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For Tyler Perry's Birthday, a Comprehensive History of Black Men in Drag

That's a man, baby.
That's a man, baby.

Happy birthday, Tyler Perry. The media mogul is celebrating his 41st with the news that he topped Forbes list of highest paid men in entertainment:

Thanks to five movies he has cranked out over the past two years and two TV series, Perry earned $130 million between May 2010 and May 2011, which ranks him as the highest-earning man in entertainment for that time period.

Perry has written, directed, produced or acted in nine movies since 2008, appearing in four of them as the brassy, gun-toting grandmother Madea. It's a role fraught with controversy, with some in the African-American community likening the "Madea" character to the minstrel shows of old and others, including Oprah Winfrey, lauding Perry for celebrating "strong, black women."

Being a weak white man myself, I don't know anything about all of that. I'd merely like to wish the man a happy birthday (and slip in a plug for my spec script, Madea vs. Predator), by taking a look back at Perry's fellow African-American drag performers.

12. Flip Wilson -- "Geraldine" (The Flip Wilson Show) Like Madea, Geraldine rises above mere caricature by usually besting her adversaries, even ones like The Greatest.

11. Eddie Murphy -- "Rasputia" (Norbit), "Mama Klump/Granny Klump" (The Nutty Professor, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) I'm not sure why Murphy gets so much crap for remaking movies like TNP and Dr. Dolittle when Steve Martin gets off the hook for the same crimes. It might be because Norbit is one of the worst movies of all time.

10. RuPaul Andre Charles -- "RuPaul" Wait, this dude's name is actually "RuPaul"? Poor kid never had a chance.

9. T.K. Carter -- "Regina" (He's My Girl) I'm not sure which fate was worse, getting killed by Thing Blair in The Thing or disguising himself as a woman so he could accompany his friend on a cross-country trip to California (don't ask) in this long-forgotten 1987 flick.

 

8. Martin Lawrence -- "Sheneneh/Mama Payne" (Martin), "Big Momma" (all those goddamn Big Momma's House movies) When in doubt, or when your career has sunk to the point you're starring alongside Tim Allen, might as well strap on the pantyhouse again.

7. Shawn & Marlon Wayans -- "Brittany & Tiffany Wilson" (White Chicks) Get it? Because black girls have names like "Shaneequa" and "LaKrisha" and white girls have names like "Brittany" and "Tiffany." It's true, we're so lame.

6. Tyler Perry -- "Mabel 'Madea' Simmons (6 movies, 8 plays, and 1 TV show...and counting) See above. Call it a minstrel show all you want, the man knows his audience, and they love him for it.

 

5. Jamie Foxx -- "Wanda" (In Living Color) Ladies and gentlemen, Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx.

 

4. Wesley Snipes -- "Noxeema Jackson" (To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar) Sure he's an ugly woman. He's also a 5th degree black belt, so if you feel like sharing that opinion, you're on your own.

3. Arsenio Hall -- "Extremely Ugly Girl" (Coming to America) Wait, could we go back to the girl who was "into the group thing" again?

 

2. Kadeem Hardison & Darryl M. Bell -- "Dwayne and Ron" (A Different World) It was around this time (season three) that people finally started making the effort to change the channel after The Cosby Show .

1. Kenan Thompson -- "Virginiaca" (Saturday Night Live) Ugh. For every Lonely Island production or Jon Hamm appearance, SNL has to keep making shit like this. Reminds me of the Sandler years.


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