Where Are They Now? Black Comedians Pt. 2
List so nice, we had to do it twice!
When I wrote the first Black Comedians: Where Are They Now, I had a very long list, and decided to break it up into two. So, if you’re ready to enjoy seeing the faces of some of your favorite funny people, let’s get to it!
Before Smokey asked Craig that pivotal question on Friday that set the plot for the cult classic: “How did you get fired on your day off?!” Chris Tucker was a former janitor at a Georgia Burger King that decided to move to LA to try to pursue his dreams.
In LA, Tucker garnered attention as a top comedian and appeared in shows like “Def Comedy Jam,” before landing his first starring role as Smokey in the feature film Friday. After Friday, Tucker appeared in music videos and other films like Dead Presidents, Jackie Brown, but he was able to become the highest paid actor at the time while appearing in the Rush Hour trilogy. He negotiated a whopping $25 million paycheck, which was the highest of any other actor at that time, for the third movie.
Afterward, there were rumors that Chris stepped down from Hollywood due to his Christian beliefs. However, his real reason was because he was looking for the right role, he explained in an interview with the Daily Beast:
“Well, the break wasn’t planned—it just happened that way,” says Tucker at a hotel in midtown Manhattan. “I waited a long time and the right things weren’t coming to me—the roles I was offered weren’t that challenging—so I started trying to develop a bunch of projects for myself.”
There was a five year film hiatus as Tucker went back to his stand-up roots, while also dealing with tax problems… let’s just gloss over that…, and shooting his own comedy special the same year that the critically acclaimed film Silver Linings Playbook came out. You may remember Tucker had a co-starring role in the film.
Since, Mr. Tucker is doing a comedy tour (which is getting rave reviews, hey now!), hosting award shows, spending time with his son, and has his own foundation in conjunction with the New Life Tabernacle Church of God and Christ where they have events coming up.
As superficial as the world can seem, Mo’Nique not only made it, but exceeded all expectations of what “big girls” can do. While working as a phone operator, on a dare, she participated in an open mic night where she got a standing ovation after her set. After realizing her talent, she went on to have a career in stand up, appearing on shows like “Showtime at the Apollo,” “Def Comedy Jam,” “SNAPS” and other comedy specials before she landed her first television starring role in the show “The Parkers.” After “The Parkers,” she was in the Grammy nominated special The Queens of Comedy, which garnered critical acclaim, and then the world was hooked. Mo’Nique appeared in multiple movies, the documentary Mo’Nique: Behind the Bars at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio, TV shows, music videos, and even reality television (I still watch reruns of “Charm School” to this day). She wrote two books “Skinny Women Are Evil,” and the cookbook “Skinny Cooks Can’t Be Trusted,” but it was her role in Precious that she not only gained the nation’s attention, but was celebrated for it with an Academy Award. Mo’Nique has continued to act, had her own talk show (that her first son was a writer on), gave birth to twins, still performs in comedy shows, makes television appearances, and still embraces herself, but a more healthy version. You can follow her uplifting journey of becoming healthy on her Twitter.
There are going to be times in your life that your decisions aren’t going to make sense to others. In those times, you can try to rationalize, or stand strong on the fact that you did what you believed in, and that’s what Dave Chappelle has done.
After making the decision to pursue a career in comedy, David Chappelle started doing stand up when he was in high school (his mother had to accompany him to many clubs as his legal guardian since he was underage). As he got older, and even heckled at the Apollo Theater, Dave continued to perform and got the attention of Hollywood execs.
He appeared in movies like Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Half Baked, The Nutty Professor, Undercover Brother, and others, before he got his own acclaimed “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central.
“Chappelle’s Show” was a hit, and garnered him two Emmy nominations. However, when the third season was set to start filming, Chappelle took a hiatus and went to visit South Africa, a decision that is still being discussed by his fans to this day.
Whether you’re living in a 90s kinda world, aren’t you glad you got your girls?!
Before she stole our hearts as the lovable Synclaire James, she made us laugh on “In Living Color.” With a background in stand-up comedy, there was no doubt that Kim Coles would be a good cast member on the hit sketch comedy show.
But after, she was so endearing on “Living Single,” and we enjoyed her romantic pursuits with Overton, her neighbor.
After “Living Single,” Kim has continued to appear in comedic roles in shows like “Fraiser,” “The Geena Davis Show,” “One on One,” “10 Items or Less,” “The Soul Man,” and currently “My Baby Daddy.”
Kim also tried her hand in reality television by appearing in VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” “The Mole,” and “Coming to the Stage” which she was also a host.
She also co-hosts the talk show “My Black is Beautiful” on BET and continues to uplift people through her books, speaking engagements, and her “Gratitude” movement. It’s all so inspirational, so if you’re feeling down, give her site and her book a try!
Paul Mooney is known as the “Godfather of Comedy,” and when you examine his extremely eventful life before he started doing the controversial stand-up that he’s known for, you know that he earned that moniker.
After showing a talent for dancing, Paul began to pursue that venture and was even on “American Bandstand,” before being drafted into the Army and being sent to West Germany. Once the funny man came back, he went back in the direction of entertainment and comedy. He was a ringmaster in the Charles Gody Circus, stand-up comedian, and even was hired eye candy for the Playboy mansion and the Playboy Club (I know, right?!).
But through all of this, it was Paul’s keen eye for what makes society tick, and a chance meeting with Richard Pryor that catapulted him to the name that we know now. He became a writer for Richard Pryor, and eventually wrote for shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “In Living Color” (he created “Homey the Clown!), The Redd Foxx Show, and eventually the “Dave Chappelle’s Show.”
Once the show ended, Mr. Mooney has continued to do stand-up, wrote the hilarious “Black is the New White,” and decided to stop using the “n-word” after Michael Richards’ tirade. However, Paul allegedly had a small setback on that promise when he was recently doing stand up on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” However, he’ll always be known as one of the greats, and his resume speaks for itself.
Wanda Sykes is proof that success is imminent, as long as you work for it.
After graduating with a Bachelors in Marketing from Hampton University in Virginia, Wanda went on to work for the National Security Agency (NSA) for five years. But after feeling unfulfilled, Wanda decided to try her hand in stand-up and the crowd loved her.
She went on to tour and perform stand-up for five years, before she opened up for Chris Rock at the popular New York comedy club “Caroline’s.” He was so impressed with her that he offered her a writing position on his show “The Chris Rock Show.” Wanda, along with Louis C.K. and other talented writers went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Musical Special.
Since, Wanda has starred in movies, television shows, done voice acting, and got married in 2008; she and her wife have a set of twins. As Wanda continues to act, she also uses her influence to address LGBT issues and has also earned even more Emmy awards. However, she continues to go back to her first entertainment-love, stand-up comedy, where she is about to start a new tour in September (who else is excited?!).
Lavell Crawford has been able to prove that being flexible in different mediums can gain you acclaim in multiple genres.
Lavell, who gained prominence in the comedy arena by appearing in shows and specials like “ComicView,” “Last Comic Standing,” and Shaq’s “Comedy All-Star” special. But it was his appearance in the critically acclaimed “Breaking Bad” that catapulted him into the mainstream’s consciousness as the character “Huell.”
Lavell has continued to flex his acting chops in different shows and movies, and has a role in the upcoming film American Ultra which features Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.
He continues to do stand-up, and his latest tour is set to start in a few days (get tickets!).
Luenell was enticed by acting when she was 10 years old and saw her first stage play. She then enrolled in theater classes in grade school, and was on her way to pursue that passion through college and began performing at the Oakland Ensemble Theater.
In 1995 she dealt with the pain of losing her mother, but was comforted by the joy of finding out she was pregnant just a month later. However, she was sentenced to jail for a year for: “a series of indiscretions taken while working at a bank months earlier…” but was released after four months.
That hiccup allowed her to get her life back on track, and she was full throttle while pursuing a comedy career. Her comedic prowess allowed her to catch the eye of talent managers, and that opened the door for her to star in multiple movies and TV shows. With all of that, she is STILL killing it on comedy stages!
David Alan Grier
What do you get when you combine natural talent, a MFA from Yale’s School of Drama, multiple award nominations with three snaps in ‘Z’ formation? You get David Alan Grier!
Mr. Grier started off on Broadway, flexing his dramatic talents as Jackie Robinson in the musical “The First,” where he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. He won the Theater World Award for the role.
After a successful and acclaimed run doing theater, David Alan Grier would become known nationwide for becoming part of the cast for the Emmy winning show “In Living Color.” After starring on the hit show, David continued to appear in multiple movies, TV shows, voice acted, and even created and wrote his own show “Chocolate News” which appeared on Comedy Central.
These days he still acts in theater productions, TV shows, movies, and still does comedy tours!