Flip Wilson, also known as Clerow Wilson, was one of the funniest Black comedians of the 1970’s. He was the master of a million characters, some of the most endearing being Geraldine Jones and Reverend LeRoy from the Church Of What’s Happening Now. He took all of his famous characters from his stand up routine and his TV show and incorporated them into two prime time cartoon specials, Clerow Wilson and the Miracle of PS 14 (1972) and Clerow’s Great Escape (1974). Both 30 minute specials aired on NBC.
Clerow Wilson and the Miracle of PS 14 featured the first positive Black characters from a television series, The Flip Wilson Show, to appear as the same characters in a primetime cartoon special and was the second positive Black cast cartoon special to air in prime time, following the Hey, Hey, Hey – It’s Fat Albert animation / live action special in 1969. This cartoon tells the story about Clerow and his buddies trying to raise money for their school, in his hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. PS 14 was so bad that the statue of Liberty turned its back on it. An animated Geraldine appears in this cartoon (“she was nine, going on 26.”), along with Herbie the ice cream man, Reverend LeRoy, Ralph the invisible dog and The Devil, of course.
“Clerow Wilson’s Great Escape” is about Clerow being taken away from his sister’s home by a social worker and placed into servitude with an evil foster family “where they put water in the milk and milk in the water.” Clerow eventually escapes from this family and is reunited with his sister in a new housing project.
The two publicity photos and animation cels featured in this post are a part of The Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection.