I always say I’m not a huge comedy fan, not because I don’t like comedies, but because most comedies don’t appeal to my particular form of childlike silliness. I do not like mean-spirited (adult) comedies, although I will watch snarky comedies. Some comedies are not funny and just bring out my anxieties. I don’t like comedies where people are horribly embarrassed, or ones that require the characters to be ass-stupid, for the comedy to work.
I don’t usually talk about comedy here, but here are ten comedies, by Black directors, or with entirely Black casts, or that tackle Back themes, that I never seem to get tired of watching.This isn’t nearly a complete list of my favorites. There are always more and maybe I’ll talk about them soon.
House Party (1990)
I was in college when this movie came out, and I prettty much had to enjoy it alone, until I got my Mom to watch it with me one Summer. It stars a big singing duo, back then, named Kid and Play ,and I remember being in awe of Kid’s hairdo at the time. We called it “a hife”, in my neighborhood. I do remember having a ball watching this movie, especially Kid’s father, played by the late great Robin Harris, (who we will talk about again in a minute), who was prone to saying utterly ridiculous things, and the dance sequences. Everything about this movie was very pre-nineties! Also, we’re in a phase of filmmaking, right now, where we are telling stories of pain and struggle, and where movies about carefree teenagers, who are just trying to go to a party, is kind of rare.
The plot is fairly simple, in that its little more than extended chase scenes of Kid trying to get to his best friend’s “party of the year”, after being forbidden to go by his dad. He sneaks out of the house, and has a number of adventures trying to make it there, at least a couple of which involve fighting the bullies who got him grounded, by his dad, in the first place. This is just pure silliness. The kind of adventures Kid gets into don’t even approach logic, in the sense that everything that can go wrong, does, and that’s why I like this so much. These kinds of Black coming of age stories don’t get made often. Sometimes you just want some light, carefree Black characters being silly and there were a few of these in the 90s.
Bebe’s Kids (1992)
I have found people who love to hate on this cartoon, but I will forgive them, because they just don’t understand. This particular cartoon was groundbreaking for its time, as it was one of the first, feature length cartoons, with all Black characters, including the great Robin Harris, who died shortly after filming, so he was voiced by Faizon Love. I had taken some animation courses a couple of years before this was released, and one of the things that impressed audiences, at the time, is the creators used different shades of brown for the various skin tones. This was important because, before Bebe’s Kids, Black characters, no matter how many of them there were in a story, all shared one skin tone. That means they had to create brand new skin tones just for the animation! It also had a famous voice cast in Faizon Love, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and one of the hottest rappers at the time, Tone Loc.
I loved this movie because I thought it was genuinely funny, and the soundtrack was the shizznickle. Robin Harris starred as a character named Robin (natch) who is forced to babysit his neighbors kids, while wooing a young mother he just met, named Jamika. Robin somehow gets roped into taking the entire group, plus Jamika and her son, to a Disney ripoff called Funworld, where Bebe’s kids turn out to b be total brats, who break parts of the theme park, bully Jamika’s son, and get kidnapped by robots. There’s some dancing, and some music, which sounds good, and everything turns out okay by the end, although probably not for Bebe’s kids, who are somewhat neglected by their absent mother. Jamika said something that has always stuck with me, for many years. When Robin thinks to criticize why their mother even bothered to have kids, Jamika reminds him that Bebe didn’t make the children alone, and that their father deserves at least some of the blame.
Most of the humor comes from the side comments all the characters make, Robin’s quick wit, and the incongruity of Tone Loc’s grumbling bass, voicing a tiny, poopy diapered, baby named Peewee!
Black Dynamite (2009)
I grew up watching the Blaxpoitation films of the seventies, (well, a few of them, as some of them were a bit raunchy for a child), and these movies perfectly capture the utter silliness of such movies. I now recognize their importance to Black cinema, but at the time, these movies (just like the Kung Fu movies of the time) just seemed laughably bad. In hindsight, they were just the kinds of movies Black people needed to see at the time, coming off the Black Power Movement. Stories about empowerment, and overcoming systemic racism in the form of “white devils”, and just general ass- kicking. Movies like that also paved the way for the buddy action movies of the 80s ,and 90s, which made the careers of Black actors like Eddie Murphy, and Danny Glover, as Action heroes.
I absolutely love this movie!!! It stars two of my favorite actors, Michael Jai White, and Tommy Davidson. You may remember the roostery Tommy from the show, In Living Color, and Jai White starred in a number of action films himself, and actually has some mad martial skills. It contains all the proper elements of a Blaxploitation movie, like crime, drugs, guns, revenge, secret agents, shady military organizations, and of course, Kung Fu. Its a love letter to those ridiculous films of the 70’s, and probably time for me to watch this again as its been a couple of years.
Rush Hour (1998)
The 90s was when we started to get Action movie duos that did not contain white male characters. Trust me, when I say that this was as groundbreaking as the inter-racial buddy cop movies of the 80s, which was not the first time that Black and white men teamed up in a movie, but the 80s was the heyday for types of films, and the 90s took it up notch by throwing non-white men together as buddies, to see what would catch on, and this movie, along with another favorite of mine, Bad Boys, was what caught. These were blockbuster “Black” movies, with huge budgets, that managed to reach a mainstream audience, and usually starred comedians. Hollywood realized that Jackie Chan was a much beloved actor in the Black community, and teamed him up with one of the hottest comedians of the nineties, Chris Tucker, and Rush Hour was the result.
A huge part of the appeal of this franchise was the chemistry between Jackie and Chris. The plot is the usual formula, where the two start off trying to thwart each other’s goals, but end up working well together towards a common one. Chan stars as a police officer hunting an international criminal, who has kidnapped his boss’s daughter, and Tucker is the American cop assigned to distract him from that job, and let the Americans handle it. This is a genuinely funny movie because Tucker has a knack for saying absolutely ridiculous things.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie. Yes, that is Don Cheadle, kicking ass with Chan, and doing a tremendously funny Black guy’s interpretation of a Kung Fu master (no disrespect intended, y’all, although I’m pretty sure Chinese men no longer where queues.) What is even funnier to me, is the quiet acceptance of this foolery, by his Chinese patrons, as long as he speaks proper Chinese.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
48 Hours gave birth to the buddy /cop film, during the 80’s, which finally just gave way to the Black cop film, starring Eddie Murphy. 48 Hours might have put Eddie on Hollywood’s radar, but Beverly Hills Cop is what made his career, and helped set the stage for the comedian/ buddy/ cop movies of the nineties, a genre of film still going strong today. I like to watch this every few years, and have never gotten tired of it. It goes without saying, that this was made in the 80s, so its not very PC.
Eddie plays Axel, a typical rebel cop, from Detroit, who does nothing in the legal or appointed manner. He travels to Beverly Hills, while hunting down the agents of the drug cartel that killed his best friend. BHC also helped to establish quite a number of tropes of the genre, like the rebel cop who defies orders, has a great wisecrack ready to hand, is especially good at selling a particular brand of bullshit to get their way, and is always getting screamed at by his commanders, and also the soundtrack was kickin’!
This movie won a ton of awards, including the Golden Globe, the Oscar, and the People’s Choice. Once again, Eddie ad to do the work of teaching Hollywood that Black actors could be very successful film leads. It appears Hollywood needs to re-learn this lesson every decade. Every single one!
Amazon Women on The Moon (1987)
This was directed by John Landis, and written by one of the funniest Black writers of the 80’s Robert Townsend. It consists of a bunch of comedy sketches, some connected, some not, to a wider storyline, that poke fun at various movie tropes. There’s no overarching plot, but this sketch here, featuring Don “No Soul” Simmons, is the one that helped make David Alan Grier’s comedy career, and has stuck with me for so long, that I still tease my sister about this today! (Yes, she’s seen this.) But what’s really funny to me, is that I know the words to at least half the songs in his repertoire, and the narrator’s, B.B. King.
The sketches involve nude models, a dating number that checks your blind date’s intimate history, a mystery involving the Loch Ness monster as Jack the Ripper, and the primary sketch, which is a parody of the Women are From Mars theme, from several different fifties movies, called Amazon Women on the Moon, where a bunch of astronauts get kidnapped by moon women, in mini-skirts.
The Nutty Professor (1996)
This isn’t the first time Eddie Murphy played multiple characters in a movie. This is just the culmination of all the work he’s done in that area. He started with the “regular white guy” on SNL, and seemed to get a taste for it, resulting in all of the ridiculously funny characters in this movie.
I really enjoyed this movie, almost as much as I loved the original 1963 Nutty Professor, starring Jerry Lewis. The plot of this newest version loosely follows the original version, in that a rather gentle, timid, and put upon scientist, longs for the girl of his dreams, Miss Purty, and thinks he can win her love by becoming a more confident person, so he creates a potion that brings out his inner asshole, Buddy Love.
Eddie’s version of Buddy is a kinder version of the original, who was toxic masculinity personified. This Buddy is just loudly embarrassing and obnoxious in public spaces. The movie also has a cameo from a baby Dave Chappelle,who meets his match in Buddy, and Jada Pinkett, (Janet Jackson in the sequel), stars as the darling Miss Purty.
You have to watch the movie just for the dinner table scenes, which are the funniest discussions, that any human being has ever had… with themselves.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Robert Townsend helped write Amazon Women on the Moon, but he was also a director in his own right, and had much to say about the stereotypes of Black actors in Hollywood, and the roles they often were assigned to play. This entire movie is a low key parody of what its like to be a Black actor/director in Hollywood. I say low-key because this wasn’t too far off from what it was actually like, and this is still relevant for many other actors of color.
Robert Townsend was also the director of another of my favorite movies from the 80s, that gets an Honorable Mention on this list, Meteor Man, along with The Five Heartbeats, A Soldier’s Story, Undercover Brotha, , and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, both love letters to the Blaxploitation era of film.
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
This movie is a total riot. I was expecting a little more of a dramatic origin story, and it did have some drama, but it also happened to be deeply, deeply funny, with resonant messages in it about taking a leap of faith, and believing in oneself. Below is one of my favorite scenes. I’ve watched this at least a good half dozen times and I have never stopped laughing at this one and a couple of later scenes. The characters, especially Peter Parker’s, and Miles’ relationship, are so well written, that I just like spending time with them.
This is a superhero movie for people who dislike superhero movies. I know I say that a lot, but that really is how they make a lot of these movies. You don’t need to have an entire history, and backstory, of each character to get the humor, or understand the plot, (although the humor is enhanced if you know your Spiderman details, because there are a lot of little Easter eggs, that only a dedicated Spider-fan will probably see.)
Miles Morales, a young Black man who is at odds with his father’s wishes for his future, witnesses the death of the original Peter Parker, after which he gets bitten by a mutated spider, and discovers he is now the new Spiderman. He is daunted by having to live up to the old Spiderman’s reputation, but gets a helping hand from several other Spider -related people, from alternate dimensions. Also, no matter how much I love Miles, my all-time favorite Spiderman will always be Spiderman Noir, as voiced by Nicholas Cage.
And for me, this was the funniest scene in the entire movie:
Bring It On (2000)
I’m not normally a sports or cheerleading movie fan, but this one had Gabrielle Union in it. The first time I watched this was with my two little sisters, who insisted I watch it with them. I didn’t want to at first, but it turned out to be a helluva lot of fun and well worth it. I’ve been a Gaby Union fan ever since. Yes, the movie is about cultural appropriation. We didn’t really have that word at the time, because social media didn’t exist the way it does now, but we knew it when we saw it. Marginalized people still do. Only white people are confused about what it is, insisting on calling it “sharing”.
So yeah, me and my sisters knew that was what the movie was about, but the beauty of the movie is, while the white characters were definitely in the wrong, we walked away from the movie without any great deal of anger at them. Don’t get me wrong ,we weren’t sympathetic, but we didn’t hate them either. That’s a thin line to walk
And the movie is genuinely funny too. Dunst is bouncy, cheery, and oblivious, in that way that Cockerspaniels are, which struck me as incredibly funny, because I’d only ever seen her in dramatic roles. My favorite character though, isn’t even Isis (Union), but the little, unnamed sister on her cheerleading squad who was ready, at all times,, to give anyone and everyone a beatdown, with her lil’ tiny ass. Y’all gotta watch out for them short sistas!
Meteor Man (1993)
Don’t Be A Menace to South Central…While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood (1996)