The comedy world is exploding with the talents of Black women right now. Of course, Black female comedians have always been some of the funniest people on the scene, but these days they’re becoming more and more popular – and we couldn’t be happier to see it.
Wanda Sykes is one of the best-known Black women in the comedy scene today, and we’d best be grateful for that fact. She has been performing stand-up comedy since 1987, though she first rose to prominence in 1999 when she was nominated for an Emmy for her work writing on The Chris Rock Show.
Sykes is also known for her activism, which has focused on various issues, including race, animal rights, and sexuality.
Jackie “Moms” Mabley
Moms Mabley isn’t as much of a known name these days, but she is one of the most important figures in the history of Black female comedy. She was born in 1894 and first became known as a vaudeville performer catering to Black American audiences.
She performed several large-scale stand-up routines in her later years and appeared on television shows like the Ed Sullivan Show.
Saturday Night Live has served as the springboard to fame for several of the comedians on this list, but Leslie Jones is one of the best gifts the show has given to the world so far.
Her talent for bringing a hilariously powerful presence to any performance she appears in has been recognized, leading to her appearance in Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live, and many other comedy outlets.
Mo’nique, A Black Female Comedian
Mo’nique is a whirlwind of talent– she brings excellence to everything she does, whether it’s comedy or acting. She’s a comedian at heart, and she brings that humor to every role she plays.
She got her start in comedy in 1999 on the United Paramount Network sitcom The Parkers, and since then has been performing both comedic and dramatic roles to significant acclaim.
Another Saturday Night Live alumna, Maya Rudolph is a rockstar when it comes to Black women performers. She first appeared on SNL in the year 2000, then stayed there for seven years.
Since then, she has gone on to perform in a wide variety of comedies, taking on roles as distinct as The Judge in the popular television show The Good Place and Daniela Pagura in the Disney-Pixar hit Luca.
The star and creator of HBO’s Insecure, Issa Rae is a power player in Black female comedy. She got started in the 2010s with her YouTube series Awkward Black Girl. The popularity of that show, whose pilot episode has over 2 million views on YouTube, skyrocketed her into the fame that allowed her to create Insecure.
Now, she works promoting other Black artists in comedy, drama, and music.
Nicole Byer, A Black Woman Who Does Comedy
Nicole Byer is a storyteller, a podcaster, a stand-up comedian, and a television host. She’s well known in many circles but perhaps best known for her work as the host of Nailed It!, a Netflix-produced cooking game show that expressly features bad cooks.
Most of her work comes in podcast form, with three weekly podcasts called Why Won’t You Date Me?, Best Friends!, and Newcomers.
Yvette Nicole Brown
If you’ve never seen the 2010s NBC sitcom hit Community, you’re missing out. Yvette Nicole Brown was one of the stars of the show for most of its existence, taking the role of the widely-beloved Shirley Bennett.
Since then, she has persisted in comedic excellence with appearances on Dear White People, Will and Grace, and A Black Lady Sketch Show.
Sommore is a comedian with many names. She’s the “Queen of Comedy,” the “Diva of Contemporary Comedy,” and of course Lori Ann Rambough (her birth name). She’s been performing comedy since the early 90s, and she’s taken the stage on shows as diverse as The Parkers, Wild’N Out, and CNN Headline News.
Luenell Campbell, better known simply by her first name, has been a staple of Black female comedy since the early 1990s. She is known for her performances in Hotel Transylvania, Think Like a Man, Taken 2, and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
She has also appeared in several television shows and kept up a steady stream of stand-up performances.
Jessica Williams got her start in political comedy and has expanded her horizons into comedy and drama of all sorts. She first rose to prominence on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a correspondent, where she was the youngest person ever to join the storied political satire program’s team.
She is also known for two other significant artistic projects – the massively popular 2 Dope Queens podcast, which she hosted with Phoebe Robinson, and The Incredible Jessica James, a romantic comedy film. Most recently, she has appeared in the Fantastic Beasts series as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks.
Tiffany Haddish is a multi-talented comedian and actress who has recently burst onto the scene. Her first claim to fame came from NBC’s The Carmichael Show, a claim which became further cemented by her standout performance in the film Girls Trip.
More recently, she won a Grammy in 2021 for her comedy album Black Mitzvah.
Unlike many of the other comedians on this list, Sherri Shepherd is primarily known for her work as a TV host rather than stand-up or sketch comedy. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t funny– no, she’s been nominated for several Emmy awards for her work as a host on The View and appeared many times as a regular character on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock.
Sasheer Zamata, An African American Female Comedian
Yet another gem from Saturday Night Live, Sasheer Zamata has entertained audiences with her energetic, charming sketch comedy throughout the 2010s. Since departing SNL in 2017, she has continued her comedy work in a series of assorted performances as well as by hosting the podcast Best Friends with Nicole Byer, another of the Black female comedians we’ve listed.
Retta’s comedy is a force on both the sitcom and stand-up scenes. Her biggest “break” so far has been her role as the ever-hilarious local bureaucrat Donna in the hugely popular NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.
She started on that show as a minor character in the first season, but the writers soon saw her comedic prowess for what it was, giving her more and more to work with until she became a fan favorite.
Most recently, she has appeared in the NBC series Good Girls and published a book titled So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know.
Tracee Ellis Ross
Tracee Ellis Ross redefines the meaning of multi-talented. She’s an actress, a comedian, a business owner, a producer, a director, and more.
Her most prominent roles have been in the series Girlfriends and Black-ish, for which she has been nominated for and won a whole host of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.
She also owns and operates a haircare company that caters to natural hair called Pattern Beauty.
It’s very rare that biting political commentary is so effectively paired with relentless positivity, but Amber Ruffin is the exceptional sort of talent that can pull off that balancing act to almost universal acclaim.
She has been honing her unique brand of comedy since 2001, but her more prominent content has been a more recent development with the Amber Ruffin Show’s premiere in 2020. Despite the show’s short-lived existence so far, it has already been nominated for and won a whole slew of awards. Amber Ruffin is a comedian to keep your eye on.
LaWanda Page is another old-school powerhouse of the Black female comedy world. She began her performing career at the young age of 15 as a fire dancer in St. Louis. Her success is especially remarkable because she started performing in 1935, navigating the struggles of both the Great Depression and being a Black woman in the world of the arts.
Regardless, she transitioned from dancing to comedy at a point that isn’t entirely clear to historians, but she soon became a resounding success. She had recorded five stand-up comedy albums by the time 1960 rolled around and ended up performing on a variety of TV sitcoms like Sanford and Son and Sanford Arms.
Marsha Warfield is a primarily TV-based sketch comedian with about 45 years of experience taking on a variety of gut-wrenchingly funny roles like Rosalind “Roz” Russell on Night Court and Dr. Maxine Douglas on Empty Nest.
Most recently, she has appeared on the show 9-1-1 as Antonia “Toni” Hicks.
The undisputed matriarch of the famously talented Wayans family of performers, Kim Wayans lives up to and surpasses the standards of quality put forth by her siblings and children. She has had a success-filled career in the last 30 years, including starring roles in television and film alike.
Her best-known work came from her sketch and impressionist comedy in the TV show In Living Color. Wayans’ recent roles have included roles in A Black Lady Sketch Show and the film Ray Meets Helen.
Loni Love is another one of the wildly multi-talented artists on this list. After starting a career in electrical engineering, she transitioned to one in musical engineering, and that became the springboard for her comedy.
She has taken on an assortment of roles both in performance and hosting, like her position as host of the daytime talk show The Real and her role as Kimberly in the film Mother’s Day.
Another recent shooting star, Michaela Coel is a supernova of comedic and dramatic power. The UK-based artist rocketed to the front of public consciousness in 2015 with her hit sitcom Chewing Gum, which won her a BAFTA for Best Female Comedy Performance.
She then cemented her status as an icon with the HBO miniseries I May Destroy You, which Coel created, executive produced, wrote, and starred in. The show was the most critically-acclaimed program of 2020 according to Metacritic.
Another engineer-turned-comedian, Gina Yashere ventured into the world of comedic performance through stand-up, but her influence has since spread throughout the worlds of comic television, film, and literature.
Her stand-up specials have aired on Comedy Central, she’s a regular correspondent on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and she’s the co-creator and a primary performer of the CBS sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola.
With a Masters in Accounting degree, Jasmine Luv could have made it anywhere – but she decided to dive into the world of online comedy. Since her start in the mid-2010s, she has become a delightfully successful actress, YouTuber, and social media influencer.
Her work in television with roles in Starter Pack and Couples Night is just the beginning of what is sure to be a long and storied comedy career.
Naomi Ekperigin’s comedic success has primarily been as a writer, but her performance also deserves a lot of praise. She was a fan-favorite comic for her performances on Jessica Williams’ 2 Dope Queens, and her appearances on Netflix’s The Standups and Apple TV’s Mythic Quest have earned her a very solid spot in the Black Women in Comedy Hall of Fame.
When you get to 3.5 million followers on Instagram, you know there’s something special going on. LaLa Milan is a rockstar of social media comedy and business alike, with her Instagram comedy videos consistently hitting hundreds of thousands of views and likes. She is also the CEO of the fitness company Fit Girl Bod.
Ashley Nicole Black
Ashley Nicole Black is a delight. Her work on Comedy Central’s Drunk History and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee led her to her current gig as a writer and performer on A Black Lady Sketch Show. Her comedic performance is powerfully genuine and energetic, and her career is definitely going places.
Ellen Cleghorne is another classic paragon of Black female comedy. She was the second Black woman ever to appear on Saturday Night Live, where she performed for four years in the first half of the 1990s.
Since then, she has had her own sitcom called Cleghorne! and has appeared on a variety of shows, including Nickelodeon’s Pete and Pete and the 2018 romantic comedy Second Act/
A voice actress and sketch comedian of significant experience and acclaim, Debra Wilson has been using her voice to bring audiences laughing to the floor since the early 90s. She was the longest-serving original cast member of the famed sketch comedy show MADtv and has voice acted on Boondocks, Family Guy, Avatar, and much more.
The Nigerian-American performer Yvonne Orji is primarily known for her work with another member of this list: Issa Rae of HBO’s Insecure. The pair’s chemistry on screen was a core part of the show’s success, but Orji’s standout energetic performance surpasses Insecure.
She’s also developing a show called First Gen for Disney Plus and is a devout advocate for her Christian faith, authoring the popular book Bamboozled by Jesus.
Sheryl Underwood’s career started with a bang in 1989 when she won the Miller Lite Comedy Search. That would prove to be the first in a long line of awards and contests won, with Underwood’s hilariously powerful performances earning her spots on television shows, movies, and the biggest comedy club stages in the nation.
Now, she is best known for her work hosting the CBS daytime talk show The Talk, which she has been doing since 2011.
London Hughes, A Black British Female Comedian
London Hughes, a British comedian from London, has been active since 2009, bringing a heaping helping of laughs to audiences in the UK and across the world. Her work has been featured prominently on various BBC comedy shows, as well as the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Sophie Duker is a UK-based comedian whose performances and shows have been met with wide success and acclaim. Her controversially political, absurd style has lit up audiences with joy and delight for years now, and her successful career is just getting started.
Adele Givens, A Black Woman Stand Up Comic
Adele Givens has been bringing audiences to tears with her comedy since 1989, when she was the Grand Prize Winner of Chicago’s Crown Royal Comedy Contest. Since then, she has been a staple of the Chicago stand-up scene and appeared on television shows like The Hughleys, The Parkers, The Steve Harvey Show, and more.
Kim Coles has been a staple of TV comedy shows since the year 1990 when she appeared regularly on the sketch show In Living Color. Her gut-busting performances in that position were a stepping stone to a whole bevy of other roles on prominent shows like Frasier, Living Single, and The Geena Davis Show.
Like many women on this list, Niecy Nash is an astounding talent in more ways than most people can count. Her work as a comedian, dramatic actor and television host has led to critical acclaim in nearly every conceivable medium. Her vast talents and popularity have even led to her being recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A controversial performer, to be sure, Wendy Williams is one of the most explosive personalities to command the television screen in the 21st century. Her distinctive combination of charisma and no-holds-barred humor made her daytime talk show both prominent and dominant.
Best Black Female Comedians, Final Thoughts
There’s no better way of spending an afternoon than having the comedic excellence of Black women make us laugh to tears. There are so many incredible talents on the comedy scene today, and we need to keep paying attention to them.