Robin as seen on the cover of The Robin Harris Story - We Don't Die, We Multiply.
|Birth name||Robin Hughes Harris|
August 30, 1953|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||March 18, 1990
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Genres||Satire, Observational comedy, Improvisational comedy|
|Spouse||Exetta Harris (? - March 18, 1990) (his death)|
Robin Harris was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Earl, was a welder, and his mother, Mattie, was a factory seamstress. In 1961, the family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended Manual Arts High School. Harris then attended Ottawa University in Kansas. During this time, he began to hone his craft of comedy. He worked for Hughes Aircraft, a rental car company, and Security Pacific Bank to pay his bills. In 1980, he debuted at Los Angeles’ Comedy Store.
During the mid '80s, Harris worked as the master of ceremonies at the Comedy Act Theater. His “old school” brand of humor began to gain him a mainstream following. Harris made a promising feature debut playing a no-nonsense bartender in the feature film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988). Harris also performed in director Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). As "Sweet Dick Willie," Harris served as part of the neighborhood "Greek chorus" that commented on the events of an increasingly tense day. Harris was Pop, the no-nonsense, quick-witted father of Kid in House Party (1990). He followed up later that year with a small turn as a jazz club MC in Mo' Better Blues. He also had a role in Eddie Murphy's Harlem Nights (1989). Fellow comedian and actor Raymond "The RayVolution" Baxter credits Harris with him becoming a stand up: "I saw Mr. Harris at home in Chicago at a club my aunt worked for and he was nice enough to see me after a set and joke around with me. He said I was funny enough to get on the circuit at 11! So that day I went to work on my material..."[this quote needs a citation]
In Harris' "Bébé's Kids" routines, Harris' girlfriend Jamika would insist that he take her son and friend Bébé's three children with them on a date, as she continually agreed to babysit them. The children would regularly make a fool out of and/or annoy Harris. "We Bébé's kids," they would proclaim, "we don't die...we multiply."
The Hudlin Brothers had intended to make a feature film based upon the "Bébé's Kids" sketches, but Harris died while the film was in pre-production. Bébé's Kids instead became an animated feature, the first ever to feature an all-black main cast. It was directed by Bruce W. Smith and featured the voices of Faizon Love (as Harris), Vanessa Bell Calloway, Marques Houston, Nell Carter, and Tone Lōc.
In the early hours of March 18, 1990, Harris died in his sleep of a heart attack in his Chicago hotel room after performing for a sold out crowd at the Regal Theater. Harris was transported back to California and interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, near Los Angeles. House Party 2 and Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues (which was released five months after his death) were dedicated to his memory. Through archive footage, in House Party 2, a photo of Harris comes to life and tells Kid "Keep your mind on them books and off them 'gals!", which was actually taken from a scene in the original House Party. In House Party 3, when uncle Vester (played by Bernie Mac) looks at a photograph of Harris, he tells Kid how he misses his father and wishes he was alive, and that he "owes him" $150.
At the time of Harris' death, his wife was pregnant with their son, Robin Harris, Jr .
In 2006, a posthumous DVD, entitled We Don't Die, We Multiply: The Robin Harris Story (2006), was released. The film features never-before seen performances by Harris and accolades from his contemporaries Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, Robert Townsend, and Joe Torry. The film also features a rap performed and dedicated to Harris by his son, Robin Harris, Jr.
|Year||Award||Result||Category||Film or series|
|1991||Independent Spirit Award||Nominated||Best Supporting Male||House Party|
- Christon, Lawrence (1992-07-28). "Comic's Legacy: 'Bebe's Kids'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Robin Harris; Tragedy of a Funny Man; At His Funeral in Los Angeles, Tribute to a `Down-Home' Comedian | Article from The Washington Post | HighBeam Research
- James, Caryn (1992-08-01). "Bebe's Kids (1992)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- Wilson, John M. (1991-10-11). "In Living Color". ew.com. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- Norwood, Robyn (1997-10-22). "A New Act to Catch". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- Watson, Margeaux (2006-10-26). "We Don't Die, We Multiply: The Robin Harris Story DVD Review". ew.com. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- Kennedy, John (2006-10-18). "Robin Harris' life and comic legacy depicted in new documentary". blackamericaweb.com. Retrieved 2008-08-21.[dead link]