The 10 Funniest Classic Black Comedies
There are tons of hilarious Black movies. They’ve made three of the Barbershop movies, Kevin Hart can’t seem to stay out of theaters, and we could rattle off an endless array of Eddie Murphy quotes from films. But what are the best? What are the movies that you can’t go to any BBQ or hair salon without hearing quotes and references? There are almost too many to consider, but we whittled it down to ten. These are our picks for the funniest Black comedies of all time, And if you want to catch some hilarious TV tonight, tune into Nick Cannon’s Wild 'N Out tonight at 10PM as part of MTV’s Throwdown Thursdays lineup. Then get ready for more laughs with Joking Off with host DeRay Davis, followed by Kingin’ with Tyga at 11PM.
10. The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
Directed by Spike Lee
Is it cheating to put a stand-up concert film on the list? It shouldn’t be — because this is a comedy classic. Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, and D.L. Hughley each showcase their skills as four of the most successful black comics in the business circa 2000 and it’s easy to see why they’d gained their reputations. Harvey and his countrified cracks on the audience serves as host, with Ced offering his musings on the lost art of dance and black guys in hockey. D.L. rants about the dangers of firing white people — and Bernie Mac chastises his sister’s kids in one of the film’s most hilariously inappropriate bits— and one that eventually made him a star.
9. Car Wash (1976)
Directed by Michael Schultz
The premise is as simple as classic comedy gets: Go to a specific workplace and watch all of the screwball characters. The workplace is, of course, a car wash — and the characters are as screwball as they come: Disgruntled Abdullah aka Duane (Bill Duke), Sly the bookie played by Garrett Morris, Richard Pryor’s shady evangelist, George Carlin’s cab driver, Antonio Fargas as the cross-dressing Lindy, lovestruck prostitute Marleen, the overweight Hippo and the penny-pinching boss, Mr. B. It all feels like a loose, amiable romp for everyone involved — part of the movie’s charm is how much fun it seems like everyone had while making it.
8. Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
Directed by Sidney Poitier
Steve Jackson and Wardell Franklin find themselves on a most unexpected misadventure after thieves steal a wallet with Jackson’s (Sidney Poitier) winning lottery ticket in it. The duo wind up working with gangster Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Belafonte) to get what’s theirs in one of the ’70s most hilarious movies. The movie is a funny showcase for Bill Cosby (obviously a bittersweet fact nowadays) and showed audiences a lighter side of straight man Poitier. Add appearances by Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor and it’s easy to see why it worked so well. Poitier and Cosby went back to the well in two more films, Let’s Do It Again and A Piece of the Action.
7. Life (1999)
Directed by Ted Demme
Martin Lawrence had become one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1990s, so when he teamed up with Eddie Murphy for this ambitious story about two wrongly convicted frenemies serving life sentences in a Depression-era prison, fans were understandably excited. They weren’t disappointed; as Life is arguably the funniest post-1995 Murphy movie, and Lawrence’s funniest film ever, with hilarious supporting performances from Anthony Anderson and the late Bernie Mac.
6. Harlem Nights (1989)
Directed by Eddie Murphy
After the success of hits like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America Eddie Murphy had enough Hollywood clout to direct his own film. While famously panned by critics when it was released, Harlem Nights has become one of the most beloved and quoted black comedies of all time. Set in 1920s Harlem, the story follows two club owners (Murphy and the legendary Richard Pryor) as they try to out-hustle a Mafioso and a crooked cop who are attempting to extort their business. With a cast of comedy legends including Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Robin Harris, and Arsenio Hall, Harlem Nights is a heartfelt ode to African American comedy — and, with its setting, a love letter to an under-acknowledged era in African American culture.
5. Hollywood Shuffle (1988)
Directed by Robert Townsend
Spike Lee’s ambitious Bamboozled may have satirized Hollywood racism in the 2000s, but Robert Townsend’s indie masterpiece got most of the point across better more than a decade earlier. Townsend’s first film was famously financed via credit cards, and with some help from his friend Keenen Ivory Wayans, he took aim at Tinseltown’s marginalization of black talent and stereotyping of black characters. The movie follows struggling black actor Bobby Taylor as he attempts to navigate the industry while sprinkling in brilliant sketches like “Black Acting School” and a racist casting call with nothing but Eddie Murphy impersonators.
4. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988)
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans
Blaxploitation films were long dead by the time Keenen Ivory Wayans released his debut film, but the genre still loomed large in black culture and it was ripe for parody. The funnyman wrote and starred in this hilarious spoof, ’70s genre veterans Bernie Casey, Jim Brown, Antonio Fargas, and Isaac Hayes. The jokes are silly and laugh-out-loud funny; from Clarence Williams III as a pro-black militant shop owner with a white family (spot that Eve Plumb aka Jan Brady cameo) to Kung Fu Joe’s (the late Steve James) ill-fated "showdown" with the police and Chris Rock’s classic “one rib” scene. Who doesn’t know this movie?
3. House Party (1990)
Directed by Reginald Hudlin
Teen movies defined a large segment of 1980s pop culture, but John Hughes’ flicks like Sixteen Candles and Weird Science didn’t do much for black kids looking to see themselves and their experiences onscreen. In 1990, the Hudlin brothers released a modest little coming-of-age film starring pop rap act Kid ’N Play that gave America a look at black youth culture circa 1990 vis-a-vis high school, sex, racist cops, and rap battles. The entire film takes place in one day, with Kid hilariously attempting to make it to Play’s big party — all while ducking bullies, police, and his Pops (the late, great Robin Harris.)
2. Friday (1995)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
In the early 1990s “hood movies” were in vogue for Hollywood. But it took a sleepy stoner flick set in South Central to remind filmgoers that the hood wasn’t just a breeding ground for tragedy — there’s so much hilarity that can take place just hanging around the neighborhood on a lazy afternoon. Ice Cube’s first comedy turned out to be a ’90s classic, with Chris Tucker delivering a star-making performance as his hyperactive-yet-perpetually-stoned partner, Smokey. It’s the movie that gave birth to a thousand catchphrases, from “You got KNOCKED THE F--- OUT!” to the evergreen “Bye, Felicia!”
1. Coming To America (1988)
Directed by John Landis
It might be the funniest movie of all time. Eddie Murphy was at the peak of his powers in this classic John Landis-directed comedy. The story, about a wide-eyed prince of Zamunda who ventures to Queens, N.Y. to find a suitable bride, gave the SNL alum plenty of room to play a host of hilarious characters, including wisecracking Clarence the barber, his long-suffering Jewish patron Saul, and mediocre lounge singer Randy Watson. With Murphy’s pal Arsenio Hall riding shotgun, Coming to America perfectly skewers black culture circa the late ’80s and is as quotably funny the 1000th time you’ve seen it as it was the first time.
Check out new episodes of Wild ’N Out, Joking Off and Kingin’ With Tyga tonight on MTV at 10/9c. Here’s a sneak peak at tonight’s episode.