The One and Only Dick Gregory (2021) is available on many streaming services and I highly recommend this movie – 5 Stars
Dick Gregory is one of the many brilliant people from the 20th century who are often overlooked. If you were White, growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the name Dick Gregory came into the spotlight rarely, perhaps a few times on the six o’clock news. He was, along with Gloria Steinem on the FBI list of people to try to minimize as they were “dangerous.” I remember Dick Gregory only as the guy going on juice fasts and advocating for better nutrition. To my nine year old self, he seemed honest and had commonsensical ideas but was a bit of an eccentric. I had never seen him do standup so I probably did not realize he was a comic as well. In this era of having everything on demand, it is easy to forget that the era of broadcast television made it so you could only see things once. Once it was broadcast at 6 pm and the show ended, it was over. Gone into that dream-like world. Even though he made it to the Tonight Show with Jack Parr a few times, to many, Dick Gregory simply disappeared and fell off the radar.
After watching the movie I would ask random friends and acquaintances if they had ever heard of Dick Gregory. The two Black people I spoke with had stories to tell, one about how his mother would play Dick Gregory records, the other about his nutritional supplements. I would usually get a blank stare from White folk. “Dick Gregory? Never heard of him.”
The One and Only Dick Gregory is a two hour retrospective on Dick Gregory’s entire life. It is fairly balanced between each decade. I appreciated the fact that it took this approach as people are often much more complex than just the high points. It would be perhaps more entertaining to have most of the movie about his years as a standup comic and then his association and friendship with Martin Luther King, but that would make it so you did not see the incredible arch of Dick Gregory’s life.
I particularly enjoyed Dick Gregory’s obsession with running. During the segment on the nineteen-seventies, you see the same low-res home movie of Gregory running by the side of the road. One just has to wonder if the fictional character Forrest Gump’s running faze was inspired in some part by Dick Gregory.
In 1976, to combat world hunger, Dick Gregory ran from Los Angeles, CA to New York City. The run was known as the Dick Gregory Food Run. Signature shirts were worn and passed out along the way. 71 days, 50 miles per day for a total of 2,782 miles. Dick Gregory ate no solid food during this run. He solely consumed water and his 4x formula.
I will not spoil any more of the movie. The One and Only Dick Gregory is an excellent way to get to learn about this remarkable man. It places equal weight to all time periods of his life. This is a man who in his twenties smoked four packs of cigarettes’ a day, was good friends and opened up for Martin Luther King at civil rights rallies and later ran from LA to New York to bring attention to world hunger. Just a few of the many incredible moments in a remarkable life. The guy was a mensch.