Show Business: Communicating with Laughter

Scene 1: A Southern plantation in the 1840s. A group of black slaves (then known as darkies) sits around a ramshackle log cabin. One strums a banjo—a cigar box and a stick strung with horsehair—as they sing:

Git out the way, ole Dan Tucker,

Too late to get your supper . . .

Combed his haid with a wagonwheel,

Died with a toothache in his heel.

Scene 2: Hollywood, 1935. A sleek phaeton town car whooshes onto the 20th Century-Fox lot. Emblazoned in neon lights along each side is the name "Stepin Fetchit." Under the klieg lights, Fetchit is anything but a phaeton owner....

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