. Born Clerow Wilson; he would later name his production company Clerow as well. A comedian
from Jersey City
who was able to find mainstream
success after Dick Gregory
broke the color line, enabling black
comedians to have a career outside the chitlin circuit
. Like Bill Cosby
and Richard Pryor
, Wilson was apolitical
, compared to the social commentary of Gregory; it made acceptance that much easier. (Pryor, of course, was later to transmogrify into something highly political). He was a streetwise version of Cosby.
When the US television networks attempted to bring a little diversity into their prime-time programming, NBC added some shows with black leads: Cosby's first sitcom, for instance, and another one called Julia, with Diahann Carroll; Wilson, in 1970, was given a variety show. It ran for about five years, garnering various Emmy Awards for writing and performance.
Different from the shows of Cosby and Carroll was the attempt of Wilson to bring the unabashed soul flavor of his stand-up comedy to the small screen; sketches would feature some of his previous characters, like Rev. Leroy, the somewhat-worldly pastor of the "Church of What's Happenin' Now", and Geraldine, the libidinous ("ring my chimes, honey!"), blonde-bewigged, diva precursor to Danitra Vance's "That Black Girl" from SNL. And new ones, like Sherlock Bones. Black performers who didn't normally get on TV were also showcased.
After the show's run, Wilson retired to be Mr. Mom, having won custody of his kids in a divorce battle. His TV and film appearances were few; he had a role in the film Uptown Saturday Night, and was in Charlie and Company, a cheap knockoff of The Cosby Show, with Gladys Knight as his co-star - it had a mercifully-brief run.