Stand-Up Comedy Pioneer Dick Gregory Dead At 84

One of stand-up comedy’s true pioneers, Dick Gregory died on Saturday of heart failure, his rep confirmed to media outlets.

He was 84 years old.

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The sharp, incisive stand-up comedian helped to pioneer the art while also becoming an impactful civil rights activist in his lifetime, and will not be soon forgotten by the comedy world for his incredible influence on comedians and acts over the last several decades and on into today’s time.

His son, Christian Gregory, released a statement through his father’s rep about the passing:

“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, D.C. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

So sad.

And his publicist of fifty years, Steve Jaffe, spoke to THR about Gregory’s death, too, adding:

“He was one of the sweetest, smartest, most loving people one could ever know. I just hope that God is ready for some outrageously funny times.”

Reportedly, Gregory’s funeral service details will be released at some point today. He had been hospitalized recently for health issues.

Gregory’s career took him all over from his St. Louis home across the world, and he was regularly the first African-American comedian to perform in front of white audiences. He landed appearances on all the top TV talk shows of the 1960s and 1970s, as well.

And interestingly enough, one of his big breaks came from Hugh Hefner, who in 1961 paid Gregory $50 — then a considerable sum — to perform at the Playboy Club in downtown Chicago.

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One of Gregory’s legendary jokes at the time went like this:

“Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said, ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.'”

Ha!!!

The crowd during that show was mostly white executives from a frozen food company, and the reportedly loved him — leading Hefner to keep booking Gregory for what turned out to be three more years, leading to more and more attention on the comedy circuit for his witty, smart comedy.

Now, Hollywood mourns a legend on Twitter (below):

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