"We were the first interracial comedy team. And the last."
Tim Reid and his former comedy partner Tom Dreesen tell the story of their improbable five-year, on-the-road stand-up routine in Tim & Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White (cowritten with Ron Rapoport). It's a fascinating story of turbulent social change in the late 1960s, and how two comics who just wanted to be funny found themselves bumping up against a country where no one was quite ready to see a white man and a black man sharing a stage and making racial observations.
"It was probably easier to do it then than it would be today," Reid says. "Back then it was radical. Today we have this politically correct as well as a false sense of ... well, I wouldn't call it hypocritical ... a false sense of racial consciousness.
"We'd walk out in front of an all-black audience, and the first minute and a half of our routine had nothing to do with making the audience laugh, but making them feel comfortable — waiting for them to relax enough for us to hit them with funny material. In a white audience, if there was a black person there, nobody would laugh until that black person would laugh. I always felt bad for the few black or white people in the audience. And then they'd laugh and everybody could laugh. We worked all-white audiences like Polish halls, and all-black audiences like the Black Expo, and you had a more immediate reaction to the humor than you did in integrated audiences."
For more information (including vintage clips of Tim & Tom's comedy act), visit www.timandtomcomedy.com.