Friday, February 24, 2012

Here Comes the Judge

Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham deserves a place in your record collection alongside the likes of Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly, although it should be noted that his sense of humor was far less risqué. He began appearing in minstrel shows as a teenager in 1918 and had the dubious distinction of being the final holdout from the blackface era, applying the burnt cork to his skin until 1943. His refusal to shed the blackface did NOT sit well with various black advancement groups, who saw him as an Uncle Tom who dredged up unpleasant memories. Pigmeat brought his “here come da judge” routine to television via Ed Sullivan, who had witnessed his act at the Apollo Theater several times. Viewers may still remember His Honor whacking defendants over the head with beef bladders on Sullivan’s show, or maybe they recall his appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. During his time on Laugh-In, Pigmeat introduced the “sock it to me!” and “you can put that in your Funk and Wagnall’s” catch phrases to American pop culture. There is definitely much more to the Pigmeat Markham saga, but that information is easy to come by these days. 

By the time his Here Comes the Judge album was released on renowned R&B label Chess Records in 1968, Pigmeat Markham was in his mid-sixties and definitely in the twilight of his career. Some would probably say that his career should have been over long before the late ‘60s, but Pigmeat’s run on Laugh-In afforded him a brief opportunity to reintroduce himself to a new generation before finally passing the torch. This 45-RPM single features the title track backed with a skit called “The Trial.” “Here Comes the Judge” is a funky musical number that essentially introduces you to Pigmeat’s character. One by one, the judge plans to restore justice everywhere in the world, even speaking to Ho Chi Minh about clearing up that whole Vietnam War situation. Now that everybody knows that he is the judge, it is time to enter the courtroom for “The Trial.” I do not want to spoil the outcome because I hope you are open-minded enough to give this a listen, but hilarity ensues when Judge Markham presides over a nudist case. 

I imagine that there are plenty of people out there whose self-ingrained sense of ‘political correctness’ prevents them from enjoying someone like Pigmeat Markham. Although it is true that his sense of humor is well worn and lowbrow at best, Pigmeat Markham does not reinforce black stereotypes any more than Richard Pryor, the Wayans brothers, Chris Rock, or Dave Chappelle did. If anything, it might say something about your willingness to accept stereotypes as face value. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself and others. Perhaps then you will begin to take steps to overcome the internal prejudice handed down to you from previous generations. 

Get high as a Georgia pine here.

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