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Redd Foxx - Biography

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Redd Foxx Photo by NBC Television/Getty Images

Born:

December 9, 1922

Died:

October 11, 1991

Quick Redd Foxx Facts:

  • Foxx was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but raised on the south side of Chicago.
  • He entered showbusiness at age 13, playing washboard in a Chicago band.
  • During the 1950s, Foxx was a comedy team with Slappy White.
  • He recorded over 50 albums during his career.
  • Foxx starred on the sitcom Sanford and Son for five years.

Redd Foxx Overview:

Comedian Redd Foxx may just be one of the most groundbreaking comics of all time. He pushed boundaries in terms of content -- using language and subject matter considered offensive at the time, but which opened doors for comedians for years to follow. He also helped break down racial barriers by being one of the first black comedians to play to largely white audiences.

Redd Foxx paved the way for almost every stand-up comic that followed him. His style and material is a clear influence on the comedy of Richard Pryor and Chris Rock.

Early Life:

Born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis, Missouri, in December of 1922, Redd Foxx was a born comedian. Nicknamed "Redd" for his complexion at an early age, he eventually borrowed the name of a favorite baseball player, Jimmie Foxx, to come up with the stage name Redd Foxx. At age 13, Foxx moved to Chicago and worked as a musician for three years. After the band broke up, he moved to New York City to begin his life as a comedian.

A Career in Stand-up:

Foxx got his start performing comedy in primarily black clubs and theaters. By the 1950s, he had become a regular stand-up on the nightclub circuit. His act was particularly raunchy, especially for the times, and focused a lot on topics like sex and race. Though Foxx typically performed alone, he and fellow comic Slappy White performed as a comedy team from 1951 to 1955.

During his career as a stand-up, Foxx released over 50 comedy albums. Many of his most famous routines are now available on "best of" compilation CDS.

Redd Foxx Moves to Television:

In 1972, Foxx got a major break when television producer Norman Lear signed him to play the lead in a new sitcom after seeing the comic perform at a club in Los Angeles. Sanford and Son ran for five seasons and was a huge hit for NBC, placing in the top 10 highest-rated shows nearly every week it was on. Foxx played junkyard owner Fred Sanford, a character named for the comic's late brother.

In 1977, Foxx left the show to host his own variety show on ABC. The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour lasted less than one season. Two more sitcom efforts were also short lived, and Foxx went off the radar for the better part of the '80s.

Redd Foxx Passes On:

In 1991, Foxx started to make a comeback when he was cast on the NBC sitcom The Royal Family alongside actress Della Reese. While rehearsing for the show, Foxx suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 68.

Additional Redd Foxx Facts:

  • While living in New York, Foxx made acquaintances with Malcolm Little (later Malcolm X) and is referred to as "Chicago Red" in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
  • Foxx was awarded a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1992, one year after his death.
  • In 1973, Foxx won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Musical or Comedy for his work on Sanford and Son.
  • In 1975, Foxx served as co-commentator during the famous boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner.
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