There’s something special about Black female comedians, isn’t there? Their ability to shoot straight, keep it real, share from the heart and make you laugh all at the same time is something that is wanted and needed in the entertainment world. However only a handful or two have achieved mega success and stature, and one would be challenged to name the ones who have risen to high ranks in the industry. With Moms Mabley pioneering the way, Whoopie Goldberg, Marla Gibbs, Wanda Sykes, Adele Givens are some names that one might think of when asked to name successful Black female comedians, which begs the question, why aren’t there more? Why is it so hard for black women comics to get that shot and get to the top?
While the challenges that Black female comedians face are real, so is the come-up that their White female counterparts have enjoyed thanks to the success of the likes of Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham. Black female comedians are putting the industry on notice that they want prime-time play as well. Like, yesterday. And not only do they want it, but they deserve it. But don’t take our word for it. We spoke with six seriously funny ladies who shared in their own words why black female comedians are so important and why their voices should be heard.
Katrina Pope, Atlanta-based stand-up comedian, creator of one-woman show “The Naked Truth”, has appeared in Ride Along.
Most female comedians I’ve encountered yield a non-threatening sense of style, social awareness, and confidence that most women can identify with and appreciate. As for what I bring to the comedy landscape, I bring a raw honest voice from my experience of being the other woman, along with letting women of color know, it’s ok to see a therapist. Due to the increased number of women of color who either commit suicide or suffer from depression, I think it’s imperative that I as a Black female comedian make women feel empowered by seeking help. In essence, my willingness to be vulnerable, honest and be funny is why it’s important that my voice be heard.
Erica Watson, creator of one-woman show, “Fat Bitch”, has appeared in Chi-raq, Precious, Top 5 and FOX TV’s Empire.
You can search far and wide. You can look high or low. No matter what, you will NEVER find anyone as brutally honest and thought provoking as a Black female comedian. That honesty…that candor…is what makes Black female comedians so unique and necessary. We offer a fresh perspective on the world that needs to be seen and heard. And above all else, our quick wit and ability to command the room and perform with such fearlessness, makes us a tough act to follow on stage and in the world as a whole!
Queen Aishah, has appeared on VH1’s Awesomely Bad Videos, creator of “Comedienne Queen Aishah Presents: Funny –n- Stilettos.”
There are a lot of female comedians out there that are funny, but we don’t get the opportunities. I’m the first woman to produce shows at the Howard Theatre in DC since it reopened five years ago. I have men asking to be on my show, but they ain’t always fighting for the females the same way. I have some dope male comics that look out for me, but some of them are not going to do that, and they’re not always going to put a female on a show for whatever reason. I think there are a lot of guy comedians that are intimidated by women. There are a lot of guy comedians that will “mentor” a female comedian to try to get in comfortable and good with them, and then try to push up. There’s a lot of different things that go on. There’s a lot of female comedians that are extremely funny, they don’t have to talk about sex, and if they talk about sex that does not take away their funny.
I have something to say, and I’m gonna say it. And I’m gonna say it from my experience and point of view. Every comedian and every talent is not for every audience. Your audience will find you, but you gotta get there. That’s why I created “Funny –n- Stilettos”, that is diverse. We’ve got the lesbians, the Asians, the Blacks, the baby mamas, the older woman, the light-skinned woman, the white woman, that fat, the skinny, everybody –because we all have a story to tell, and it’s worth being heard. Let people’s stories be heard.
Luenell, has appeared in Borat, Think Like A Man, Snoop Dog’s Bad Girls of Comedy and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is currently on tour.
I think we have, as black women in comedy, the ability to go really hard and keep it super real, but not lose our femininity, not be thought of as hard, or losing our sexuality. We go hard in the ring, and toe-to-toe with any male in the industry and talk sexually about ourselves, our lives, and our partners, but not lose our femininity and still be approachable after all the ratchetness that we may talk. Black female comics are the most underrated, unappreciated, disrespected entertainers in the whole entire industry. If you were to ask 20 people on the street to name their favorite comics, they would name all men. We’re always the second thought, the after-thought, and that’s why our voice needs to be heard. After them naming all men, then you say, well what about Wanda Sykes? Oh yeah, I like her too. What about Whoopi Goldberg? Well, she’s not really a comedian anymore. Yes, she is, she started as a comic… We’re always after-thoughts. You have many tours going on around the country right now, and they’ll have four or five men on the show and not one single female to represent the audience that they are performing in front of. Our voices need to be heard because we are very, very talented and worthy.
Precious Hall, a regular at The Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, The J Spot and The Comedy Union and can be seen on Centric T.V.’s “Pretty Funny” as well as various you tube videos for Russell Simmon’s All-Def-Digital channel.
The Black female comedians that I respect, they the truth! They tell themselves. It’s not a game… this is the raw truth and that’s what people appreciate, something they can relate to. Real life. Other races can do that, but it’s the way we do it… it’s not the same. It’s harder [for us] because it’s a male-dominated field. They’ll be three or four guys and one token female. We haven’t always been able to have the platform, that’s why it’s so important. I don’t even compare myself to other females. I’m in the ring with everybody! That’s how I do, that’s how I fight. It don’t have nothing to do with separation, because we all comedians, so who got it? You onstage, we’re not lifting heavy metal, so it’s not about strength, it’s about what you got, and I believe we have just as much if not more than any male. It’s also about standing up for yourself. Recently Nick Cannon had one of my jokes. I’m not saying he took it, but I know all of his comedian friends who are writers. So I told him! I had to fight for myself. I’m a country girl from Texas who is out here working from the ground up and working hard, and I’m not gonna let anybody, male, female or whatever interrupt my grind! I’m on a mission.
Katrina Braxton, Stand-up Comedian, can be seen on truTV’s “Greatest Ever.”
Being a black female comedian gives me an opportunity to dispel some of the myths that people might have or what the media puts out about Black females. We’re not all in this one box. There are different dimensions to us. If you’re a black comic, people automatically assuming it’s going to be aggressive and all about being angry, and we’re not! I have something to bring to the table as well besides what people just assume I’m gonna talk about. There’s more to Black comedy than just urban, hood comedy. My father did comedy back in the ‘70s and ‘80s he was out there when Eddie Murphy was starting and Sinbad – he used to roll with that crew of comedy. He knew from the door that my comedy was going to be different from him, because he was more hardcore. One day he was like, stop trying to fit in with the “Black rooms” – just be good. Whoever likes my comedy will like my comedy, but be true to yourself. Black female comics are funny, but there hasn’t always been a space for us. So seeing Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Orange is the New Black and all of this diversity is very inspiring because it shows me that Hollywood basically is paying attention, and there is room and opportunity. Awkward speaks to my kind of truth, what I find funny, like with dating – she definitely hits the nail on the head with that. It’s encouraging and I think it will open up more opportunities for Black female comedians.