On this day in comedy on November 6, 2006, Black Comedians on Black Comedy was published by Hall Leonard Corporation & Applause Books.
Authored by Darryl Littleton with an introduction by Dick Gregory, this historical testament chronicles the journey of black comedy in North America. Using a combination of timeline narrative, biographies of prominent figures and quotes from contemporary comedians, the story is told from those who not only studied it, but made it. Over 125 pioneering legends such as Eddie Murphy, Timmie Rogers, Robert Townsend, Marla Gibbs, Arsenio Hall, Bernie Mac, Rudy Ray Moore, John Witherspoon and Chris Rock as well as this generations emerging superstars gave their insights and comedic experiences to this one-of-a-kind comedy celebration.
The story is covered from its inception in Africa. Once slaves were introduced to America, the traditions of African humor made its acquaintance as well. Innuendo, Call & Response, pantomime and other standard devices became staples of American black comedy from the minstrel era, through Reconstruction, the Industrial Revolution, the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of entertainment mediums; radio, film and television as well as the Civil Rights Movement up to the explosion of Hip Hop on the culture. Throughout it all black comedy mirrored the society it inhabited and made sense of it foe the masses.
Black Comedians on Black Comedy became an instant academic hit. Essentially a text book, it was commissioned by libraries around the globe. It went from hard cover to paperback in record time and was added to the curriculum at USC (University of Southern California). In 2007, less than a year after publication, it was adapted as a full length documentary by Codeblack Entertainment entitled Why We Laugh. Directed by Robert Townsend, narrated by Angela Bassett and executive produced by Littleton and Richard Foos, the film, as did the book, uses the formula of oral history to tell not only the story of black comedy, but explore its social and political ramifications. Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Kweisi Mfume, Maxine Waters, Elijah Cummings, Diane Watson, Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West are just some of the politicians and academic pundits featured along with many of the most influential comedians of the modern era.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton