Whoopi Goldberg's Career: From Sister Act to The View

Born November 13th, 1955 in New York City, Whoopi Goldberg loved comedy and the arts ever since she was a little girl. She moved to California to pursue show business and was discovered after she took her comedy show to back to New York. After her first major role in "The Color Purple," Goldberg made a name for herself through a mix of comedic and dramatic roles both in film in television. Notable past movie roles include "Ghost" and "Sister Act," though she is now most often seen as one of the co-hosts of the TV talk show "The View". In this video, WatchMojo.com learns more about the comedy origins of Whoopi Goldberg.

You must login to access this feature


Comedy at an Early Age

Caryn Elaine Johnson was born November 13th, 1955 in New York City. Though she didn’t finish high school, she discovered her love for comedy and the arts at an early age.

Show Business in California

During the 1970s, she moved to California to pursue her show business career. While there, she participated in improv troupes, and adopted her famous stage name, Whoopi Goldberg. Goldberg’s early material was sometimes considered offensive, and was full of shock value. She considered famed African American comic Richard Pryor as her main comedy idol.

Stand-Up Comedy

As the following for her blunt stand-up comedy expanded, she began cultivating a series of character monologues that parodied various ethnic groups. She then turned this into a one-woman act called “The Spook Show” and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Broadway and a Grammy

By 1983, she brought her show back to New York. Director Mike Nichols was so impressed he helped her take the act to Broadway, and within two years she won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for skits recorded from the show.

”The Color Purple”

Her Broadway performance also caught the attention of director Steven Spielberg. In 1985, he cast Goldberg in her first feature-length lead role in the period drama, “The Color Purple.” Her serious role in that critically-acclaimed film earned her both an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award, and proved Goldberg was not only talented as a comedic actress.

Comedy Movies

Goldberg then returned to her comedy roots in a series of films: she appeared as a sarcastic bank worker in the Penny Marshall spy comedy “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and as a former thief in “Burglar.” Goldberg then began hosting “Comic Relief” with fellow comedians Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, starred in the sitcom “Bagdad Café” with Jean Stapleton, and embraced her love of sci-fi by appearing as a recurring character on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Oscar Win

However, it was her role as the comic relief in the 1990 romantic drama “Ghost” that won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She followed that by a joining an all-star comedy cast in 1991’s “Soapdish.”

More Comedy Success

The next year, she found success again, this time as a lounge singer who dressed as a nun to protect herself from the mob. “Sister Act” showcased both Goldberg’s humor and musical talent, as the film was filled with musical performances. The movie proved so successful it led to a sequel the next year, and this film made her the highest paid actress at that time.

Varied Work

The comedienne kept busy through the 1990s by hosting a late-night talk show entitled “The Whoopi Goldberg Show,” becoming the first African-American female host of the Oscars and adding hilarious quips on the celebrity game show “Hollywood Squares.”

Comedy and Drama

Goldberg also split her time between comedy and drama with movies like “Made in America,” “Boys on the Side,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Girl, Interrupted.” She appealed to younger audiences during this period, as well. In 2001, she was part of an ensemble comedy cast in “Rat Race.”

”The View”

2001 was also the year she won the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She then revived her one-woman show in New York to honor its twentieth anniversary. In 2007, Goldberg began moderating and co-hosting the talk show, “The View.” There, she showed that even decades after her first divisive stand-up routines, she hadn’t lost her taste for controversy.

Back to Acting

Goldberg continued to act outside of her career on “The View,” with both theatrical and film appearances. In 2011, she appeared in the romantic comedy “A Little Bit of Heaven” and in the Disney-produced film “The Muppets.”

Personal Life

Goldberg’s personal life has made headlines more than once: her three marriages ended in divorce, and she was romantically linked to actors Ted Danson and Frank Langella. Goldberg was also vocal about her problems with drugs throughout her career.


This star is blessed with talents as a comedian and as a dramatic actress. It is no wonder that Whoopi Goldberg has been recognized in so many areas of show business.

You must register to a corporate account to download. Please login

Related Videos

+ see more