This year late night TV has seen the likes of Reggie Watts, Hannibal Buress, Ian Edwards, and more bring their unique stand-up comedy to the masses on Conan, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Recently, Portland comic Ron Funches killed it with his performance on Conan. In a perfect world, that should just mean that very funny comedians have had hilarious sets on late night TV.
But “perfect” isn’t the best way to describe the state of comedy, much less the entire world, and, as such, Watts, Buress, Edwards, and Funches mean a little more than than 2nd sentence. The fact is they are all black comedians performing on shows with white hosts like O’Brien, Letterman, and Kimmel.
Ever since Dave Chappelle famously left his own show and massive multi-million dollar contract with Comedy Central, there has been a void between what is often referred to in the industry as “urban comedy” and the rest of comedy. While each has their brand and specific demographic, few performers are able to bridge the gap in appeal between the two. Sure, both Nick Cannon and Kevin Hart have millions of Twitter followers between them, but their names are far from being held in the regard that Chappelle’s was.
Ethnic themed nights at comedy clubs and bars across the country have always been successful and thus stifled such a bridge from forming. Why, as a comedian, should you suffer through the process of creating a truly original act when quick and easy success can be gained from pandering the Any-Ethnicity Kings of Comedy Show?
Such is a debate for any ethnic up-and-coming comedian. A lot of these comedians will end up on any number of comedy circuits that cater to “urban,” “latin,” “filipino,” whatever. Some will never move past that circle. Pushing past such labels and focusing solely on their comedy has brought acts like Buress to SNL, 30 Rock and touring nationally as a stand-up. Funches is not only appealing to a wide, diverse audience because he tells jokes about bumping Alanis Morissette in the south side of Chicago and blackberries, but he’s an incredibly original act with unique timing and delivery that is almost a mix of Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright.
While it has yet to be seen if any of the aforementioned comedians become as universally beloved as Chappelle, they certainly seem like their on the right path, which all stems from them just being funny with no regard of what color their audience is.