Throughout the history of Black entertainment, comedy has remained one of the primary sources of joy when we all just need a good laugh. For years, black comedians have made us laugh when all we wanted to do was cry, and gave us a reason to smile when nothing seems to go our way.
Comedy is important to us. It allows people to get a break from the seriousness of life. It enables them to laugh and enjoy themselves in an entirely different way than they would be able to otherwise. Comedy also helps people see themselves and their problems in a new light, which can allow them to find solutions that they might not have found before. At the same time, comedy also allows people to understand and appreciate other cultures and communities.
Whether in standup form or featured on film, the art of mastering comedic prowess is a skill reserved for only a select set of kings and queens that’ve made a career out of telling jokes. It doesn’t hurt that some of the best the genre’s ever seen also happen to be of African American descent.
From the wild and unfiltered days of pioneers like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor — the latter funnyman is considered to be the greatest comedian of all time by many critics and fans alike — to the new school jokesters like Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish that are creating comedy empires on an A-list scale, the world of professional satire is truly flourishing thanks to many of our brothers and sisters that laid down the foundation.
We decided to pay tribute to 20 of the best Black comedians in the biz, past and present, in honor of the countless times they’ve kept us in stitches. While we made sure to list this in no particular order, we hope you all can chime in and either let us know who you think was left off the list or to form a definitive top five of your own based on our selections.
Keep scrolling to peep 20 of the best Black comedians of all time, including Dave Chappelle, queens Sommore and Mo’Nique, the late Bernie Mac, Hollywood crossover stars Chris Tucker and Martin Lawrence, home team hero D. L. Hughley and a handful of other jovial icons:
1. Tiffany Haddish
She may be new to the game, but the future is looking bright for this new age queen of comedy.
2. Rickey Smiley
He’s taken his talents primarily to the radio now, but you best believe he’s still bringing that comedic genius to airwaves on a daily basis with the Rickey Smiley Morning Show!
3. Jamie Foxx
Whether a blockbuster smash or a standup stage, Jamie Foxx will always deliver to have you cracking up uncontrollably.
4. Keenen Ivory Wayans
Debates on who’s the funniest within the iconic Wayans family have been happening for decades, but no one can deny that Keenen was the one who set the dynasty in motion.
Uncensored and unruly, Sommore’s raunchy delivery will make you simultaneously blush and bust from laughter whenever she hits the stage.
6. Cedric The Entertainer
The old school flair of Cedric’s comedy is a core to his overall delivery, which tends to feel like hearing jokes from the funniest uncle in your fam.
7. Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi’s cool demeanor is unmatched by any comedian, man or woman, and her veteran status in the game proves that for sure.
8. Chris Tucker
When it comes to Chris Tucker, it’s all in his hard-to-miss voice! You can close your eyes and immediately be able to pinpoint his iconic standup skills.
9. Steve Harvey
Although he’ll soon be taking on TV judge duties, Steve Harvey’s place as a certified king of comedy will never be questioned.
10. Wanda Sykes
Fans of her standup and various sitcom stints can attest to how funny Wanda Sykes truly is. Her current role on The Upshaws further proves that she’s still got it, too!
11. Kevin Hart
Hate if you want, but no one can deny the empire that Kevin Hart has created for himself. The fact that his Laugh Out Loud Network is putting on a whole new generation of comedians is even more proof of his king status.
12. Bernie Mac (1957 – 2008)
A icon that we lost far too soon, Bernie Mac will be remembered forever for his unabashed way of turning his family woes into relatable jokes that still have us cracking up over a decade after his death.
13. D. L. Hughley
Another comedian on our team that revamped his comedy career for radio, D. L. Hughley proves that he can always keep us entertained no matter where he’s delivering the jokes from.
Mo’Nique has been a trendsetter both for women in standup comedy and body positivity as a whole. While her approach can at times be intimidating to say the least, her style of comedy also has a sisterly vibe to it as well.
15. Richard Pryor (1940 – 2005)
Many comedians, regardless of what race they are, owe their careers to Richard Pryor. Most wouldn’t argue with you for calling him the genre’s GOAT, including many of the pros featured on this list.
16. Dave Chappelle
Chappelle’s Show alone was a cultural reset for comedy, and his latest Netflix specials further proved that even one career-defining trip to Africa wasn’t about to stop Dave from continuing in his standup legacy.
17. Chris Rock
He recently took a turn to horror by revamping the Saw series with 2021’s Spiral, but we’ll always see Chris Rock as the ultimate joke-teller with the ability to make us laugh along with some of the most uncomfortable situations, even if a bit racially-unsettling.
18. Redd Foxx (1922 – 1991)
Things rarely got raunchier compared to when Redd Foxx hit the stage, and many after him borrowed his unfiltered approach to the genre as a foundation for their own careers. On top of that, nothing will ever top his performance in Sanford and Son.
19. Eddie Murphy
Whether you know him as Dr. Doolittle, a Beverly Hills Cop, the Nutty Professor or a Vampire In Brooklyn, the many comedic faces of Eddie Murphy are proof that he can constantly keep us laughing in any way, shape or form.
20. Martin Lawrence
From his legendary namesake ’90s sitcom to a countless number of starring roles in comedy films, Martin Lawrence has extended his standup career unlike any other comedian before or after him. Wherever he takes his comedy career next, we’ll make sure to be tune in for it.