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Whoopi Goldberg is a Grammy-Award winning comedienne, an actress, a human rights advocate, and TV host of the daytime talk show The View.
Whoopi Goldberg - Ghost (4:05)
An inside look at the life of Whoopi Goldberg as told by Whoopi herself.
After working in stand up comedy, Whoopi Goldberg wanted to try her hand at film acting and was given her first major role by Steven Spielberg in the film "The Color Purple."
At the age of 20 Whoopi Goldberg, then Caryn Johnson, decided to move out to California to try and break into show business.
In 1990 Whoopi Goldberg starred in "Ghost" as Oda Mae Brown, a role for which she won the Academy Award for best Actress in a Supporting Role.
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Since 1985, she has appeared in over 80 film and television productions. Her early film credits include the spy comedy Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), directed by Penny Marshall; Fatal Beauty (1987), costarring Sam Elliott; Clara's Heart (1988); Homer & Eddie (1989), costarring James Belushi; and the civil rights period drama, The Long Walk Home (1990),
costarring Sissy Spacek.
Goldberg won numerous awards for her supporting role as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost (1990), including an Oscar (becoming only the second African-American actress ever to win) and her second Golden Globe. The film, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, was a public favorite. That same year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People named Goldberg the Black Entertainer of the Year, and she also collected an Excellence Award at the Women in Film Festival.
In 1991, Whoopie Goldberg appeared in the comedy Soapdish with an all-star cast featuring Sally Field, Kevin Kline, and Elisabeth Shue, among others. She then appeared as Detective Susan Avery in Robert Altman's well received parody of the Hollywood movie business, The Player (1992), starring Tim Robbins.
Also in 1992, she starred in the enormously popular Sister Act as a world-weary lounge singer disguised as a nun hiding from the mob. Directed by Emile Ardolino, Sister Act earned Goldberg an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy. The surprising success of this film led to Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), directed by Bill Duke, and featuring Maggie Smith (reprising her role as Mother Superior), James Coburn, and then-unknown R&B artist Lauryn Hill.
Goldberg launched her own television talk show, The Whoopi Goldberg Show, in 1992. Featuring Goldberg in one-on-one interviews with prominent political and Hollywood celebrities, the talk show ran for 200 episodes until 1993 when it was cancelled due to low ratings. That year, Goldberg also appeared in the feature film Made in America (1993), costarring her then-boyfriend Ted Danson.
In 1994, 1996, and 1999, she hosted the Academy Awards making her the only woman to ever do so. Since 1986, she has also co-hosted Comic Relief, an annual live showcase of big-ticket comedians (including Comic Relief cohosts Robin Williams and Billy Crystal) to raise money for the homeless.
In 1998, Goldberg began appearing on the celebrity game show Hollywood Squares, for which she won a daytime Emmy Award for two consecutive years. She has appeared in numerous other television productions, most notably Star Trek: Generations (1994).
Goldberg's recent film appearances include The Deep End of the Ocean (1999), starring Michelle Pfeiffer, and Girl, Interrupted (1999), costarring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role). In 2004, she returned to Broadway to star in a self-titled one-woman show. In July 2006, Whoopi debuted a syndicated radio show titled Wake Up With Whoopi.
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From the early comedy of Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby to the contemporary routines of Steve Harvey, Mo'Nique, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes and Dave Chappelle, black comedians have often used their wit to become the voice and face of the African-American experience. These legendary comedians have also set a very high bar—not only for African Americans, but for all comics trying to make it in show business. Learn more about these famous jokesters, from their early days to their comic beginnings, to their side-splitting performances and more.
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Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women.
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