Comedy fans young and old each have their favorite performers, but there are definitely certain talents who stand out from the crowd. That means those who have audiences falling out of their seats or clutching at their stomachs with laughter. Here we’ve put together a list of the consensus best Black comedians in the comedy world, according to lists put together by “experts” and critics.
For African Americans, comedy has given some the space to break barriers and creating an emphatic and booming voice to the experiences of Black men and women. Comedy is a powerful medium, especially for educating the masses on serious world issues, and research backs up that premise. One recent study shows that the ability to mix news into comedy is a good way to make people pay attention. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania say young people remember more about what they hear on the news when it’s mixed with humor.
Comedians also use jokes as a way to decompress by telling relatable stories that bring levity to everyday situations for individuals. In fact, having a laugh is a great way to ease daily stress if you need to unwind after a long day. Researchers from the Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology at the University of Basel say laughing can serve as a source of relief when it comes to dealing with stress. Their study finds even cracking a smile can help ease the negative effects of stress. Study authors say estimate people laugh about 18 times a day. Typically, it’s during interactions with others or experiences that bring them pleasure.
So who are the best Black comedians of all time? StudyFinds sought out lists published by expert writers and websites to come up with a list of the greatest African American comics ever. Our list is comprised of the most frequently mentioned comedians across the sources we reviewed. Disagree with this list? Tell us who your favorite is in the comments below.
The List: Best Black Comedians of All Time, Per Comedy Experts
1. Eddie Murphy
Superstar Eddie Murphy got his start doing stand-up and shot to stardom as a regular on “Saturday Night Live” and dozens of movies like “48 Hrs.”, “Coming to America”, “Trading Places”, and “Shrek”. He’s known for playing multiple roles and his signature laugh. “He is unquestionably a legendary comedic legend, and subsequent generations of comics look up to him as a source of motivation and idolatry,” says Hood MWR. “In the 1980s, Eddie possessed a loud, humorous voice.
TV Over Mind writes, “Born and raised in New York, Eddie Murphy developed an interest in comedy at a very young age after being inspired by the legendary Richard Pryor. However, Eddie would go on to develop his own style. … Over the years, Eddie has continued to light up the big screen and even after so many years in comedy, he hasn’t lost his touch.”
“A masterful mimic, Eddie Murphy, who had learned to play with voices and characters from watching cartoons, parlayed his success on TV to become a blockbuster contender,” adds Biography. “Murphy has also been known to advocate for greater recognition of Black achievement in screen work while inciting outrage over homophobic remarks and routines.”
2. Richard Pryor
Widely regarded as the greatest of his generation, Richard Pryor is a comedian’s comedian who broke boundaries. With a wide body of work that includes hits like “Silver Streak” and memorable recordings, he’s kept fans laughing for decades.
As The Famous People writes, “In 1974, Richard Pryor was honored with two ‘American Academy of Humor’ awards. In 1998, he received the first-ever ‘Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.’ In 2017, he was ranked first on ‘Rolling Stone‘ magazine’s ’50 best stand-up comics of all time’ list.”
And as Ranker notes, “He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.”
3. Dave Chappelle
Known for his unique sense of controversial and influential humor, Dave Chappelle helped redefine what was okay to laugh at on TV. While he’s best known for his hit show and Netflix specials, he’s got a special place in his heart for stand-up comedy. “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,” states NewsOne.
“Dave Chappelle’s career started while he was in high school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC where he studied theatre arts,” notes IMDb. “At the age of 14, he began performing stand-up comedy in nightclubs. Shortly after graduation, he moved to New York City where he quickly established himself as a major young talent.”
“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 Worth,” writes Screen Rant.
4. Chris Rock
After years hustling as a stand-up comedian and landing minor roles in a few films, Chris Rock shot to fame as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live”. The comedian has gone on to act, write, produce, and direct as well as perform. BlackAmericaWeb.com states, “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.”
“Chris Rock is, without a doubt, one of the most famous comedians in history,” gushes Hood MWR. “Rock, ranked sixth on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Comedians of All Time, is a political comic and commentator who compares relationship gags to Kalina-style jokes about twentieth-century American politics. … Undoubtedly, he is one of the best stand-up comedians of all time.”
“A featured player for three seasons on Saturday Night Live who started doing stand-up as a teen, Chris Rock also handled dramatic fare as seen with his role as Pookie in New Jack City,” writes Biography. “Nonetheless, an array of comedic work on the big and small screen alike would ensue. Having an intellectually charged and provocative style, Rock partnered with HBO to create the Emmy Award-winning special Bring the Pain, with many more specials to follow over the years. The comedian then helmed his own program The Chris Rock Show, another award-winning venture that ran for four seasons.”
5. Martin Lawrence
Though he got his start in stand-up and hosting “Def Comedy Jam”, this comedian found success in Hollywood as an actor, writer, and producer. In addition to his hilarious namesake television show, Martin Lawrence has also starred in movies, such as “House Party”, “Blue Streak”, and the Bad Boys trilogy. “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,” writes NewsOne.
“To say that Martin Lawrence had the 90s on lock would probably be an understatement. His self-titled sitcom is largely considered one of the best Black sitcoms of all time,” notes TV Over Mind. “Like Eddie Murphy, Martin’s ability to play multiple characters has always provided an extra layer to his comedy.”
And The Famous People writes, “Martin was interested in boxing when he was a teenager; however, his teacher encouraged him to join an open mic night at a nearby comedy club. Who would have believed that night would pave the way for one of the most successful black comedians in history?”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Comedians
- Best Comedy Movies of All Time
- Best Female Comedians of All Time
- Best Black Female Actors
- TV Over Mind
- Screen Rant
- Hood MWR
- New Standup Comedy
- The Famous People
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.