m. 1979–1984)

father: Clerow Sr.

mother: Cornelia Wilson

children: David Wilson, Kevin Wilson, Michelle Trice, Stacy Wilson, Tamara Wilson

Died on: November 25, 1998

place of death: Malibu, California, U.S

City: Jersey City, New Jersey

U.S. State: New Jersey

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Flip Wilson, born Clerow Wilson, Jr., was an American comedian and actor. He was one of ten children born to Clerow Wilson, Sr. and Cornelia Wilson. After his mother abandoned the family, his father was unable to take care of them, and placed the children in foster homes. At 16, he joined the US Air Force after lying about his age. His outgoing personality made him popular to the extent that he was even asked to tour military bases to boost the morale of servicemen. After he was discharged, he worked as a bellhop, and made some extra money by playing a drunken patron in between the scheduled acts at Manor Plaza’s nightclub. Hollywood started noticing him for a routine titled “Columbus” from the album “Cowboys and Colored People” in which he tells the story of Christopher Columbus with modern characters mentioned in the acts anachronistically. NBC offered him a chance to host his variety show, “The Flip Wilson Show”. He hosted many African-American entertainers, including The Jackson Five and The Temptations. He also acted in the movies such as “Uptown Saturday Night” and “The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh”, and appeared in a musical adaptation of “Pinocchio” as the Fox. “The Flip Wilson Show” won him two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

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Flip Wilson
Childhood & Early Life
  • Flip Wilson was born on December 8, 1933 as Clerow Wilson, Jr. to Clerow Wilson, Sr. and Cornelia Wilson. His father worked as a handyman, and was often out of work during the Great Depression.
  • His mother abandoned the family when he was seven. Unable to take care of the children his father placed them in foster homes. His childhood was spent in foster homes, and then reform school.
  • Aged 16, Wilson joined the US Air Force. His outgoing personality made him popular. He was asked to tour military bases to boost the morale of servicemen.
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Career and Later Life
  • Wilson’s barrack mates gave him the nickname “Flip” as he was always “flipped out”. He was discharged in 1954. He then started working as a bellhop in San Francisco’s Manor Plaza Hotel.
  • He found extra work by playing a drunken patron in between the scheduled acts at Manor Plaza’s nightclub. The inebriated character he portrayed proved popular, and he began performing it in clubs throughout California.
  • Initially he would simply ad-lib on stage, but soon he began adding scripts to his acts to make them more sophisticated. He performed regular shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
  • He caught Hollywood’s attention with a routine titled “Columbus” from the album “Cowboys and Colored People” in which he tells the story of Christopher Columbus with modern characters mentioned in the acts anachronistically.
  • Flip Wilson hosted “The Flip Wilson Show”, a variety series that debuted on NBC in 1970. He hosted many African-American entertainers, including The Jackson Five and The Temptations, and performed in comedy sketches.
  • The “Flip Wilson Handshake”, with four hand slaps, two elbow bumps and finally two hip-bumps, with which he greeted guests, became famous. George Carlin, one of the show’s writers, appeared on the show frequently.
  • Wilson appeared in Carlin’s news-weather-sports satire. Wilson’s characters included Reverend Leroy, a materialistic pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now”, and Geraldine Jones, who always referred to her boyfriend, “Killer”.
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  • Ed Sullivan often invited Wilson to perform on his popular Sunday night show, and was his biggest career boost. The movies he acted in include “Uptown Saturday Night” and “The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh”.
  • In 1976, he appeared in a television musical adaptation of “Pinocchio” as the Fox, with Sandy Duncan starring as Pinocchio and Danny Kaye as Mister Geppetto, with songs by Laugh-In composer Billy Barnes.
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Major Works
  • After “The Flip Wilson Show” ended its run, Wilson made guest appearances on many TV comedies and variety shows, such as “Here’s Lucy” starring Lucille Ball, and “The Dean Martin Show”.
  • In 1984, he hosted the remake of “People Are Funny”. He then played the lead role in the CBS sitcom “Charlie & Co.” His last role was a cameo in the sitcom “Living Single”.
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Awards & Achievements
  • The Flip Wilson Show aired from 1970 to 1974. It gained in popularity winning high ratings from its viewers, and critical acclaim. During its run, it won two Emmy Awards out of eleven nominations.
  • In 1970, he won a Grammy Award for his comedy album “The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress”. The following year, “The Flip Wilson Show” won him a Golden Globe for Best TV Actor.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • In 1957, Flip Wilson married Lovenia Patricia Wilson. After ten years of married life, the couple split ways, and divorced. They did not have any children.
  • Thereafter, he married Tuanchai MacKenzie, and their marriage lasted from 1979 to 1984 when they divorced.
  • He won custody of his children in 1979, and cut down on his performances so that he could spend more time with his family.
  • He died of liver cancer on November 25, 1998.
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Trivia
  • This popular comedian and show host often used catch phrases such as “The devil made me do it!”, and “What you see is what you get” which later became the famous computer terminology “WYSIWYG”.
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Awards

Golden Globe Awards
1971 Best TV Actor - Comedy or Musical Flip (1970)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1971 Outstanding Variety Series - Musical Flip (1970)
1971 Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety or Music Flip (1970)

See the events in life of Flip Wilson in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Flip Wilson Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/clerow-wilson-jr-1398.php
Last Updated
- January 08, 2018

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