The One and Only Dick Gregory on Showtime, directed by Andre Gaines, chronicles the life and times of the '60s comedian and civil rights activist.
One aspect of Gregory's story was his conversion to healthy living. He gave up meat and became a vegetarian and then a vegan. Gregory fasted on juice and water for long periods to protest the Vietnam War and other problems in America.
At one point he says in the documentary, "When you go on a fast, people say: Did you check with a doctor? People don't check with a doctor when they snort coke. People don't check with a doctor when you they smoke reefers. People don't check with a doctor when they smoke cigarettes. As long as I smoked four packs of cigarettes a day and drank a fifth of Scotch everyday, nobody worried about how I felt."
Gregory was not a fan of pot. Later in his life, he stated (cue to 4:16 in the clip below):
"The No. 1 drug that will wipe you out is not cocaine, it's not heroin, it's marijuana. They deliberately made that a recreational drug, but it stays in the muscles, it stays in the blood and it will wipe out your memory bank."
"This is the first time in the history that TB - because TB was always known as poor folks - is not running rampant in the ghetto," he continued. "It's running rampant in white middle-class America, because it's the marijuana that they spray and that's no accident."
One of the interviewees says Yoko Ono credited Gregory with "finding a formula" that helped her and John Lennon "get off drugs." His formula was a homemade combination of vitamins and nutrients like kelp ground into a powder and placed into gel caps.
Gregory used the formula (plus water) while he fasted and ran across the country from New York to Los Angeles "to dramatize that there's a need for all the major governments to deal with the hungry people in the world." Muhammad Ali joined him along the way to promote the stunt. Years later, Forrest Gump similarly ran across the country in the movie named after the fictional character played by Tom Hanks.
In 1985, Gregory founded the Slim-Safe Bahamanian Diet, a orange powder Tang-like drink that mixed with water would beneift overweight Americans, especially Blacks. He'd long called for Black ownership of businessses, which is what he did for himself. Gregory eventually sold the business for $30 million.
Several years later, suits over money disbursements left Gregory broke. They lost the family farm and house in Massachusetts and declared bankruptcy. After many years of not performing, Gregory returned to the stage and did shows until he passed away in 2017 at 84.
In addiion to his wife Lillian and numerous family members (they had 11 children), fellow Black comics - Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Kevin Hart, W. Kamua Bell and Nick Cannon - weigh in on Gregory's deep influence.
"He taught me to aim higher," notes Sykes.
The One and Only Dick Gregory next airs on Showtime on July 12 (11 pm ET), July 13 (2 am), July 16 (2 pm and 5 pm) and July 17 (3 am).