1. In the early 1970s, Wilson hosted his own weekly variety series, The Flip Wilson Show.
2. The series earned Wilson a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards.
3. Born Clerow Wilson, Jr. in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was one of ten children born to Cornelia Bullock and Clerow Wilson, Sr. The latter worked as a handyman but, because of the Great Depression, was often out of work.
4. When Wilson was seven years old, his mother abandoned the family.
5. His father was unable to care for the children alone and he placed many of them in foster homes. After bouncing from foster homes to reform school, 16-year-old Wilson lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force.
6. His outgoing personality and funny stories made him popular; he was even asked to tour military bases to cheer up other servicemen.
7. His inebriated character proved popular and Wilson began performing it in clubs throughout California.
8. At first Wilson would simply ad-lib onstage, but eventually he added written material and his act became more sophisticated.
9. During the 1960s, Wilson became a regular at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and was a favorite guest on The Tonight Show, Laugh-In, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
10. In 1970, Wilson won a Grammy Award for his comedy album The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress.
11. In this bit, Wilson retells the story of Christopher Columbus from an anachronistic urbanized viewpoint, in which Columbus convinces the Spanish monarchs to fund his voyage by noting that discovering America means that he can also discover Ray Charles.
12. When Columbus departs from the dock, an inebriated Isabella is there, testifying to one and all that “Chris gonna find Ray Charles!”
13. He performed in comedy sketches and played host to many African-American entertainers, including The Jackson Five, The Temptations, comedian Redd Foxx, and basketball player Bill Russell.
14. He greeted all his guests with the “Flip Wilson Handshake,”: four hand slaps, two elbow bumps finishing with two hip-bumps.