Laughter transcends boundaries. For decades, Black comedians have harnessed the power of humor to challenge societal norms, provide new perspectives, and push culture forward. When marginalized voices struggled to be heard, these comedic pioneers got the world to start listening through the unifying force of comedy.

From comedy legends like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx breaking new ground in the 1960s to modern icons like Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chappelle, Black comedians have played an integral role in the evolution of comedy. Their humor confronts complex social issues head-on while bringing people together through pure entertainment.

This list pays tribute to 20 of the funniest Black comedians who have left an indelible imprint on the comedic landscape. More than just humor, their work has pushed boundaries, shaped culture, and demonstrated comedy’s ability to be both universal, as well as, a vehicle for change. From unforgettable stand-up sets to scene-stealing skits, these comedians have not only brought the laughs but also made their mark on history. Here are the top 20 most influential Black comedians to look out for.

20. Jerrod Carmichael

Jerrod Carmichael is a talented American comedian, actor and writer known for his thought-provoking humor and insightful commentary on various societal and personal topics. He embarked on his comedy career in the early 2010s, quickly gaining recognition for his stand-up performances marked by a calm, introspective style. Carmichael’s approach to comedy is characterized by its intellectual depth and willingness to tackle controversial subjects.

Carmichael’s stand-up specials, such as Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store (2014) and Jerrod Carmichael: 8 (2017), received critical acclaim for their honesty and social commentary. He is also known for creating and starring in the semi-autobiographical sitcom The Carmichael Show (2015-2017), which earned praise for addressing topics like race, religion and politics with humor and authenticity. His career has continued to evolve, with acting roles in films like Neighbors (2014) and Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), showcasing his versatility as a performer and solidifying his place as an influential voice in modern comedy.

19. Aisha Tyler

Aisha Tyler is a versatile Black comedian, actor, writer and television host who has made her mark in various facets of the entertainment industry. She began her comedy career in the mid-1990s, performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco and honing her skills with sharp and relatable humor. Tyler’s stand-up often explores topics like relationships, everyday life and her experiences as a Black woman, all of which are delivered with intelligence and wit.

Aisha Tyler’s career expanded to include acting, and she became known for her roles in television series like Friends and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She also voiced the character Lana Kane in the animated series Archer. Additionally, Tyler is recognized for her work as a television host, including co-hosting The Talk from 2011 to 2017, where she added her unique comedic flair to daytime television. Her comedic talents, versatility and engaging personality have made her a respected and influential figure in both the comedy and entertainment worlds.

18. Katt Williams

Katt Williams is a prolific and controversial Black comedian and actor known for his rapid-fire delivery, sharp social commentary and colorful personality. He began his comedy career in the 1990s, performing at open mic nights and small clubs. Williams’ comedy often explores themes of race, urban life and societal issues with a mix of witty wordplay and unfiltered humor. His early stand-up work garnered attention, and he soon became known for his energetic and animated stage presence.

Katt Williams gained national recognition with appearances on BET’s ComicView and Def Comedy Jam. His breakout moment came with the release of his HBO special, Katt Williams: Pimp Chronicles, Pt. 1 (2006), which earned critical acclaim and showcased his ability to tackle provocative subjects with humor. Williams continued to release successful comedy specials like Katt Williams: It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’ (2008) and Katt Williams: Kattpacalypse (2012), cementing his status as a significant figure in stand-up comedy. Despite facing legal and personal challenges, his unique brand of comedy and fearless approach to tackling social issues have made him a polarizing yet influential figure in the comedy world.

17. Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress is a Black comedian, actor and writer known for his deadpan delivery and sharp observational humor. He began his comedy career in the early 2000s, performing in Chicago’s burgeoning comedy scene. Buress’ stand-up routines often delve into everyday situations, personal anecdotes and social commentary, delivered with a laid-back and somewhat detached demeanor that has become his trademark. His early work garnered attention in the comedy world, and he continued to rise through the ranks with appearances on late-night talk shows, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.

Buress gained widespread recognition with a viral video clip of his stand-up routine in 2014, in which he addressed allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. This moment sparked a nationwide conversation and significantly raised Buress’ profile. Since then, he has released multiple stand-up specials, including Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado (2016) and Hannibal Buress: Miami Nights (2020), and appeared in numerous films and television shows. His witty and thought-provoking comedy continues to resonate with audiences, making him a respected figure in the comedy world.

16. Cedric the Entertainer

Cedric the Entertainer, or Cedric Antonio Kyles, is a highly respected Black comedian, actor and producer known for his charismatic stage presence and hilarious stand-up comedy. He began his comedy career in the 1980s, performing in various comedy clubs in his hometown of St. Louis. Cedric’s comedy style is marked by his relatable humor, insightful observations about everyday life, and his distinctive, laid-back delivery. Similarly to some of his peers, his comedic talent caught the attention of a broader audience when he appeared on Def Comedy Jam in the early 1990s.

Cedric’s career skyrocketed when he joined the cast of The Steve Harvey Show in the late 1990s, where he played the lovable character Cedric Jackie Robinson. The show was a hit, and Cedric’s performance earned him widespread recognition. He further solidified his status as a comedy icon when he was featured in the Kings of Comedy tour and subsequent film. This tour and film became a cultural phenomenon, and Cedric the Entertainer’s contribution to the show highlighted his talent for delivering side-splitting humor with charm and charisma.

15. Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan is a highly acclaimed Black comedian and actor known for his distinctive brand of humor and memorable characters. He began his comedy career in the 1990s, performing stand-up comedy in New York City’s comedy clubs. Morgan’s comedic style is characterized by his energetic delivery, bold storytelling and often absurd and unpredictable humor. His rise to fame came with his stint on SNL, where he was a cast member from 1996 to 2003, contributing to the show’s iconic sketches and characters.

Tracy Morgan’s success on SNL paved the way for a thriving career in television and film. He is best known for his role as Tracy Jordan on the popular TV series 30 Rock (2006-2013), which earned him critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. Morgan has also appeared in various films, including The Longest Yard (2005) and Cop Out (2010), showcasing his talent for both comedy and acting. Despite facing significant health challenges after a car accident in 2014, he made a triumphant return to stand-up comedy and television with projects like Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive (2017) and the TBS series The Last O.G. His resilience and enduring comedic talent have solidified his status as a beloved and influential figure in the comedy world.

14. D.L. Hughley

D.L. Hughley is a successful Black comedian, actor and radio host known for his sharp wit, thought-provoking humor and versatile career. He first gained recognition as a stand-up comedian in the Los Angeles comedy scene during the late 1980s. Hughley’s comedy style often delves into subjects like race, politics and family dynamics, offering a unique perspective with a blend of social commentary and personal anecdotes.

Hughley’s career took a significant leap when he joined the groundbreaking comedy tour and documentary The Original Kings of Comedy in 2000, alongside fellow comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac. The tour was a massive success and solidified Hughley’s status as a top-tier comedian. In addition to his stand-up success, he has hosted several radio and television shows, including The DL Hughley Show and CNN Tonight. His influential career continues to thrive, making him a respected figure in the world of comedy and entertainment known for his thought-provoking humor and outspoken views on current events.

13. Mo’Nique

Mo’Nique, born Monique Angela Hicks, is a household name in the world of comedy as well as an actress and television host known for her bold and unapologetic comedic style. She began her comedy career in the late 1980s, performing stand-up comedy in various comedy clubs and theaters. Mo’Nique’s comedy often explores themes of race, gender and relationships, delivered with a distinct and confident delivery. She gained prominence through appearances on comedy shows like Def Comedy Jam and The Parkers, where she played the lead role and showcased her comedic talent.

Mo’Nique’s career reached new heights with her role in the film Precious (2009), where she portrayed the abusive mother of the film’s main character, Precious. Her powerful performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her one of the few stand-up comedians to win an Oscar. Despite her success in acting, Mo’Nique continues to perform stand-up comedy, often addressing social issues and advocating for authenticity and self-love. Her influential career has made her a trailblazer in comedy and acting, known for her fearlessness and commitment to addressing important topics through her work.

12. Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx is a multi-talented entertainer who has made a significant impact in comedy, acting, music and more. He initially gained recognition in the comedy world during the late 1980s and early 1990s as a stand-up comedian. His comedic style was characterized by a mix of sharp wit, impersonations and keen observations about life and culture. Foxx’s comedic talents led to appearances on the sketch comedy show In Living Color, which further showcased his versatility and charisma.

Foxx’s career expanded beyond comedy with his breakthrough role in the biographical film Ray (2004), in which he portrayed legendary musician Ray Charles. His remarkable performance earned him numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor. Jamie Foxx continued to excel in both comedy and acting, starring in successful films like Django Unchained (2012) and Collateral (2004). He has also ventured into music, releasing albums and collaborating with renowned artists. His career is a testament to his immense talent and versatility, making him one of the most respected and accomplished entertainers in Hollywood.

11. Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish is a talented Black comedian, actor and author who has risen to prominence for her infectious humor, compelling storytelling and incredible work ethic. She began her comedy career in Los Angeles during the early 2000s, performing stand-up comedy at local clubs and open mic nights. Haddish’s comedic style often draws from her personal experiences, including her challenging upbringing and life in foster care. Her breakthrough came with her scene-stealing performance in the hit film Girls Trip (2017), which catapulted her to mainstream fame and earned her critical acclaim for her raucous and fearless comedic talent.

Since her breakout role, Tiffany Haddish has continued to shine in the comedy world. She has released a successful stand-up special on Showtime titled Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood (2017), and she has hosted SNL. Haddish’s authenticity, relatable humor and ability to connect with audiences have made her a beloved and respected comedian. She has also expanded her career to include acting roles in films and television, including projects like Night School (2018) and The Last O.G. Her inspiring journey from a challenging upbringing to becoming one of Hollywood’s brightest comedic stars has solidified her as a trailblazer in the industry.

10. Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg is a multi-talented American entertainer known for her extensive and versatile career in comedy, acting and hosting. She first gained prominence as a stand-up comedian in the late 1970s, performing in comedy clubs and theaters. Her comedy often delved into social issues, race and gender, offering a fresh and honest perspective. In 1985, Goldberg’s one-woman Broadway show, The Spook Show, caught the attention of director Mike Nichols. This led to her first major film role in The Color Purple (1985), which earned her an Academy Award nomination.

Goldberg’s career continued to soar, with memorable roles in films like Ghost (1990), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Sister Act (1992) and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). In addition to her acting, she has been a prominent host and co-host on various TV shows, including her iconic seat on The View. Throughout her career, Whoopi Goldberg has used her platform to advocate for social causes, including civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights. Her remarkable talent, humor and commitment to addressing important issues have solidified her status as a respected and influential figure in the world of entertainment.

9. Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes is a talented Black comedian, actor and writer known for her sharp wit, irreverent humor and lovable voice. She began her comedy journey in the late 1980s performing stand-up comedy in clubs and on television. Her comedy often explores themes of race, gender and politics with a unique perspective. Wanda Sykes gained national recognition as a writer and performer on The Chris Rock Show in the late 1990s, which marked the beginning of her rise to comedy stardom.

Sykes’ comedic prowess led to her own HBO comedy specials, including Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied (2003) and Wanda Sykes: I’ma Be Me (2009), which garnered critical acclaim. She is also known for her work as a writer and performer on The New Adventures of Old Christine and for her roles in films like Monster-in-Law (2005) and Evan Almighty (2007). Beyond her entertainment career, Wanda Sykes is openly gay and has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and other social issues. Her fearless approach to comedy and her willingness to address important topics have made her a respected and influential figure in the world of stand-up comedy.

8. Redd Foxx 

Redd Foxx, born John Elroy Sanford on December 9, 1922, was an iconic Black comedian known for his groundbreaking contributions to comedy and his influential career. He began his comedy journey in the 1940s, performing in Black nightclubs and theaters. Foxx’s comedy style was characterized by his quick wit, irreverent humor and a focus on adult-themed content, which challenged societal norms of the time.

Redd Foxx rose to national prominence with his role as Fred G. Sanford on the hit television series Sanford and Son, which aired from 1972 to 1977. The show was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a working-class Black family and became a significant part of American television history. Foxx’s portrayal of the cantankerous yet lovable junk dealer earned him critical acclaim and a broad fan base. His comedic talents extended beyond television to include stand-up comedy, comedy albums and appearances in films and nightclubs. Redd Foxx’s contributions to comedy continue to be celebrated, and he remains an influential figure in the world of entertainment.

7. Martin Lawrence

Martin Lawrence is a prominent Black comedian, actor and producer whose comedy career has spanned several decades. He began his comedy journey in the late 1980s, performing stand-up comedy in various clubs before gaining recognition as the host of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. His stand-up routines often touched on topics like relationships, family and his own life experiences, showcasing his unique blend of physical humor and witty storytelling.

Martin Lawrence’s career expanded further with the launch of his hit sitcom, Martin, which aired from 1992 to 1997. Lawrence played multiple characters in the show, earning him widespread acclaim for his comedic versatility. Lawrence’s successful transition from stand-up comedy to television and film included roles in popular movies such as Bad Boys (1995) and Big Momma’s House (2000). Throughout his career, he has maintained his reputation as a charismatic and influential comedian, continuing to perform stand-up and entertain audiences with his infectious humor and dynamic stage presence.

6. Bernie Mac 

Bernie Mac was a beloved Black comedian and actor whose comedy career was characterized by his unique style, unfiltered humor and memorable stage presence. He initially gained recognition on the stand-up comedy circuit in Chicago during the 1970s and 1980s, honing his craft with a blend of storytelling and blunt observations about life, family and relationships. 

Bernie Mac’s breakthrough came in the late 1990s when he was featured in the Kings of Comedy tour and subsequent concert film alongside fellow comedians Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer. His set, which delved into the challenges of parenting and his no-nonsense approach to discipline, resonated with audiences and catapulted him to wider fame.

Mac’s success in stand-up comedy led to a television career, notably with his own sitcom, The Bernie Mac Show, which ran from 2001 to 2006. The show, based on his own life, earned critical acclaim and showcased his talents as both a comedian and an actor. Bernie Mac’s comedy was marked by his raw honesty and the ability to find humor in everyday situations, making him a beloved figure in the world of comedy until his passing in 2008. His impact on the industry and his ability to connect with audiences through his humor continue to be celebrated and remembered.

5. Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart is a renowned Black comedian, actor and producer who has achieved remarkable success in the world of comedy and entertainment. He first gained recognition through his stand-up comedy performances, where he often humorously shared personal anecdotes and observations about his life and experiences. Hart’s breakthrough came with the release of his stand-up specials, particularly I’m a Grown Little Man (2009) and Laugh at My Pain (2011), which garnered widespread acclaim and established him as a major comedic talent. His relatable humor, energetic stage presence and ability to connect with diverse audiences propelled him to stardom.

Beyond stand-up, Kevin Hart’s career expanded into acting with roles in various films, including Think Like a Man (2012), Ride Along (2014) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017). Hart’s comedy often incorporates themes of self-deprecation and resilience, drawing from his own life experiences and his “short king” stature. His talent, work ethic and dedication to his craft have made him one of the most popular and influential comedians and entertainers in the world today.

4. Chris Rock

Chris Rock has carved out an illustrious comedy career marked by sharp wit and fearless social commentary. Emerging from the New York City stand-up circuit in the 1980s, he quickly rose to prominence as a cast member on SNL in the early ’90s, where his versatile comedic talent shone. Rock’s stand-up specials, particularly Bring the Pain (1996), catapulted him to stardom with their candid and insightful take on race, politics and society, setting a new standard for modern comedy. His ability to tackle tough subjects with humor and intelligence has made him a revered figure in the world of stand-up.

In addition to his stand-up success, Chris Rock has ventured into film with roles in notable movies like Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and The Longest Yard (2005), demonstrating his ability to transition seamlessly from stage to screen. He also created and produced the acclaimed TV series Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009), based on his own childhood experiences. 

Throughout his career, Rock’s comedic legacy has been marked by awards, critical acclaim and a dedication to provoking thought while delivering laughter, solidifying his status as one of the most influential comedians of his generation. And no, this does not include the slap.

3. Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle is an iconic Black comedian, actor, writer and producer known for his fearless and thought-provoking humor. He began his comedy career in the early 1990s performing stand-up comedy in New York City. Chappelle’s comedic style is characterized by his sharp social commentary, astute observations and a willingness to tackle complex and controversial subjects with wit and insight. His breakout moment came with his own sketch comedy show, Chappelle’s Show, which aired from 2003 to 2006. The show, known for its boundary-pushing humor and memorable characters, became a cultural phenomenon and solidified Chappelle as a comedy legend.

Dave Chappelle’s stand-up specials, such as Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly (2000) and Dave Chappelle: Equanimity (2017), have received critical acclaim and are celebrated for their unflinching exploration of race, politics and society. Chappelle’s ability to use humor to provoke thought while maintaining his signature irreverence has made him a revered figure in comedy. He continues to be a prolific performer, drawing audiences with his wit, authenticity and unique perspective on the world.

2. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is a legendary Black comedian, actor, writer and producer who has had an exceptional and influential career in comedy and entertainment. He began his comedy career as a teenager, performing stand-up in New York City’s comedy clubs during the late 1970s. Murphy quickly gained recognition for his charisma, impressions and uncanny ability to captivate audiences with his humor. His early success led to him becoming the youngest cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL) at just 19 years old, where he created iconic characters like Gumby, Buckwheat and Mr. Robinson.

Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy specials, including Delirious (1983) and Raw (1987), solidified his status as a comedy superstar. His infectious energy and irreverent humor made him one of the most popular and influential comedians of the 1980s. 

Murphy’s career extended to the big screen, where he starred in blockbuster films such as 48 Hrs. (1982), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), and Coming to America (1988), establishing him as a major Hollywood star. His versatility as an actor, coupled with his exceptional comedic timing, has made him a beloved figure in the world of comedy and entertainment, with a legacy that continues to endure.

1. Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor was a groundbreaking Black comedian, actor and writer whose career revolutionized comedy and left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. He began his stand-up comedy career in the early 1960s, performing in small clubs and theaters. Pryor’s comedy was known for its raw, unfiltered honesty and its fearless exploration of taboo subjects, including race, addiction and personal struggles. His ability to share his own life experiences, often in a brutally honest and self-deprecating manner, resonated with audiences and set a new standard for authenticity in comedy.

Pryor’s career skyrocketed in the 1970s with a series of highly successful comedy albums and concert films, including That N****r’s Crazy (1974) and Live in Concert (1979). His electrifying stage presence and gift for storytelling made him one of the most influential and respected comedians of his generation. Pryor’s work extended to television and film, where he appeared in movies like Stir Crazy (1980) and Silver Streak (1976). His ability to bridge the gap between comedy and social commentary made him a trailblazer, and his impact on comedy continues to influence comedians and entertainers to this day.