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Please Explain: Whoopi Goldberg
2007-05-19 08:09
by Scott Long

Name me an artist who has won a Oscar, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and a Grammy....and still is almost impossible for me to watch or listen to? If acting in 105 different TV and Movies roles wasn't amazing in itself, Whoopi Goldberg has also hosted the Oscar telecast 4 times. She has had a best-selling autobiography. Currently Goldberg hosts a morning talk show based in New York City and syndicated to 16 different markets.

I have got to tell you I just don't get it.


You know you are getting old when you can remember when Robin Williams and Billy Crystal were funny. Do you remember the days when Comic Relief would annually appear? Williams and Crystal having a blast riffing off each other...only to have their other co-host, Whoopi Goldberg take some of the life out whatever they were doing whenever she would open her mouth.

Do you remember when Paul Lynde was the center square on the Hollywood Squares, doing his laughing Queen act that still to this day makes me laugh? Joan Rivers ended up replacing Lynde, when the show was revived and was nearly as great. Then, as seems to be the case with so many people in the entertainment industry, the powers that be decided to throw a bunch of money at the unfunny Goldberg to fill the coveted center square. If there was any doubt that the Hollywood Squares had jumped the shark by this point, Whoopi clinched it.

I have got to tell you I just don't get it.

Looking through Goldberg's lengthy resume, I can name 2 projects she was involved in that I think her performance was good in. The Color Purple and Ghost. Even Mario Mendoza never had a 2 for 105 streak.

I can't think of a person in the history of entertainment who has been more fortunate to get so many great opportunities as Whoopi Goldberg. You have to tip your cap to her, though, for all she has accomplished, especially considering the disadvantages she has had to overcome.

  1. Female
  2. Black
  3. Unattractive
  4. Virtually talentless

It is no coincidence that an overrated talent would iniitally want to name herself after a whoopi cushion. (She eventually chose the last moniker of Goldberg after her mother pointed out that her initial name pick was not Jewish enough to make her rich. )

I have got to tell you I just don't get it. Please Explain Whoopi Goldberg.

2007-05-19 10:11:41
1.   Ali Nagib
I think you're on to something here, but I'll start by giving you two movies I liked her in: "Girl Interrupted" and "The Long Walk Home." (The latter, if you're not familiar with it, is a story involving the 1955 Montgomery bus boycotts which co-stars Sissy Spacek and Dwight Schultz) But still, that only gets us to 4 for 105. (maybe 4.5 if I give her credit for her work on "Star Trek")

I think she may be suffering from an extreme form of "Eddie Murphy Syndrome," where she had some success early in her career and has managed to coast on it, doing mediocre to bad project after another without really taking a significant public hit for it. Her Oscar and Golden Globe wins were for the two movies you mentioned, both of which were more than 15 years ago, and she's never been nominated for another Oscar. She also never actually won an Emmy (although she's been nominated a few times).

I don't think she's "virtually talentless," but rather than she has some talent, used it a few times, and is now just resting on her laurels. Maybe from an artistic standpoint it's distasteful, but you can't argue against huge piles of cash for little to no real work.

2007-05-19 10:24:36
2.   Josh Wilker
Hell yeah I remember Paul Lynde. That link to his appearance on the Dean Martin show led me to another link of Paul Lynde riffing a little with KISS during a Halloween show, a moment that may be the apotheosis of 1970s culture:

As for Whoopi, all I can offer is the observation that a very popular dynamic from the Hollywood crapola factory involves a black supporting character teaching a driven, tight-assed white main character to "loosen up" and "enjoy life," which in turn leads the white person to greater happiness (the black person stays the same, or else dies sacrificially, or maybe gets some money for their troubles). The starkest usage of this dynamic that I can think of is in the Green Mile, in which a gigantic black convict (White America's biggest nightmare?) turns out to be a gentle "healer" who calls all the white guys "boss" and cures them of all manner of ills, including (as with Tom Hanks' character) impotence. Whoopi slots in pretty well into that form of popular schlock. I mean the first thing I think of with her is her teaching a bunch of stiff white nuns to sing Motown.

2007-05-19 11:28:13
3.   D4P
Whoopi is no doubt an appropriate "Please Explain" candidate, but this sentence "I can't think of a person in the history of entertainment who has been more fortunate to get so many great opportunities as Whoopi Goldberg" is probably excessive. Most people in entertainment were fortunate to get all the great opportunities they got. Success in showbiz is not completely unlike winning the lottery.
2007-05-19 12:13:57
4.   Scott Long
D4P- I agree that most in the biz are fortunate, but to get to do everything you ever have wanted to from starring in movies, tv shows, broadway, game shows, radio shows, write books, appear on CD's, etc. just is unbelievable. I can't think of one person who has done as much, plus been nominated for awards in them. It just pisses me off.

Josh- I too had seen the apotheosis of 1970s culture you speak of and recommend others to check it out.

Super weird note from wikipedia. Whoopi dated Ben Stein for awhile. I can't think of 2 people that have ever been together who seemed less appropriate for each other. And I'm including that old geezer and anna nicole.

2007-05-19 12:18:29
5.   Scott Long
Ali Nagib- Can't go along with you on the whole eddie murphy/whoopi goldberg comparison. Sure they both have done a load of shitty movies, but Eddie had 2 great standup specials, a brilliant run on SNL, has been hilarious in a lot of very funny movies, and was the star of these movies, unlike Goldberg's greatest moments being in supporting or ensemble roles.

Oh and do have to mention "party all the time, party all the time...par---teee----all the time."

2007-05-19 13:10:56
6.   Suffering Bruin
"The Spook Show."

I think that explains it, Scott, but I say that not having seen "The Spook Show." Anybody catch that? Was it a great work or was it overrated? IIRC, it was critically acclaimed, sold out on Broadway for many moons and led to the film career.

2007-05-19 13:40:18
7.   D4P
You have to tip your cap to her, though, for all she has accomplished, especially considering the disadvantages she has had to overcome.

1. Female
2. Black
3. Unattractive

Ironically, these three characteristics were necessarily criteria for landing her role in The Color Purple, without which she may never have become the "star" she is today.

2007-05-19 13:53:09
8.   chris in illinois



On the other hand....




2007-05-19 14:05:05
9.   Scott Long
D40 nails the color purple. Goldberg's pinnacle was this role. I'm guessing if you could work with spielberg every time, with a script based on something as good as alice walker's novel, she wouldn't be a please explain category. I'm guessing the same could be said for brandy or mandy (moore), as well.
2007-05-19 15:03:00
10.   Honoluludodger
I agree with Scott 100 percent. The ironic thing about Whoopi is that she is not just talentless, she is actually difficult to watch. And I don't mean physically. Sure she is not beautiful, but she is not physically repulsive. However, as for her work as a performer, I find that she detracts from everything in which she is in involved. And when she speaks out on social issues, like the Baldwin brothers, Whoopi only hurts the liberal cause when she trys to speak for it. (and I support the same political causes that she does, I just think that she is not a very good spokesperson).
2007-05-19 15:19:36
11.   kylepetterson
You forgot vulgar.

She's about as funny as getting kicked in the nuts.

2007-05-19 16:02:35
12.   dbng
You need to add dyslexic to the list of disadvantages. Still, the most impressive part is how far she's gone with so little talent.
2007-05-19 17:26:54
13.   Suffering Bruin
Goldberg's pinnacle was this role.

I bet to differ.

Again, IIRC, she was a big deal long before that, right? "The Color Purple" was 1985. This thread seems to assume that Goldberg was a star because of "The Color Purple" and everything she achieved afterward was because Spielberg cast her. I maintain she got the role because she was already a very big deal in comedy: she had a one-woman show that sold out Broadway, enjoyed nearly universal praise from both audience and critics...

I guess what I'm saying is, we can't base "Please explain" on what Goldberg has done lately (which ain't much). We need to look at the whole record. We might be looking at the comic equivalent of Dale Murphy: a truly great player who in the latter part of his career wasn't just bad but painful to watch.

2007-05-19 17:27:23
14.   Suffering Bruin
13 I beg to differ. (sigh)
2007-05-19 17:29:36
15.   Suffering Bruin
13 Okay, sorry for the triple post but second graph might be a miscommunication--Scott can base "Please Explain" on anything of his choosing. My point is that Goldberg might've been very talented and displayed her talent admirably before "The Color Purple."
2007-05-19 17:43:51
16.   Honoluludodger
13. Dale Murphy is not a good analogy. There is no good sports analogy because Whoopi was never impressive even in her pre 1985 comedy. I was living in NYC then and was very familiar with her work. I didn't understand her popularity then, and still don't get it. The only thing that was edgy about her pre 1985 comedy act was that she was a woman that was very comfortable using profanity in live performance. But she wasn't funny. People called her the female Eddie Murphy then. That was absurd. Murphy's ego and bad projects aside, he was a hilarious comic. Whoopi was not. It became fashionable in NY in the early 1980's to like Whoopi. I'm sure that she is a nice person. But there really wasn't anything of substance behind her reputaton as a performer.

Which is why the Dale Murphy analogy fails. Dale Murphy was once one of the best players in the game. His career ended quickly because his talent tailed off quickly as he got older. Whoopi was always all hype. She never was one of the best at anything. Except at getting the most out of absolutely no talent.

2007-05-19 21:07:36
17.   Suffering Bruin
The only thing that was edgy about her pre 1985 comedy act was that she was a woman that was very comfortable using profanity in live performance. But she wasn't funny.

Other New Yorkers had different opinions:

I'm sure with less than an hour of research, I could find fifty more.

Look, I'm not intending to be a contrarian here. I respect 16 views and I've always respected Scott's professional judgment. "Please Explain" is a terrific idea that invites good conversation such as the one we're all having.


This version of PE is built on the premise that Whoopi Goldberg never had talent to begin with. Honoluludodger is very familiar with her work? So was Mike Nichols. So was Steven Spielberg. So were any number of people who sold out her shows again and again, not to mention the fact she was the recipient of a wealth of reviews stating she wasn't just good but great.

People called her the female Eddie Murphy then. That was absurd. Actually, the New York Times in the review above compared her to Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin.

So... please explain how any of us can say Whoopi Goldberg never had any talent. This may be a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder but plenty of people saw her on stage and saw beauty. I think that explains her getting the movie deals and in turn her fame.

2007-05-19 22:28:31
18.   sanchez101
I don't think whoopi has any talent
2007-05-20 08:19:20
19.   chris in illinois
17 Well put.

To the point here however, is that some of us never saw her on stage in NY in the early 80's when she was apparently exhibiting her talent----talent that has been conspicuously absent in dozens of roles that she has taken on since the Reagan administration.

For most of us, she has appeared to be a talentless cipher...for those of you who maintain that she had talent 24 World Series Winners ago, perhaps you can answer this:

Has anyone ever squandered their talent as egregiously as Whoopi! Goldberg?

2007-05-20 08:35:28
20.   Scott Long
Here comes my bias. I find most people that appear on Broadway are over the top and I think most live theater is pretentious.

I've seen her do characters on shows like COmic Relief. They were maudlin and not funny from my seat. Eric Bogosian's characters are the best of this one-man show genre. I think John Leguizamo is generally overrated as well.

Both goldberg and leguizamo have been constantly working, but I don't believe they are anywhere close to as good as the New York theater crowd have hailed them.

If you want to see someone do a really good one-man show, catch Christopher Titus' efforts in the genre. Far superior in message and entertainment value.

I think the Lily Tomlin comparison is good, but Tomlin is superior as an actress and definitely as a writer.

2007-05-20 11:08:36
21.   Chyll Will
20 Broadway is supposed to be over the top, to blow away tourists from the sticks; the ones most likely to come to NYC to see a show on Broadway. It's the same method they use in Las Vegas to attract people to the casinos. I don't like many Broadway shows for that reason, but hey, it's big business I can't get with.

I conjecture that the main reason live theatre (Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway?) seems pretentious is because you have to play "out", or more succinctly, to the back of the theater, so that the people seated there can see and hear what's going on. It's much different than film, where actions and dialogue are restrained to conform to camera angles and recording devices. Having acted on stage and in films, I can say that the style of acting is markedly different, which is why many well-known film actors don't transition well to theatre, and vice-versa. I may be wrong, but the actors who dominate both are older (James Earl Jones, Brian Dennehy, Frank Langella, et al) Personally as an actor, I love stage maybe for the same reason you would like performing live, the thrill of doing everything in one take and immediate audience reaction? But film has a different kind of thrill I also like.

That said, I don't know if you saw Whoopie in "Sarafina", in which she gave a restrained, but well-done performance. I agree she's made a lot of unfortunate choices in projects and roles, but don't forget the good stuff, unless that's subjective >;)

2007-05-20 12:16:24
22.   Scott Long
Great stuff, chyll.
2007-05-20 13:56:39
23.   rbj
Please Explain: Whoopi Goldberg

Affirmative Action?

Finally a mediocrely-talented unattractive black woman in the Hollywood sphere of mediocrely-talented ugly white guys. I mean, Gilbert Gottfried is still alive, so there is an awful lot of tolerance in tinseltown.

2007-05-20 15:39:02
24.   fordprefect
With you re Titus.
I've seen a couple of his shows on broadcast already and was blown away. Great balance of humor and pain.
2007-05-20 18:14:26
25.   Hugh Jorgan
I'll say it because I'm from overseas and don't have the black/white hang up that most Americans have. Though not virtually talentless IMO, she has been afforded alot of opportunity because she is a woman and she is black. In saying that though, good on her for taking advantage and working it for 20+ years.
2007-05-21 00:05:48
26.   dzzrtRatt
I think it's her politics. Until Bill Maher came along, there wasn't a comic working who would so reliably do jokes that were perfectly consistent with Hollywood's fundraising patterns. She's political without ever being dangerous. You could fill a hall with the most vain, oversensitive Democratic pols, and not one of them would be offended by her act, because her political comedy is only targeted away from them.

If merged with the Shriners, Whoopi Goldberg would be the perfect MC for celebrity roasts of Democratic party chairs.

2007-05-21 03:39:46
27.   chris in illinois
26 How does that explain Suster Act?
2007-05-21 07:37:32
28.   AbbyNormal821
2 Paul Lynde & Kiss...disturbing...VERY disturbing!
2007-05-21 14:38:42
29.   Shaun P
You have to admit though, that when SNL mocked Whoopi during Patrick Stewart's turn at hosting the show ("Love Boat - The Next Generation"), that was pretty funny.
2007-05-22 14:14:24
30.   dzzrtRatt
27 People hire their friends.

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