On this day in comedy on April 4, 1968, Comedian, Writer, James Hannah was born in Chicago, IL
James Hannah was a writer’s writer. He left his native Chicago after a stint as quality control monitor for All Jokes Aside, Chicago’s premier black comedy club. James would listen to each act and then offer notes to improve that performer’s set. Whether they liked it or not most comedians tried his tweaks and found that James Hannah knew comedy. Once he’d established himself as a joke doctor he took his skills to Hollywood beginning as a staff writer for The Steve Harvey Show and from there the dominoes fell: My Wife & Kids, Cedric the Entertainer Presents, Chris Rock’s, Never Scared, Weekends at the DL and Tyler Perry’s, House of Payne as well as penning material for some of the top comedians in the industry.
Hannah was also a comedian’s comedian. His lists of credits include, Def Comedy Jam, Comic View, Bad Boys of Comedy, Laffapolooza, One Mic Stand and Martin Lawrence’s First Amendment. He was a yardstick and an uncompromising comedy personality. His Truthpaste on social media was an immediate hit as James sounded off on subjects many would go nowhere near. He was bold, fearless and scathing.
James Hannah’s influence was evident in his era. Many Chicago comedians, such as Deon Cole credit Hannah with getting them into comedy by example and in some cases by writing out their first successful bits and teaching them the art. His work ethic was legendary. While most staff writers pander to series stars, James would tell them that they were not funny and then show them how to be. He was a blunt, brutally honest, unparalleled humor mechanic.
James Hannah died from an aneurysm on February 10, 2014, but his comedic phrasings will live on forever.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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