Black women are funny. Not just when they’re the token on an all white show. Not when they’re the overweight sidekick comic relief or the moral compass to the zany White woman’s crazy life. They’re funny when they don’t have to center white people and their interests, culture, and beliefs for relevance. They’re funny when they’re not required to be social justice teachers for lazy pupils looking for a Black woman to labor for their lack of awareness. They’re funny whether they’re dark skinned, light skinned, loud, sleek, quiet. They’re funny even when they don’t have to code-switch for you to understand them. They’re funny without a Black man to co-sign them and validate their humor.
A year ago, Leslie Jones debuted in Ghostbusters, proving these very words. Now this summer we finally have projects debuting on the big screen that prove black women were conveniently left out of the “women in comedy” renaissance that was championed in the press a couple of years ago. Instead of begging for half-assed inclusion in shows never made for us, they did the work.
Girls Trip: Quick – when’s the last time you saw an ensemble comedy with Black women, filled with jokes catered to us? Or one that featured black female comedians who honed their talents on the stage and given an equal opportunity to display their talents? Girls Trip has been getting rave reviews from audiences tired of mediocre comedies trying to make The Hangover happen yet again. Add in the attempt the film Rough Night made to mimic the magic of Girls Trip (and releasing it almost a month earlier to suggest vice versa) and you know that there’s something special about this movie.
Two words: Tiffany Haddish.
As someone who stanned for Tiffany Haddish from discovering her early stand-up in Youtube, I’m so excited for the rest of the world to take notice. In most reviews for the film, folks are championing the comedy veteran (because let’s be real, most black female comedians are at least ten years deep in the game before they get their first on-screen credit) for stealing scene after scene) as a breath of fresh air. Even director Malcom D. Lee, who auditioned Haddish over Skype, stated
“What we set out to have with this kind of character — you’ve seen it over the years in movies like Zach Galifianakis in ‘The Hangover’ and Melissa McCarthy in ‘Bridesmaids,’” Lee added. “They were just made to do those roles and showcase their talents. I think Tiffany is in that same category.”
Tiffany Haddish reveals that #BlackWomenAreFunnyToo. Black girls are finally getting the chance to become fully formed individuals in comedy that the majority of their predecessors never got the chance to actualize. Hearing Haddish’s story and her humble beginnings masterfully tied into her searing comedic talent demonstrates that there’s a possibility for black female comedians to shine as themselves, be relate-able yet exuberant. All in all, it’s the return of the Black Girl Next Door in comedy, and a welcome return at that.
This effect can also be felt on TV, with the return of Issa Rae’s Insecure. The underrated gem (and imo, a little bit better than recent Emmy nominee Atlanta) returns after a cliffhanger season finale last year, igniting a battle of the sexes that’ll no doubt continue as Issa returns to the dating life. Again, the ability for Black women to be able to be imperfect and still given a shot at redemption is another welcome trope that’s long escaped Black women in comedy. As a black woman, you don’t know how refreshing it is to see female characters that have dialogue I relate to and issues I can understand. Black girls next door connect comedy to the audience, and shows like Insecure give black women in comedy that perfect platform to showcase their comedic brilliance. Comedic actresses like Yvonne Orji and Amanda Seales round out long-slept on comedic actresses who are finally getting the opportunity to become respected comedians in the mainstream through these platforms.
People underestimate how representation matters in comedy. When you shun an entire gender from such a brilliant genre such as black comedy, it shows and it suffers. However, the latter half of the 2010’s had black women showing that their stories weren’t going to continued to be denied. We championed our talents and when Hollywood attempted to regurgitate the same limited scope of female comedy, we demanded stories for us, by us. Black female comedians like Tiffany Haddish and the Insecure cast are finally showing that #BlackWomenAreFunny too, and the days of having us play the back is over.