15 Funniest Black Comedians

15 Funniest Black Comedians

Black comedy has a long history, both in the US and abroad. Political and cultural restraints meant that Black comedians were not able to become famous or pursue careers in comedy for centuries. In America, Black entertainers fought all through the twentieth century to be allowed to pursue entertainment as a career.

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As society became more politically and culturally evolved, there came an explosion of Black comedians in recent decades worldwide. Today, some of these comedians are topping many best comedian lists, as newer and newer comedians take the mic to make audiences laugh.

Updated on May 28th, 2021 by Kristen Palamara: Black comedians have brought joy, laughter, and biting satire to audiences for decades as trailblazers at the beginning while new Black comedians are trying their best to break into the industry every year whether with stand-up comedy, comedic films, or live television like Saturday Night Live. Here are some of the funniest Black comedians whether they got their iconic start in the 1970s and 1980s like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy or they’ve been noticed for their comedic skills more recently in the early 2000s like Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is an iconic Black comedian who got his start doing stand-up in the 1970s and eventually got his big break in the early 1980s as an SNL cast member who created hilarious characters on the live show from the oddly cynical Gumby to the Mr. Rogers parody Mr. Robinson.

He released his own comedy specials, Delirious and Raw, in the 1980s and popular films like Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, and although his career faltered a bit, he made a great return with more family-friendly films in the early 2000s like Daddy Day Care and Shrek. He continues his career today with both family-friendly and adult-oriented films.

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart Netflix Special

Kevin Hart had a difficult and slow start to his career, but he finally found success with his comedy tours and documentary films about his comedic career in I’m a Grown Little Man, Laugh at My Pain, and Let Me Explain.

Hart appeared in multiple comedic films from the Scary Movie franchise to Grudge Match and he also has starred in several films from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to Ride Along.

Tracy Morgan

Charlie Day and Tracy Morgan covered in yellow paint talking in the locker room in Fist Fight

Comedian Tracy Morgan got his first big break when he was added to the SNL cast in 1996 and continued to appear on the show until 2003. He brought to life several characters on the legendary live comedic show like Brian Fellow hosting a Safari Planet show.

Morgan is also best known for his starring role on the sitcom 30 Rock as Tracy Jordan and as Tray Barker, starring alongside our next entry Tiffany Haddish, in The Last O.G.

Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip

Tiffany Haddish has had a great career in comedy between her beginnings guest starring on television series and gaining notoriety with her role as Nekeisha Williams on the sitcom The Carmichael Show and her breakthrough movie role as Dina in Girls Trip.

She’s hosted an impressive SNL episode, voiced comedic characters in the previously Netflix now Adult Swim series Tuca & Bertie, published a memoir called The Last Black Unicorn, and also won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for her comedy album Black Mitzvah in 2021.

Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones on SNL Weekend Update

Leslie Jones is another Black comedian with a great career from her 2010 Showtime comedy special Problem Child to her years as an SNL cast member and writer, Jones is undeniably a hilarious comedian.

Jones was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her work on SNL and has also found success in movies appearing in Chris Rock’s Top Five and alongside Eddie Murphy in the 2021 Coming 2 America.

Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac standing outside in a purple shirt in The Bernie Mac Show

Bernie Mac was famous for his outlandish attires on Def Comedy Jam. Mac quickly enthralled audiences, becoming a fan favorite for his aggressive comedy, and his spontaneous dances. In 2000, Bernie Mac formed part of the Kings Of Comedy comedian cast, alongside Cedric The Entertainer, Steve Harvey, and D. L. Hughley.

The movie was highly successful, and the four comedians would keep their mantle as the Original Kings of Comedy. The next year, Mac would star in his own show, The Bernie Mac Show, whose premise was based on one of his most famous stand-up bits about begrudgingly taking care of his sister’s children while she entered therapy.

Cedric The Entertainer

Cedric the Entertainer in Blackish

Another one of the Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric began his career hosting BET’s ComicView in 1993 and Def Comedy Jam in 1995. In 1996, he co-starred with Steve Harvey on The Steve Harvey Show, appearing as Steve’s superstitious and amorous best friend and housemate.

He is also famous for appearing in the Barbershop franchise with Ice Cube, Eve, and Anthony Anderson. Cedric The Entertainer is famous for his surreal and silly comedic styling. On The Steve Harvey Show, for example, he played a slightly dense sports coach with a love of dance, who took his choreography too seriously.

Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor

Comedy Central’s Number one Greatest Standups Of All Time, Richard Pryor is also widely considered to be one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time. Prior is also remembered for his filmography, starring in many famous comedies, such as Stir CrazySilver Streak, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. Pryor’s most popular movies, apart from his stand-up, were his buddy comedies with Gene Wilder.

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In recent years, however, Pryor’s legacy has been disturbed by Pam Grier coming forward about his abusive behavior, which caused lifelong problems for the blaxploitation actress.

David Alan Grier

David Alan Grier posing with his finger tips pressed together in a promo image

David Alan Grier’s most famous roles are as a cast member on In Living Color, Carl Bentley on Jumanji, and the sexually inappropriate Reverend Leonie Love on Martin.

David Alan Grier brought irreplaceable comedic energy to In Living Color, especially in his recurring role as one of the obnoxious founding members of Funky Finger Productions, and Calhoun Tubbs, the blind blues singer whose many, many songs never last more than eight seconds. David Alan Grier ranks 93 on Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.

Martin Lawrence

Martin Lawrence with a mic

Martin Lawrence was one of the biggest stars of the 1990s. His sitcom, Martin was incredibly popular during its run, partly because of Lawrence playing a variety of recurring characters. His popularity would soar even further with the release of Bad Boys in 1995.

RELATED: 10 Movie Comedians Who Got Their Start In Improv

Like other Black comedians, such as Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac, Cedric The Entertainer, and Chris Tucker, Lawrence’s popularity first grew when he appeared on Def Comedy Jam. His signature comedic style is antagonistic and pokes fun at people, which audiences love.

Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx in a suit

TV’s Sanford, from Sanford And Son, Redd Foxx was a very important part of the Black cultural movement of the ’60s and ’70s. He became popular during the 1950s and 1960s with his nightclub comedy performances. During the ’70s, he received additional notoriety for his comedy records.

In one episode of Everybody Hates Chris, Chris Rock describes overhearing his parents listening to a Red Foxx album as one of the defining moments that lured him into stand up comedy. Foxx was so important to the Black cultural movement of the civil rights period that Malcolm X, in his autobiography, described making friends with Foxx in the 1940s.

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle in 8:46 - Dave Chappelle on Netflix

Dave Chappelle is one of the funniest comedians of all time. He owes most of his fame to his show, Chappelle’s Show, and his stand-up specials, Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly and Dave Chappelle: For What It’s WorthChappelle’s Show was incredibly famous, influential, and controversial, as Chappelle pushed boundaries for what was acceptable in TV comedy.

RELATED: 10 Movie Comedians Who Got Their Start In Stand-Up

In recent years, Chappelle has become even more controversial with his stand-up, Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones, where Chappelle argued against cancel culture, effectively alienating many of his former fans.

Robin Thede

Robin Thede posing against a grey background in a promo image for The Rundown

Improv and sketch show comedian, Robin Thede is the first African-American woman to work as the head writer for a late-night talk show during her run on The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.

Thede is most famous for her roles as writer and co-star on A Black Lady Sketch Show, and her political and pop culture commentary on her BET show, The Rundown With Robin Thede. During her time on the latter, Thede was the only woman of color hosting a late-night talk show. The show was very well-received among critics and audiences alike.

Charlie Murphy

Charlie Murphy standing outside in a robe in Black Jesus

Charlie Murphy, of the Chappelle’s Show notoriety, was an irreplaceable part of Chappelle Show’s success. Most recognized for his stories about meeting Black celebrities in the ’80s, Charlie Murphy made Rick James famous again with his line about James being a “habitual line-stepper”.

Known as being a ‘tough guy’ comedian, Murphy is also famous for voicing the satirical white character, Ed Wuncler III on The Boondocks, an extremely privileged white man from an elite wealthy family, who liked to act like a tough Black man in an upper-class neighborhood.

Chris Rock

Chris Rock in Top Five

Chris Rock is one of the most famous comedians of all time. Number five on Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Standups Of All Time, Rock is a political and observational comedian who sprinkles jokes about relationships with Calin-esque jokes about the politics of twenty-first-century America.

In particular, he shot to fame after his very controversial joke about how Black people differ from the stereotypes that white people have of them. The Office’s Michael Scott would get in trouble with HR for repeating that same joke word for word!

NEXT: 10 Best Dramatic Roles By Comedians

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