Top Black Comedians of All Time: Legends Who Changed Comedy Forever

Zuri Bennett

Updated on:

Richard Pryor

Comedy has long been a powerful tool for expression, and some of the most significant voices in this space come from Black comedians. These performers have not only made audiences laugh but have also addressed important cultural issues. Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chappelle are among the most influential Black comedians of all time. Their stand-up routines and performances have left a lasting legacy, shaping the landscape of comedy.

Early trailblazers like Dick Gregory combined humor with activism. Gregory’s routines in the 1950s and 1960s challenged societal norms and opened doors for future generations. Icons like Bernie Mac, Chris Tucker, and Martin Lawrence carried the torch, each bringing their unique flair to the stage and screen.

Modern masters like Kevin Hart and Katt Williams continue to entertain and inspire new audiences. Hart’s energetic style and Williams’ sharp wit make them household names. These comedians, and many others, have made indelible marks on comedy through their unique perspectives and talents.

Image Credit: photo by Alan Light, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Legendary Black Comedians: A Legacy of Laughter

The Pioneers

These trailblazers broke barriers and paved the way for generations of Black comedians. Their impact on comedy and popular culture is immeasurable.

  • Redd Foxx: Known for his raunchy humor and iconic role in “Sanford and Son.”
  • Flip Wilson: The first Black comedian to host a successful weekly variety show, “The Flip Wilson Show.”
  • Richard Pryor: A master storyteller and social commentator whose raw and honest comedy revolutionized the stand-up scene.

The Icons

These comedians have achieved legendary status, captivating audiences with their unique styles and unforgettable performances.

  • Eddie Murphy: A multi-talented entertainer who rose to fame on “Saturday Night Live” and starred in numerous hit films.
  • Whoopi Goldberg: An acclaimed actress and comedian known for her sharp wit and social commentary.
  • Dave Chappelle: A controversial yet influential comedian who pushes boundaries with his thought-provoking humor.

The Rising Stars

These newer comedians are making their mark on the comedy world, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative styles.

  • Tiffany Haddish: A breakout star known for her infectious energy and hilarious storytelling.
  • Kevin Hart: A prolific comedian and actor known for his self-deprecating humor and high-energy performances.
  • Issa Rae: A multi-hyphenate creator who rose to fame with her web series “Awkward Black Girl” and HBO’s “Insecure.”

Top 10 Black Comedians of All Time

RankComedianNotable Works
1Richard PryorLive on the Sunset Strip, The Richard Pryor Show, Stir Crazy
2Eddie MurphyDelirious, Raw, Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop, Dolemite Is My Name
3Redd FoxxSanford and Son, The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, Harlem Nights
4Dave ChappelleChappelle’s Show, Killin’ Them Softly, Sticks & Stones
5Whoopi GoldbergThe Color Purple, Ghost, Sister Act, The View
6Bill CosbyThe Cosby Show, I Spy, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Himself
7Bernie MacThe Bernie Mac Show, Ocean’s Eleven, Bad Santa, The Original Kings of Comedy
8Steve HarveyThe Steve Harvey Show, The Original Kings of Comedy, Family Feud
9Chris RockBigger & Blacker, Bring the Pain, Everybody Hates Chris, Top Five
10Martin LawrenceMartin, Bad Boys, Big Momma’s House, Life

Key Takeaways

  • Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chappelle are key figures in Black comedy.
  • Dick Gregory used comedy to address social issues in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Modern comedians like Kevin Hart and Katt Williams thrive with unique styles.

The Top 50 Black Comedians Ever (Complete List)

RankComedianNotable Works
1Richard PryorLive on the Sunset Strip, The Richard Pryor Show, Stir Crazy
2Eddie MurphyDelirious, Raw, Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop, Dolemite Is My Name
3Redd FoxxSanford and Son, The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, Harlem Nights
4Dave ChappelleChappelle’s Show, Killin’ Them Softly, Sticks & Stones
5Whoopi GoldbergThe Color Purple, Ghost, Sister Act, The View
6Bill CosbyThe Cosby Show, I Spy, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Himself
7Bernie MacThe Bernie Mac Show, Ocean’s Eleven, Bad Santa, The Original Kings of Comedy
8Steve HarveyThe Steve Harvey Show, The Original Kings of Comedy, Family Feud
9Chris RockBigger & Blacker, Bring the Pain, Everybody Hates Chris, Top Five
10Martin LawrenceMartin, Bad Boys, Big Momma’s House, Life
11Flip WilsonThe Flip Wilson Show
12Dick GregoryPolitical satire, social commentary
13Moms MableyStand-up comedy, comedic acting
14Wanda SykesThe Upshaws, Curb Your Enthusiasm
15Tiffany HaddishGirls Trip, The Last O.G.
16Leslie JonesSaturday Night Live, Ghostbusters
17Mo’NiqueThe Parkers, Precious
18Kevin HartJumanji, Ride Along
19Tracy Morgan30 Rock, The Last O.G.
20Keegan-Michael KeyKey & Peele
Key & Peele
Key & Peele – Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/79383703@N08/14251051872
RankComedianNotable Works
21Jordan PeeleKey & Peele, Get Out, Us, Nope
22Robin ThedeA Black Lady Sketch Show
23Tim MeadowsSaturday Night Live, Mean Girls
24Paul MooneyChappelle’s Show writer, stand-up comedian
25GodfreyStand-up comedian, actor
26Katt WilliamsStand-up comedian, actor
27Cedric the EntertainerThe Original Kings of Comedy, The Neighborhood
28D.L. HughleyThe Original Kings of Comedy, The Hughleys
29Mike EppsNext Friday, Resident Evil franchise
30Bill BellamyDef Comedy Jam, How to Be a Player
31Tommy DavidsonIn Living Color, The Proud Family
32SommoreThe Queens of Comedy, Soul Plane
33LuenellBorat Subsequent Moviefilm, Dolemite Is My Name
34EarthquakeStand-up comedian, actor
35Deon ColeBlack-ish, Grown-ish
36Yvonne OrjiInsecure
37Gina YashereBob Hearts Abishola, stand-up comedian
38Trevor NoahThe Daily Show
39Loyiso GolaLate Nite News with Loyiso Gola
40BasketmouthStand-up comedian, actor
41David A. ArnoldStand-up comedian, writer
42Hannibal BuressBroad City, stand-up comedian
43Jerrod CarmichaelThe Carmichael Show, Rothaniel
44Ronny ChiengThe Daily Show, Crazy Rich Asians
45Michelle ButeauAlways Be My Maybe, stand-up comedian
46Sam JaySaturday Night Live writer, stand-up comedian
47Patti HarrisonShrill, I Think You Should Leave
48Dulce SloanThe Daily Show
49Roy Wood Jr.The Daily Show
50Lil Rel HoweryGet Out, Free Guy

Trailblazers of Comedy

Richard Pryor changed stand-up comedy. His raw, real-life stories connected with many. Pryor starred in movies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Moms Mabley paved the way with her unique style and humor. Known as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she broke barriers for women in comedy.

Bill Cosby made history with The Cosby Show. His family-friendly jokes reached television screens across America. Cosby also performed on Saturday Night Live. Whoopi Goldberg wowed audiences with her diverse talents. She starred in Sister Act and won awards for The Color Purple.

Dick Gregory was a pioneer. His comedy highlighted racial issues during the Civil Rights Movement. Gregory’s humor tackled tough topics, making people both laugh and think. Flip Wilson brought joy with The Flip Wilson Show. His characters and sketches made him a star.

Redd Foxx, famous for Sanford and Son, showed a different side of comedy. His TV show was loved by many. Foxx’s stand-up work also remains influential. Moms Mabley, Flip Wilson, and Dick Gregory each made unique contributions.

Pryor’s influence spread far beyond stand-up. Goldberg’s work in movies and television kept her in the spotlight. Each comedian left a lasting legacy in their own way. Richard Pryor’s approach to comedy inspired many.

Flip Wilson and Redd Foxx made history on television. These trailblazers set new standards. They opened doors for future comedians by breaking down barriers. Each person mentioned above holds a significant place in the history of comedy.

Modern Masters of Stage and Screen

Modern Black comedians have gained widespread acclaim through influential stand-up specials, TV shows, and significant crossover success in film. They entertain audiences with humor while addressing important topics.

Influential Stand-Up Specials and TV Shows

Dave Chappelle’s stand-up specials, like those on Netflix, have set a high bar. They blend sharp wit with commentary on social issues. Chappelle’s work on Chappelle’s Show remains iconic.

Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain and The Chris Rock Show also stand out. Kevin Hart, with his relatable humor, has produced hit specials and starred in major productions. Tiffany Haddish gained fame with Def Comedy Jam and The Last O.G.. In Living Color and The Cosby Show launched the careers of many comedic talents, including Jamie Foxx and Martin Lawrence.

Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor both set the stage for many who followed. Their work continues to influence today’s comedians.

Crossover Success in Film

Kevin Hart transitioned smoothly to film. His roles in Jumanji and Ride Along made him a household name. Eddie Murphy is another standout, known for Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. Murphy’s portrayal in The Nutty Professor showcased his range.

Tiffany Haddish made waves in Hollywood with Girls Trip. Chris Tucker, famous for Rush Hour, and Whoopi Goldberg, with classics like Sister Act and The Color Purple, have had lasting impacts.

Jamie Foxx’s role in Ray won him an Academy Award. His performances in Dreamgirls and Collateral demonstrate his versatility. Martin Lawrence, famous for Bad Boys, and Cedric the Entertainer, with works like Barbershop, also exemplify this crossover success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn about the influential black comedians in stand-up history, the most notable specials, leading female talents, and more.

Who are considered the pioneers of black stand-up comedy?

Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx are often seen as pioneers. Richard Pryor is celebrated for his raw and authentic style. Redd Foxx paved the way with his bold and groundbreaking comedy.

Which black comedians have the most influential stand-up specials?

Richard Pryor’s “Live on the Sunset Strip” and Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” are two highly influential specials. Dave Chappelle’s “Killing Them Softly” also left a lasting impact.

Who are the leading black female comedians in the comedy industry?

Mo’Nique and Whoopi Goldberg stand out. Mo’Nique has won several awards while Whoopi Goldberg is known for her versatile talent in comedy and acting.

What black comedians have the highest number of accolades and awards for their comedy?

Eddie Murphy and Kevin Hart have received numerous accolades. Eddie Murphy’s work in film and stand-up earned him many awards. Kevin Hart’s sell-out tours and successful specials brought him critical acclaim.

Which black comedians have had the greatest impact on the comedy scene?

Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle have significantly influenced comedy. Richard Pryor broke barriers with his storytelling. Dave Chappelle’s provocative humor and social commentary continue to impact audiences.

Who are some of the most critically acclaimed black comedians in recent years?

Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish have received critical acclaim in recent years. Kevin Hart’s energetic style and Tiffany Haddish’s breakout performances made them standouts.