I know, I know. I’m SUPER late with this tribute. Not making excuses, but I have to say that this Christmas kept me on my toes, and I didn’t do a lot of writing this month. Plus, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was gonna write this tribute. However, I had to post something about Tommy “Tiny” Lister, aka Deebo, despite it being overdue as all hell.
You see, I grew up on Tiny Lister over the years, but the man starred in 219 projects during his acting career. Those 200+ projects included him in supporting or cameo parts that were no doubt memorable, but there’s just way too many to speak on. Let’s not forget the fact that Tiny had a near 40 year career. The man definitely put in work.
With that being said, this tribute will be comprised of clips from various films and TV shows Tiny starred in. Sit tight; as I said before, the man stayed busy.
Zeus In the Squared Circle
Despite the fact that I loved watching wrestling during Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage’s heyday, I don’t remember seeing Tiny Lister (who was then known as “Zeus”) square off with any of the golden age sports entertainers during that time period. Nonetheless, I felt it was important to include a clip of Tiny’s humble beginnings in the WWF.
WANTED: Giant Man That Can Looks Like He Can Open a Can of Whup Ass
As I said before, Tiny is credited with a total of 219 film/TV projects. The above video just showcases some of his many appearances in movies during the mid to late ’80s and early ’90s. To paraphrase IMDB’s bio of Mr. Lister, if you wanted a 6’5″ bodyguard, solider of fortune, or fearsome gangster in your film or TV show, Tiny was your man.
Bigg is Big Mad
One of the earliest roles I remember seeing Tiny in was that of Bigg on Talkin’ Dirty After Dark. Bigg was a bodybuilder/wrestler that loved his woman—who worked as a stand-up comic at a popular nightclub—but he was insanely jealous of any man that looked her way. Thanks to a miscommunication over the phone, Bigg’s paranoia and jealousy got the better of him, and he busted in the club in a rage, ready to whup ass and take names. Hence, the reason for the hilarious fight between Tiny, Martin Lawrence, the late John Witherspoon and a few of the other characters.
Tiny Gets Schooled By Aunt Viv
I thought it would be cute to include this clip. Tiny guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a Compton native that ends up befriending Carlton. However, when Carlton and his new crew decide to visit MacArthur Park at night, Will warns Aunt Viv, who arrives to check the young men as only she can. Tiny attempts to stand up to her, but he soon learns he’s no match for Vivian Banks.
Who Says Men Can’t Do Domestic Work?
Tiny also guest starred on an episode of Martin, where Martin and Gina were anxious to hire a housekeeper. In retaliation for Martin attempting to hire two sexy maids, Gina considered employing a buff domestic. Enter Apollo (Tiny).
Obobo, the Gentle Giant
We all remember Tiny as Deebo, but one of my favorite roles of his is Obobo from the Mario Van Peebles western, Posse (side note: Posse is one of my all-time favorite westerns, alongside Tombstone and Django Unchained). Obobo was large and intimidating, but he was also sweet and kind. He was fiercely protective of his friends and loved it when Jesse (Mario Van Peebles) read to him. He was claustrophobic and preferred to drink milk over liquor. Obobo was one of my favorite characters in the film thanks to his three-dimensional personality. I included two scenes from the film to show his innocent side as well as his ass kickin’ side.
Marion vs. Mono
Tiny also made an appearance on another one of my favorite TV shows, In the House. This time, he played a monosyllabic pool shark suitably nicknamed “Mono.” Marion challenges Mono to a game of pool to gain information in order to find a mysterious woman that recently entered his life. I posted the entire episode for y’all to enjoy (I always loved this particular episode), but in case you just want to see the man of the hour, I posted timestamps underneath each caption.
Winston, the Bounty Hunter
In Jackie Brown, Tiny played Winston, bail bondsman Max Cherry’s (Robert Foster) right hand man. Tiny didn’t have a lot of scenes in the film, but Ordell’s (Samuel L. Jackson) reaction to Winston was always hilarious, whether Ordell was speaking directly to Winston, talking about him, or spotting a mere picture of the man in the office. All Tiny’s scenes as Winston are included in the above video. Enjoy!
When Tiny passed, I noticed some people on Twitter saying that he was the “first black president.” They were referring to Tiny’s role as The President of the United States (at least I’m assuming it was still the United States, considering the movie took place about a millennium into the future) in The Fifth Element. The featured video shows the last scene of the film, and it’s hilarious.
Do the Right Thing
In 2007, Tiny had a small role as a convict in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Of course, we always think of the late, great Heath Ledger’s killer performance of The Joker when we think of this film, but Tiny’s small contribution to the movie was notable as well. In this particular scene, Joker placed a bomb on two ferries: one filled with violent cons and the other filled with innocent civilians. Each ferry contained the remote for the detonator on the opposite ship. While Joker and Batman fought nearby, the passengers on the ferries argued among themselves about whether or not they should blow the other waterbus up. Finally, Tiny took the detonator and threw it out the window, opting not to kill the civilians, and accepting his own fate. Great scene.
Y’all know I had to include the role that made Tiny Lister a superstar: Deebo, the neighborhood bully. Y’all already know about these classic scenes (and if you don’t, you must’ve been born sometime after 2009). I’ll just leave them here for you to enjoy.
Ironically enough, Tiny was known for playing men that were downright scary, but in real life, many say that he was the nicest man you ever wanted to meet.
Mr. Lister, you will be truly missed.
Thomas Duane Lister, Jr.: June 24, 1958 – December 10, 2020
—Written by Nadiya