Insecure has taken Sunday evenings and pop culture by storm, Girls Trip’s Tiffany Haddish gave arguably one of the best physical comedic performances since Eddie Murphy’s box office choke hold of the 80’s and 90’s, and Lena Waithe’s well deserved Emmy win for comedic writing on Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode shows us what we’ve known inside our own community all along, BLACK WOMEN ARE FUNNY.
Unfortunately, aside from the recent advancements on the small screen and with Universal’s Girls Trip we historically have not seen Black women being funny if they’re not playing the sassy friend to whoever the story’s really about. As a result of the decades of type casting and being pigeon holed into certain roles, Issa Rae’s Insecure series and Lena Waithe’s Thanksgiving episode shine bright because it’s simply just funny Black women getting to tell their comedic truth in their own creative way.
This is the same reason why so many rated R comedies can flop this year but the film about four Black women catching up over a weekend co-written by a Black woman (Tracy Oliver with Kenya Barris) can gross over 100 million dollars. Case in point, no one can tell a Black woman’s story quite like a Black woman can. I know this to be true because every day on the Los Angeles comedy scene I get to experience Black female comedians telling hilarious and authentic stories and jokes on stage.
So if the talent is there, what’s the problem? Why can I literally count the number of funny Black women working on my television screen and in our theaters on my two hands? It starts at the top. Not only do we need talent, we need Black men and women directors, casting directors and executives making decisions that wouldn’t think it would be crazy to build a film around a character played by a Leslie Jones or a Bresha Webb simply because it hasn’t been done before. Successes like Tracee Ellis Ross becoming the first Black woman in over 30 years to win a comedic acting Golden Globe and Lena Waithe’s Emmy win are to be celebrated and it shows the progress Hollywood has made but also makes me think “What the hell took so long?”.
The wins and success of a few must drive the rest of us to keep pushing for diversity and inclusion. Because the little progress we have made is a result of the spirited demand for inclusion and a seat at the table for many years and it won’t automatically get better because a few shows got green lit one year. More Black women at the forefront in comedy has definitely been a result of campaigns like April Reign’s #OscarSoWhite and big names like Ava Duvernay not letting Hollywood make her the single voice for Black female art. The work must continue so keep workshopping that “Becky asked to touch my hair” bit and keep re-drafting that pilot because thankfully, I think Hollywood’s finally realized Black women are funny and bankable.
So let the rest of us continue to support our favorite funny Black women with both our dollars and our laughs as new stories and jokes are told across our screens and stages.