Godfrey Cambridge Biography (Personal Life, Career)

Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge was a stand-up comedian and actor, acclaimed by Time magazine in 1965 as "one of the country's four most celebrated Negro comedians." He was an African American actor and comedian, one of the most unique comics of the early 1970’s.

Personal Life

The stand-up comedian Cambridge was born on February 26, 1933 in New York City. He was raised by Sarah and Alexander Cambridge, parents who were immigrants from British Guiana. While he was a child, the stand-up comedian was sent by his parents to live with his grandparents in Sydney, Nova Scotia while during his primary school years. When he was 13, the stand-up comedian returned back to New York and attended Flushing High School in Flushing, Queens.

In 1949 the stand-up comedian received a four-year scholarship to Hofstra College to study medicine, but decided instead to become an actor and a stand-up comedian, leaving college in his third year. While attending Hofstra University, the stand-up comedian appeared in a student production of MacBeth. Here is when, the comedian first encountered racial prejudice.

The stand-up comedian had been married twice: to Barbara Ann Teer in August 1962. They’ve got divorced three years later, and in 1972 the stand-up comedian married Audriano Meyers with whom he had two children.The stand-up comedian was 43 years old when he passed away in 1976 by heart attack while he was on the set of the television film Victory at Entebbe in which the stand-up comedian was to have played General Idi Amin.


While starting a stand-up comedy and acting career, the stand-up comedian supported himself with a variety of jobs, including "cab driver, bead-sorter, ambulance driver, gardener, judo instructor, clerk for the New York City Housing Authority, cleaning airplanes and making popcorn bunnies.

The stand-up comedian first role was in 1956 as a bartender in the off-Broadway play Take a Giant Step. He made his Broadway debut in the comedy production of Herman Wouk's 1957 play Nature's Way. In 1962, the stand-up comedian received a Tony Award nomination as part of the original cast of Purlie Victorious. Thanks to his frequent appearances on Jack Paar's program, the stand-up comedian was able to perform a successful career as a nightclub stand-up comedian, performing his comic routines. As a stand-up comedian, Cambridge also appeared on The Tonight Show and many other comedy hours through television.

The stand-up comedian’s material was very much his own style and was drawn off of the racial climate of the times. His routines were imbued with biting sarcasm and topical humor that was common in stand-up comedic circles at the time. The stand-up comedian was noted for comic lapses from standard educated speech to Black Street-speak.

In 1961, the stand-up comedian was one of several black comedy performers whose career was given a booster shot by appearing in Jean Genet's play The Blacks. The stand-up comedian won an Obie award for his portrayal of an African American gentleman who transforms into an elderly white woman. In 1965, the stand-up comedian did a stock version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

His biography is impressive. The comic actor played both comic and straight roles but is definitely remembered such portrayals as that of the white bigot who wakes up one morning to find himself turned black in Watermelon Man (1970). The movie was a great nostalgic comedy that incorporates a real world perspective on racism in America while maintaining the lightheartedness of the overall film. The stand-up comedian and actor also performed memorable roles in The President's Analyst, where he played a depressed government agent, detective Gravedigger Jones in Cotton Comes to Harlem.

During the 1970’s he remained in semi-retirement, making few public appearances. In 1972, the stand-up comedian performed in Come Back Charleston Blue. The stand-up comedian also made an impressive appearance in director Sidney Lumet's Bye Bye Braverman as a Yiddish speaking NYC cab driver involved in a car collision with the main protagonists. The stand-up comedian also had a starring role in Beware! The Blob.

Between 1972 and 1976 the stand-up comedian produced and hosted a drug awareness film titled "Dead is Dead". The stand-up comedian also appeared on several network television programs, including Car 54 Where Are You? ("The Curse of the Snitkins"), The Dick Van Dyke Show ("The Man From My Uncle"), and I Spy ("Court of the Lion"). But the stand-up comedian reached his largest television audience in a series of comical commercials for Jockey brand underwear.

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