Lincoln University alumnus Langston Hughes published the novel "Not Without Laughter" in 1930. He knew that there was nothing like a little humor to help you forget your problems and relax. And there are plenty of times college students need to forget their problems and relax...Perhaps that's why HBCUs have produced dozens of successful comedians through the years. Many began performing at their school's talent shows, some were the opening act for a Homecoming performer, a few even coordinated their own comedy shows on campus. Whatever road they took, these HBCU alumni have been making people laugh on stages across the country.
(Please note some videos contain strong language)
Comedienne Rita Brent attended Tougaloo College before graduating from Jackson State University. She has appeared on Comedy Central and truTV; toured with the Rickey Smiley & Friends comedy group; written and performed in commercials; opened for Cedric the Entertainer, Bill Bellamy and Lavell Crawford; and headlined at the Apollo Theater Comedy Club in New York City.
Denmark Technical College alum J Anthony Brown is a comedian, actor and radio personality. He received the Peabody Award and the NAACP Image Award. He has performed on Vibe, Def Comedy Jam, It’s Showtime at the Apollo, An Evening at the Improv and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and had recurring roles on Moesha, Living Single and The Parenthood, as well as guest spots on The Parkers and Sparks. For 20 years Brown appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show before moving to the Steve Harvey Show.
Brown has taken the stage at many venues across the country, but continues to perform at colleges. According to his website, his excitement for performing at universities stems from his love for his alma mater, Stillman College. He began his career as a comedian is freshman year and continued to mastering his craft throughout college. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications he became a professional comedian.
In 2009 comedienne Kelly Kelz moved her family to New York City to pursue a career in comedy. Since then she has been performing comedy shows all over the nation, appeard on HBO’s 'All Def Comedy Jam' and starred in the movie 'Role Play' which can be seen on Amazon Prime.
Prior to becoming a comedian, Loni Love was an electrical engineer. She was the runner-up on Star Search 2003 and in 2009 was named among the "Top 10 Comics to Watch" by Variety and Comedy Central. She is one of the co-hosts of the daytime talk show 'The Real.'
Comedian, actor, and member of the original Saturday Night Live cast, Morris studied at Dillard University and received a degree in voice and composition.
Jonathan Slocumb is a pioneer in profanity-free, church-oriented, stand-up comedy. He was an AT&T account representative who emceed gospel concerts in Atlanta and made people laugh. His gospel–friendly humor led to hosting for other groups on the weekends; including one gig with fellow Oakwood alumni, Take 6. Since then he has played in the Tyler Perry film “Meet The Browns" and had a recurring role on the “The Steve Harvey Show" and he’s hosted the NAACP Image Awards and the Stellar Awards.
Comedienne and actress, Sommore, who studied business administration at Morris Brown, is one of the stars of the 'Queens of Comedy' with fellow HBCU alumna Mo'Nique. She has appeared on various shows including HBO's 'Def Comedy Jam', 'Showtime at the Apollo', 'ComicView', and 'BET Live from L.A'. She can be seen in several movies including 'Soul Plane', 'A Miami Tail', 'Friday After Next', and 'Something New'.
Wanda Sykes earned a degree in Marketing before embarking on a highly successful career as a comedic writer, comedienne and actress. She won a Primetime Emmy Award for her work as a writer on The Chris Rock Show, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1999. She has been named on of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly. Sykes is also known for her roles on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, and ABC's Black-ish. She has appeared in numerous films including Monster-in-Law and Evan Almighty and gave voice to characters in animated films including Ice Age and Barnyard.
Joe Torry rose to fame as the host of Russell Simmon's 'Def Comedy Jam.' Prior to that he had roles in movies like 'House Party' and 'Strictly Business' and appeared on television shows including E.R. and NYPD Blue. Torry is also an author and producer. He earned his degree in Mass Communications and Broadcast Journalism.
The multi-talented Kym Whitley is a comedian, actress, director, radio personality, author and activist.
Her television roles include 'The Parkers', 'Master of None,' 'Young and Hungry' and a docu-series, 'Raising Whitley' on OWN. She has been nominated for a BET Award and a Daytime Emmy Award. Whitley was also one of the personalities on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
Wood, who finished 3rd in 2010 on NBC's 'Last Comic Standing,' began his career in radio as a morning news reporter in Tallahassee, occasionally filling in for the station's comedian. After college, he returned home to Birmingham, working as the head writer/producer for the Buckwilde Morning Show (WBHJ 95.7 JAMZ). He has served as a correspondent for 'The Daily Show' on Comedy Central since 2015.
Published, December 2020