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Tim Reid, Tom Dreesen, and Ron Rapoport: Tim & Tom


Tim & Tom

Author: Tim Reid, Tom Dreesen, and Ron Rapoport
Publisher: University Of Chicago

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What do you say about a revolution that didn't happen? The comedy team of Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen should have been a watershed moment in American comedy. Here were two talented guys, natural performers who both came to comedy through the side door, who joined forces to create America's first black-and-white comedy team. The novelty alone ought to have pushed them to fame in the charged environment of the late '60s and early '70s. Instead, they merely did okay, barely earning a living in nightclubs, landing a couple of TV appearances, and recording an album. Then they broke up and found more success apart than they ever did together.

Why? Dreesen and Reid have yet to answer that question for themselves. Their book Tim & Tom: An American Comedy In Black And White (written with sportswriter Ron Rapoport) suggests that more experience, a better understanding of the business, and writers to help shape their material might have helped. But maybe it wouldn't: The best parts of Tim & Tom detail audiences' difficulty with understanding what they were seeing and who they should be laughing at, since the sight of a black man and a white man working together on a stand-up stage was so novel.

Tim & Tom examines the non-phenomenon from all angles, starting with both men's hardscrabble upbringings and continuing through their separate periods of success, Reid most famously as one of the stars of WKRP In Cincinnati and the critically adored Frank's Place, Dreesen as a stand-up who spent many years opening for Frank Sinatra. It was an unlikely pairing, begun as a Jaycees-sponsored anti-drug presentation, and apparently taken as far as the times would allow. Rapoport relies heavily on his subjects' anecdotes, some of which feel a bit too polished by overtelling, but none of which betray any dishonesty. They had novelty, camaraderie, and talent, but still can't figure out why their time together never became more than a footnote in comedy history.