Sanford & Son Top Five Aunt Esther Episodes.
When it comes to iconic tv characters of all time Aunt Esther is easily amongst the best of the best! LaWanda Page was one of the filthiest comics in the business. She made Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison seem like Pastors by comparison. But as the hilarious and feisty Aunt Esther, LaWanda was able to infuse all her toughness and attitude into this bible thumping woman. She was Fred Sanford’s worst nightmare and all of our dream of come true, here are the top five episodes featuring Aunt Esther at her very best.
5. The Big Party. Season 2, episode 15.
Fred and Lamont have bills coming out of their ears and consider going on welfare, something Fred refuses to do. Fred comes up with a plan to throw a ‘big party’ in the Sanford home and charge admission. That’s when two hoods show wanting a part of the action. Meanwhile, Aunt Esther is trying to find a place to hold her weekly church group meetings.
In this classic episode the world was introduced to Aunt Esther in all her powerful and bible thumping glory. Beforehand there were a few brief appearances by an “Aunt Ethel” played by veteran actress Beah Richards, but that didn’t work out as well as the producers had planned so they went in a new direction and cast Foxx’s longtime friend and fellow comic LaWanda Page as Aunt Esther by Foxx’s own recommendation. Fun Fact: Sanford and Son was LaWanda’s first real acting gig ever as well as her first ever appearence on television so needless to say she was a bit nervous and didn’t do too well during rehearsals. When the producers wanted to fire her Redd threatened to quit and offered to coach LaWanda to give scenes the power and energy they needed. And the rest as they say is history.
4. Libra Rising All Over Lamont. Season 3, episode 2.
Synopsis: Lamont visits an astrologist and discovers he’s a double Libra, thus his goal in life is for peace and decides to get along with his father at all costs. Meanwhile, Fred eats a batch of 8 day-old greens and gets sick and becomes convinced he’s dying. This leads to Grady spreading the word of Fred’s supposedly impending death, which draws Aunt Esther and her friends out of the woodwork.
Aunt Esther doesn’t really come in ’til halfway through the episode, but the time she has in this with Fred and her raiders are classic! Some very funny moments with Aunt Esther in this episode, the best and most memorable of all is the iconic “Gorilla Cookies” moment that still has the ability to make you sick and convinced you might be dying of laughter.
3. Rated X. Season 2, episode 24.
Lamont and Rollo answer an ad that promises them stardom through low-budget movies. Fred gets a hold of the brochure and decides to try out too. When they get down there they quickly discover the low budget movies are X-rated followed by a police raid and Fred, Lamont and Rollo are hauled off to jail.
Much like Libra Rising, in this episode Aunt Esther isn’t featured in this episode too much. In fact, she doesn’t come in until the final scene where she completely stole the show once again. It’s amazing to see just how far LaWanda had come as an actor and in the role of Aunt Esther by this point. This episode proved to the producers that they as well as Redd made the absolute right decision in casting Ms. Page and trusting her to make Esther the iconic character she was and still is.
2. The Members of The Wedding\ The Engagement. Season 3, episode 9.
Synopsis: Fred and Donna enjoy an evening out on the town but then Donna breaks the news that she has had another man propose marriage to her. Not wanting to lose her, Fred decides to propose marriage himself and they plan a small wedding ceremony. However, Lamont is totally against the whole thing and has Aunt Esther and family confront Donna and question her intentions.
One of the all time funniest episodes would’ve never been the same without Aunt Esther who completely owned this episode almost more than any other. This episode gave us some of Esther’s greatest lines and moments of the entire time she was on the show.
- Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe. Season 3, episode 14.
Synopsis: Grady has a a piece of juicy gossip and is just dying to tell everyone. It seems Grip, an old friend, dated Fred’s late-wife, Elizabeth, prior to her getting married to Fred. Elizabeth and Grip had been intimate and Lamont is the result. Fred is convinced Grip is nothing but a jive turkey and Esther may have the answer to this paternity question.
It was between this episode and the Members of The Wedding episode for the number one spot, but when I thought about it this all time classic episode of Sanford & Son easily tops the list because never has Esther been better used or brilliantly funny as she was in this one. The big reveal of the episode revolved around Esther and it was a whopper of a twist that made the whole episode so much better. Esther’s most memorable moment of the episode was both unexpected and absolutely hilarious. LaWanda Page at her very best.
Honorable Mentions: Tyranny, Thy Name is Grady, My Fair Esther, Aunt Esther and Uncle Woodrow Pffttt…, and Divorce, Sanford Style.
Next up will be the top five of everybody’s favorite cool cat Rollo Lawson. ’Til next time, folks!