A star-studded cast talks us through the evolution of black comedy in the ’80s and ’90s.
Amazon Original Docuseries Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy was released on the streaming service on February 4, 2022.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Reginald Hudlin’s docuseries Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy has been released on Amazon, which gives us three hours of much-needed information; this docuseries fills in a key absence from Showtime’s The Comedy Store, focusing on the all-Black stand-up showcase that launched in the 1990s. This examines Black comics – especially how the Phat Tuesday’s showcase kept going for so long.
From 1995 to 2005, the legendary Comedy Store in Los Angeles devoted one night a week to showcasing Black comedians. Guy Torry changed the scene, and Tuesdays going forward, making Tuesdays Phat, and the best night of the week. Drawing audiences including Prince, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Hart (Kevin performed too). Everyone talks about Phat Tuesdays with a happy smile and light in their eyes, which makes this docuseries infectious.
With an all-star talking heads cast, their input is informative and entertaining. You’ll hear stories from stand-up stars Flame Monroe and Dave Chapelle, rapper Snoop Dogg, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, Tiffany Haddish, Regina King, and many other amazing stars, and people connected with Phat Tuesdays. Snoop and Haddish have such amazing, hilarious chemistry, they are a pleasure to watch and are definitely the highlight of the series, for me. There is no mention of Bill Cosby, maybe for obvious reasons, but he was a true breakout for black comedians in the 1960s, and there are a few who are quickly mentioned and not showcased again. They tried to fit a lot into three episodes, and truthfully, I could have watched a lot more.
The series delves into the exploration of the 90’s intersection of hip-hop and stand-up cultures. Really eye-opening and interesting. Especially the racial divide, and how this has changed (and not changed) over the years. That comedy was dominated by white people, and they were told to cater their comedy to white people. There are real, distressing scenes of Rodney being beaten by police. Now, despite the fear the white audiences wouldn’t find all black comedy funny, Phat Tuesdays continued. Phat Tuesdays were for the culture and clearly helped shape the future for a lot of black artists. Hip Hop and Black Comedy worked together so well, breeding series such as The Fresh Prince. There is a confidence and swagger that lies in this genre that we all adore and recreate today.
There is old footage from old stand-up routines, old west Hollywood from the ’80s and ’90s, giving everyone a great feeling of nostalgia. The interviews are set up in colorful, popping settings, on the comedy stage, in casinos, fancy gardens, all very pleasing to the eye and create a high-energy vibe from the docuseries. They feel intimate, not rehearsed, they are free to speak freely, as they would do at Phat Tuesdays, and there is plenty of comedy and some hard truths about the industry and their experiences.
The structure of the episodes builds, then falls a little short in the final episode. They begin a great argument surrounding social media, and the online platform has replaced the stand-up scene, but this doesn’t really evolve to anything, and I think they missed a good opportunity there to explore and discuss this in-depth.
This series has brought together some amazing people to showcase their struggles and their successes. To celebrate this legacy and, hopefully, inform and educate younger audiences on their journeys. If you’re a music fan, a comedy fan, this is a series for you to watch. Being only three episodes, it is easy and quick to watch.
What did you think of Amazon original docuseries Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy? Comment below.