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Race Humor Revisted

Actor and comedian Tim Reid doesn't like to look back, but he'll do it this one time.

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Tim Reid's glory days are well behind him. He spent a long career in television and film (best known for his roles on the sitcoms “Sister, Sister” and “WKRP in Cincinnati”), and his last major role was as a recurring character on “That '70s Show” in 2006. The movie studio he founded in Petersburg in 1997, New Millennium Studios, has stalled. And the last time he made the news was when a gossip Web site falsely reported that he'd checked into a rehab center in Galax. When the actor and director speaks of his passion for art, as he did at a Shockoe Bottom restaurant recently, he's not talking about films and television shows, but sculpture.


It's safe to say the 63-year-old doesn't like to look back. But he eventually relented to urging from his former partner, Tom Dreesen, to detail their experience as what was known as “the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business — and the last.” The result of their efforts, “Tim & Tom,” was published earlier this month.


“It wasn't something I wanted to do,” Reid says. “One of the problems of the country is we spend too much time thinking in the past.”


The comedy duo blazed a trail in the '60s, challenging preconceived notions about race just by showing up and standing beside each other. Sometimes audiences were ready to laugh at the duo's racially charged humor, sometimes they weren't.


“We took race to America out of context,” Reid says. 


While movies may not be on Reid's schedule at the moment, the vivid stories in the book (like the one where Dreesen curses out some racists in a restaurant and runs outside to a waiting car, driven by Reid) lend themselves to cinematic interpretation with ease. 


“There's already been some interest,” Reid says, adding that he'd like to see Chiwetel Ejiofor play him.  S

Tim Reid and Tom Dressden will read and discuss “Tim & Tom” at the Library of Virginia Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Free. 800 E. Broad St. 692-3500.

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