After success as a stand up comedian in the San Francisco Bay Area, Goldberg created a one woman show in 1983 called The Spook Show. This show caught the attention of Mike Nichols who produced a one-woman show for Goldberg on Broadway, called simply Whoopi Goldberg, which ran from October 24, 1984 to March 10, 1985 for a total of 156 performances.
Goldberg began her film career by playing the character of Celie in the Steven Spielberg directed movie adaption of the award-winning novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This performance garnered her an Oscar nomination for best actress in 1986. She followed up this performance with a sell-out, highly acclaimed one-woman show on Broadway. The majority of the films she made in the 1980s featured her in tough-woman comedic roles (Burglar, Fatal Beauty, Jumpin' Jack Flash), though she regularly balanced them out by performing in family-oriented films (Clara's Heart).
In danger of fading from public acclaim, she revitalized her career in the role of a fake "spiritualist" who manages to actually make contact with the dead in the tear-jerker Ghost, for which she won her first Oscar award for best supporting actress. She cemented her status as a legendary comedic actress in 1992 as a lounge singer who is hidden in a convent (and consequently revitalises their choir) in Sister Act. She had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Guinan.
Goldberg has appeared in 149 films as of October 2002. She has received two Oscar nominations and won one. She has received five Daytime Emmy nominations, winning one. She has received five Emmy nominations. She has received three Golden Globe nominations, winning two. She has won three People's Choice Awards. In 1999 she received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award for her continued work in supporting the gay and lesbian community. She has been nominated for five American Comedy Awards with two wins. In 2001 she won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She also hosted the Oscars in 1999.
Goldberg was paired with Jean Stapleton in the CBS sitcom Bagdad Café (with a plot differing from the 1987 movie in several respects), which lasted two seasons (1990-1991). She hosted a syndicated talk show (The Whoopi Goldberg Show) in 1992-1993. She also starred in the sitcom, Whoopi, which began broadcasting in fall 2003 on NBC. The sitcom was cancelled due to low ratings in May 2004.
In July 2004, Slim-Fast, a popular diet shake, dropped Goldberg from its advertisements in response to popular opposition to statements Goldberg made at a "John Kerry for President" rally in which Goldberg repeatedly referred to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by pointing to her genital region.
In August 2004, Goldberg announced that she would be reviving her one-woman show on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre.