Friday, June 21, 2024

President Sir Frank Cooper of The African American Humor Awards Society Celebrates African American Comedy Legends | VIDEOs

Sir Frank Cooper
President Sir Frank Cooper of The African American Humor Awards Society, the very first Black comedy award show. Photo Credit: Sir Frank Cooper

Established in 1989 by Sir Frank Cooper, The African American Humor Awards Society is the very first Black comedy awards show. The AAhAs was born from the desire to pay tribute and grant recognition to Black entertainers who blazed trails in the comedic field.

These talented individuals often endured a lack of acknowledgment for their contributions to the entertainment industry, while non-minority performers appropriated the Black style and material without proper credit. Cooper’s visionary leadership has played a pivotal role in preserving the historical significance of African-American humor and honoring the invaluable contributions of legendary comedians who fearlessly challenged racial injustices, defied stereotypes, and pushed the boundaries of comedy.

The African American Humor Awards Society (The AAhAs), the very first Black comedy award show, is a trailblazing organization at the forefront of championing African-American comedians, proudly shining a spotlight on the extraordinary leadership of Mr. Sir Frank Cooper as its President.

Situated at the intersection of race, culture, and identity, The AAhAs is dedicated to recognizing the profound impact of African-American humorists who fearlessly wielded comedy as a powerful tool for social change. Cooper’s unwavering dedication and passion have transformed The AAhAs into a vibrant beacon of resilience and creativity, illuminating the remarkable contributions of African-American comedians to the civil rights movement and the cultural landscape.

Over the past three decades, The AAhAs has organized a series of highly successful events, each one celebrating the brilliance of legendary Black comedians such as the Moms Mabley Award, which went to Mo’Nique.

Notably, President Sir Cooper himself has received accolades for his exceptional leadership, including a golden record award presented by the renowned Dolemite, Rudy Ray Moore, as a token of their shared dedication to preserving the legacy of African-American humor.

During Black History Month, Mayor Tom Bradley (deceased) proclaimed February 11 as “African American Humor Awards Day” in the city of Los Angeles, California. The AAhAs proudly bestowed Steve Harvey with his very first industry award, recognizing his outstanding talent and contributions to the world of comedy.

The AAhAs is driven by a mission to ensure the indomitable spirit and legacy of legendary comedians live on. The organization aspires to honor the early pioneers of the entertainment industry, paying tribute to their monumental achievements and their role in paving the way for Black and other minority artists in the comedy arena. Additionally, The AAhAs plans to purchase stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, providing well-deserved recognition to legendary comedians who have long been overlooked. Moreover, the organization is committed to making a difference by donating a portion of its proceeds to organizations dedicated to eradicating violence against all minority communities. Lastly, The AAhAs seek to provide essential financial assistance to older comedians who have faced hardships in their lives.

EURweb spoke to Sir Frank Cooper to discuss the state of comedy and its continued influence on pop culture.

EURweb: How did your journey start in comedy?

Sir Frank Cooper: It all began by assisting Michael Williams, the owner of the first Black comedy club in Los Angeles, California called the Comedy Act Theater. I saw the power of comedy and appreciated how comedy brings people together and spreads joy.

EURweb: Why did you establish The African American Humor Awards Society?

Cooper: I saw there was a need after hearing concerns from outstanding comedic actors and actresses. Many had worked on prime television comedy shows, but they have not received recognition from mainstream award presentations for years [which] led me to launch The AAhAs. I wanted to provide a platform that celebrates and appreciates the contributions made by Black humorists.

Sir Frank Cooper Photo Credit: The African American Humor Awards Society
Sir Frank Cooper Photo Credit: The African American Humor Awards Society

EURweb: What does the African American Humor Awards Society offer to Black humorists?

Cooper: The AAhAs provides a platform to celebrate Black humorists. We honor the extraordinary ability and preserve the historical significance of Black humorists, which is especially important in today’s move to erase Black culture.

EURweb: Can you describe how African-American humorists impact social change?

Cooper: Black comedy utilizes humor to confront societal concerns. Since comedy works when there is commonality or a shared experience, such as racism, comedians use humor as a tool to bring people together. Comedians can convey social truths through humor in a way that is palpable– which promotes increased awareness and change.

EURweb: Many comedians struggle with their comedy due to today’s cancel culture. Do you feel the perspective of cancel culture is valid? Should comedians evolve with the times?

Cooper: I don’t think cancel culture is appropriate while discussing comedy. Comedy has always been a potent vehicle for challenging social conventions and exercising one’s right to free expression. While comedians can change with the times, it’s also crucial for comedians to stay true to their art. Comedy is useful as it puts the First Amendment to the test!

EURweb: In your opinion, what is the role of a comedian as it pertains to society?

Cooper: The role of a comedian in society is to make us reflect on ourselves, find humor in our experiences, and bring people together through laughter. Comedians have the power to initiate conversations and address social issues in unique and impactful ways.

EURweb: Which comedians have inspired you the most?

Cooper: Dick Gregory has been a significant inspiration to me. His intellectual comedy and powerful impact on political awareness through comedy made him a main staple in the Black comedy genre. Other comedians like Paul Mooney, Richard Pryor, George Collin, and Eddie Murphy have also inspired me with their immense talent and contributions.

The African American Humor Awards Society
Photo Credit: The African American Humor Awards Society

EURweb: Talk about how the organization dedicates itself to eradicating violence against all minority communities. What are some of your initiatives?

Cooper: The AAhAs is committed to contributing to anti-violence groups. We provide a platform where we can have important conversations and encourage education, as Langston Hughes says, “Laughter to Keep from Crying.” We also support efforts to protect people’s constitutional rights; particularly, we strive to protect our freedom of speech and expression, as we believe the First Amendment is crucial to comedy and plays a role in fostering understanding and unity.

EURweb: The AAhAs provide essential financial assistance to older comedians who have faced hardships. Can you expound on the services you offer?

Cooper: The AAhAs take great pride in the services we offer to support older comedians who have faced hardships in their lives. Our organization is committed to supporting the well-being of our veteran humorists, who have brought joy to countless people. We are dedicated to contributing a portion of the profits to organizations that work tirelessly towards eliminating hardships.

EURweb: One of your famous quotes is, “Laughter has no color. So, smile!” How can comedy unite society, especially with how divisive our culture is?

Cooper: Comedy, like love, knows no boundaries; it transcends race, ethnicity, and culture. Laughter brings people together, fostering a sense of unity and understanding. In a world where division exists, comedy has the power to bridge gaps and remind us of our shared humanity. So, let’s all smile, laugh, and come together to celebrate comedy!

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