Humor has been a form of resistance and a coping mechanism for Black Americans fighting against racial oppression since the days of forced bondage. Or, as the late great paragon of parrhesia Dick Gregory once said, “Laughter is the best way to release tensions and fears.”
To celebrate Black History Month and its people’s commendable and creative capacity to stay sane through levity, TVLine is launching the 28-day content hub, Shades of Funny: How Comedy Is Essential for Black Survival. The digital package affords us the necessary space to honor the legacies and achievements of small-screen comedy greats and their ability to make us laugh and think, create a sense of community and affirm Black humanity.
Kicking off with a list of 20 trailblazers and rising stars making waves in the industry, we salute up-and-coming talent like Quinta Brunson. Her much-discussed sitcom Abbott Elementary offers adept social commentary through a jocular lens and has already made TV network history. And we can’t overlook showrunner Phil Augusta Jackson, whose NBC series Grand Crew serves up refreshing wit and charm (and a deluge of quotable moments).
We also honor the work of trailblazing luminaries such as Redd Foxx, a cutting edge standup comedian-turned-sitcom star, who inspired the likes of Richard Pryor and Jamie Foxx. Whoopi Goldberg’s groundbreaking career, meanwhile, spans decades and has paved the way for many of today’s stars including Tiffany Haddish and Amanda Seales.
Later in the month, we’ll examine several hit shows and lesser known offerings, spotlighting the actors, writers and producers whose game-changing artistry further proves that not only has the revolution been televised, it’s damn funny, too. — Keisha Hatchett and Mekeisha Madden Toby