1. Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory is an American civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur, and comedian.
2. Gregory was a poor student who excelled at running, and was aided by teachers at Sumner High School, among them Warren St. James.
3. Gregory earned a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University Carbondale. There he set school records as a half-miler and miler.
4. His college career was interrupted for two years in 1954 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
5. In the hopes of performing comedy professionally, Gregory moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he became part of a new generation of black comedians that included Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby, and Godfrey Cambridge, all of whom broke with the minstrel tradition, which presented stereotypical black characters.
6. Gregory drew on current events, especially racial issues, for much of his material: “Segregation is not all bad.
7. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?”.
8. Gregory began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid 1950s.
9. He served in the army for a year and a half at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia and Fort Smith in Arkansas.
10. He was drafted in 1954 while attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
11. After being discharged in 1956 he returned to the university but did not receive a degree.
12. With a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago.
13. In 1958, Gregory opened a nightclub called the Apex Club in Illinois.
14. In 1959, Gregory landed a job as master of ceremonies at the Roberts Show Club.
15. Gregory performed as a comedian in small, primarily black-patronized nightclubs while working for the United States Postal Service during the daytime.
16. He was one of the first black comedians to gain widespread acclaim performing for white audiences.
17. In 1961, while working at the Black-owned Roberts Show Bar in Chicago, he was spotted by Hugh Hefner performing the following material before a largely white audience:
18. Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar.
19. Based on that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for comedian Professor Irwin Corey.