Sherman Hemsley's 'George Jefferson' Was Comedy Genius Right on Down to His Strut (VIDEO)

Sherman Hemsley Isabel Sanford Jeffersons Weezy Sherman Hemsley helps me get up and ready every morning because every morning, I watch TV One. And every morning, those reruns of Amen and The Jeffersons make me laugh out loud at least once, which is a real testament to their genuine humor since it’s been more than two decades since the latter went off the air. Far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to start the day than with a good belly laugh.

That’s what Sherman Hemsley was good at -- eliciting chuckles and full-out guffaws from people in TV land. I mean, how can you watch this little man do his signature bowlegged James Brown chicken dance with a straight face? The fact that he never did so much as break a smile while he was busting the moves made it even funnier. Watch him in action, breaking it down with Roxie Roker (who, if you didn’t know or never cared before, is Lenny Kravtiz’ mama): 


And then there was the classic George Jefferson walk, a pop cultural phenomenon in and of itself which is now a must-do for anyone feeling bold, brash, and assured of themselves, particularly when something they’ve said or done proves to be right. Couldn’t nobody strut like Sherman. That walk is now the stuff of legend. Matter of fact, I did it when I bargained myself a great deal for my first car and, most recently, when I managed to cook a pot roast without drying all of the juices, thus leaving a brownish, boulder-ish mass of jerky, like I usually do. Situations like that call for the George Jefferson walk and I am therefore thankful that he invented it.

Then he tantalized another generation in the late '80s and early '90s on Amen as Deacon Frye, who -- can we be honest? -- was really George Jefferson in Philly instead of New York, flanked by a different but likable cast (except that darn Thelma, who sizzled my nerves down to the nubs with that infernal grown-lady whining). Sherman once again stole the show and played his angry, little, short man routine to the hilt. I can still remember eating bowls of ice cream in front of my grandparents’ floor model Zenith and cracking up right along with them at Deacon Frye’s physical stunts and cutting comebacks. He could deliver a zinger like nobody’s business. 

I can’t think of many actors with comedic delivery who make an LOL real, not just an acronym. And so I salute you, Mr. Hemsley, for gifting us with three solid decades of humor and giving of yourself in order to make people laugh. You know, laughter is all you have sometimes -- when you get up and go to a job you hate every day, when you’re going through issues in your relationships, when your kids are plucking your everlasting nerves. So he wasn't just an actor and his shows weren't just sitcoms. He facilitated, at the very least, little flashes of joy for a whole lot of people in 30-minute increments. So strut on, Sherman Hemsley, to your deluxe apartment in the sky. 

What's your favorite episode of Amen or The Jeffersons?

Image via Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

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