Comedy has always been a tool for artists to ease the pain of social issues, stereotypes, and racial injustice. It has also brought front and center the positive transformation of pain into humor. Perhaps no ethnic group has displayed this with such commercial success as African Americans, but this transformation has not come without great struggle and criticism from forces both internal and external of their cultural experience. It is without dispute, African American humor has left a distinct impression not only in our society but in the greater world experience as well.
African American comedy’s history intertwined with that of a young nation. Humor was often a way to cope with the injustice of slavery, with many stories mixing themes of redemption, freedom and victory over oppressors. As emancipation became a reality, humor became more inspired by increasing freedom. But not until the advent of desegregation did “Black comedy” discover the voice that would bring it boldly to an entire nation and eventually the commercial success and popularity of the late 70’s and into our present day.
Influential comedians highlighted in February
In celebration of Black History Month, the Columbus Comedy Examiner will be spotlighting several influential comedians; past present and future. Each spotlight will feature a short biography, notable material, comedians influenced, and legacy.
African American Humor: The Best Black Comedy from Slavery to Today (The Library of Black America series) by Mel Watkins and Dick Gregory
Black Comedians on Black Comedy: How African-Americans Taught Us to Laugh (Kindle Edition) by Darryl J. Littleton