After breaking with her husband, she and Alexandrea moved to California in 1974. The following year she helped found the San Diego Repertory Theatre and joined the improvisational theater group Spontaneous Combustion. It was at this time that Caryn Johnson adopted her distinctive stage name -- Whoopi Goldberg -- and began to develop the character monologues that were to make her famous. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, she joined another improvisational group, the Blake Street Hawkeyes, and acquired a large local following for her work as a stand-up comedian. Soon she was touring the U.S. and Europe with her one-woman production, The Spook Show.
Goldberg followed her triumph in The Color Purple with a successful comic vehicle, Jumping Jack Flash, but her next few comedies proved to be box office disappointments. Dramatic performances in the films Clara's Heart and The Long Walk Home won her critical praise but also failed to find the large audiences the studios were banking on. At the close of the 1980s, Whoopi Goldberg was still very much in demand as a live performer, and with her friends Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, she headlined the popular Comic Relief television specials to support charities aiding the homeless.
Goldberg earned continued respect from critics as well, with her appearance as a police detective in Robert Altman's The Player. She also enjoyed success on television, with a recurring guest role, "Guinan," on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a character she reprised in two Star Trek movies. Her other film successes in the 1990s included Made In America; Corinna, Corinna; Boys on the Side; and a voiceover role in the animated classic The Lion King. A late night talk program, The Whoopi Goldberg Show, proved the comedian and actress to be a serious and thoughtful observer of the political scene, but was cancelled after a single season. Goldberg won rave reviews hosting the annual Oscar telecast in 1994 and hosted the program again in 1996, 1999 and 2002. The following year, she starred in the TV sitcom Whoopi for a single season. She has also produced television series such as Strong Medicine on the Lifetime channel and Whoopi's Littleburg on Nickelodeon.
Whoopi Goldberg has long been one of the most recognizable and best-loved figures in American popular culture. Since the summer of 2007, she has been a daily presence in American homes, as co-host of ABC's morning talk show The View. She has continued an active movie career, voicing the character of Stretchy in Toy Story 3, and appearing in the live action film Madea Goes To Jail and 2010's For Colored Girls, adapted from the celebrated play by Ntozake Shange. She has written a number of books, including a collection of humorous essay, Book, and the children's books Alice and Whoopi's Big Book of Manners as well as the Sugar Plum Ballerinas series. In 2010, she published a book of humorous observations on contemporary manners, Is It Just Me? Or is it nuts out there?