Black While Funny and Female: Comedic Actresses Speak on Working in Hollywood

(Photos by Kirk McCoy via latimes.com)

by Tre’vell Anderson via latimes.com

Making it in Hollywood is no easy feat, and doing so as a woman is even more difficult. If that woman is black — or Latina or Asian or otherwise nonwhite — the odds just aren’t in her favor. But with the release of “Girls Trip,” four black women — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish — attempt a takeover of the buddy comedy, possibly the first time black women have led such a picture.

One reason as to why? The number of black women thought to be able to carry a studio-backed film is slim, and there hasn’t been a bona-fide black female comedic superstar since Whoopi Goldberg. We spoke to 18 funny black women about their industry experiences. Below are their thoughts:

Tracee Ellis Ross

“Girlfriends,” “black-ish”

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends,” the early 2000s show almost no one would argue about rebooting.

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “Black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends” — the early 2000s show fans would love to see earn the revival or reunion treatment.

Regardless of her career experiences, Ross is just beginning to get her due recognition. In addition to nabbing a Golden Globe earlier this year, she’s earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination. Some might say she has all the makings of a comedic superstar.

But when she takes a moment to ponder other black women who fit the bill she’s forced to think hard.

“Regina Hall … Issa Rae … Jessica Williams,” she said after a moment, “but I shouldn’t have to search to come up with those names. The difficulty is, and I think what happens is, you might see somebody in a role and you’re like, ‘Holy …! She is so funny.’ Then she doesn’t get another opportunity, but she needs those roles because they help you build a career so everybody knows your name and knows what you’re capable of.

“And it’s not just black comedic women. There are, I’m sure, a lot of very funny Asian women and Latina women, and we know some of them, but it’s not because the talent doesn’t exist. The other thing is, the talent exists, but [performers] need the experience to keep getting better and have more depth.”

Ross is encouraged, however, by the likes of Rae.

“I think Issa is a beautiful example of ‘You’re not going to give me any real estate? Fine. I’m going to make it,’” she said. “There is revolution going on.”

How did you settle into comedic acting?

I loved making people laugh when I was younger. It was frowned upon during dinner time but I thought it was hilarious to make my sister laugh. It was often the thing that got me kicked out of class because I was always silly. It was one of the ways my shyness manifested and the way I protected myself and kept people at bay. And I’ve always been a very physical person so when I experience a feeling, I experience it in my entire body.

As I look back, it was a natural progression into the physical comedy and the ways I use my body. In terms of my career, I don’t know that it was a conscious choice that I moved into comedy, but it was an authentic choice. I don’t consider myself funny. I consider myself silly. I just tell the truth and my truth comes out in a way that makes people laugh. My goal isn’t to make people laugh, but I enjoy that exchange.

I think the difficulty for actors of any kind is when you get stuck with what other people assume is who you are. We’re actors and we can do anything.

— Tracee Ellis Ross

Who are some of your comedic inspirations?

I was a Carol Burnett, Lucy [Ball], Lily Tomlin type of girl. They were the three women that etched it in for me. I remember looking back and seeing Goldie Hawn in “Private Benjamin.” I was drawn to all of that growing up. Those were the women that defined freedom and courage [for me]. From there so many funny women like Julia Louis-Dreyfus — I don’t even understand [how she does it].

And then Whoopi Goldberg did the Moms Mabley documentary, and I was so grateful that she did that because it really showed me that Moms Mabley is specifically one of the reasons I can do what I do. She carved something out and did something so consciously that allows me to be a black woman in comedy.

Read more from Ross here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tracee-ellis-ross-20170720-htmlstory.html

Tiffany Haddish

“Girls Trip,” “Keanu,” “The Carmichael Show”

Tiffany Haddish is legitimately having a moment. As a star of “Girls Trip,” opposite industry vets Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. Based on her performance, and with an upcoming Showtime comedy special, she’s on her way to household-name status.

But what else would you expect from “the last black unicorn?”

How did you get into comedy?

My social worker. [laughs] I was living in South Central L.A. and was being bused to Woodland Hills. I was getting in trouble because I was not sure how to make friends. So I made this imaginary friend up because I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards — I had never been around this many white people. I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards every day so I thought I needed to be all creative and entertaining because I thought white people lived in TV — my concept of people was really messed up.

I remember going to court and seeing the judge. I thought he was the judge from “People’s Court.” [laughs] By the time I got to 10th grade, it was bothering my social worker that she was getting called to the school every week. I was getting sent to the dean’s office for being racist because I had this bird named Cracker. It was this imaginary bird, and I would be like, “Cracker want a Polly?” And I would take actual crackers and break them up on my shoulder. Kids would laugh and stuff. We’d be taking a test and I would be like, “What’s the answer to number seven Cracker?” And they’d be like, “Go to the dean’s office!”

So my social worker was like, “You have two choices this time. You can go to Laugh Factory Academy Camp or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one you want to do this summer?” I was like, “Which one got drugs?” and I went to comedy camp. It was the first time a man ever told me I was beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was going to be hurt in some kind of way. They taught me confidence, communication skills, how to write, how to have stage presence.

Read more from Haddish here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tiffany-haddish-20170720-htmlstory.html
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Screen Actors Guild Foundation to Honor Rashida Jones with 2017 Actors Inspiration Award for Philanthropy

Rashida Jones (photo via lifetailored.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The Screen Actors Guild‘s SAG-AFTRA Foundation announced today that Emmy®-nominated actor Rashida Jones will receive its Actors Inspiration Award, an honor recognizing artists who give back to the community by championing worthy philanthropic causes which make a difference in the world. On Monday, June 12th, the award will be presented to Ms. Jones at the Foundation’s 8thAnnual Los Angeles Golf Classic, an event benefiting its assistance and children’s literacy programs.

Rashida Jones is an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, musician and activist. Her philanthropy includes work with the International Rescue Committee, traveling around the world as an advocate for the nonprofit which delivers lifesaving care to people fleeing conflict and natural disaster; serving on the board and as a celebrity ambassador for Peace First, a youth organization that encourages the development of the world’s next generation of peacemakers; and supporting Oceana in its mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans. In addition, she lends her voice to several other important charities including Amnesty International, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and The Trevor Project. Ms. Jones is also a supporter of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s online children’s literacy program Storyline Online (storylineonline.net) and will be filming a new video for Storyline Online following the Actors Inspiration Award ceremony. She will join the ranks of actors Viola Davis, Lily Tomlin and Chris Pine as Storyline Online advocates. Rashida Jones’ commitment to supporting vulnerable populations around the world, the environment, and children’s literacy embodies the spirit of the Actors Inspiration Award. Continue reading

R.I.P. Charlie Murphy, 57, Comedian, Writer and “Chapelle’s Show” Co-Star

Charlie Murphy (photo via rollingstone.com)

article by Daniel Kreps via rollingstone.com

Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a “Chappelle’s Show” star and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 57. Murphy’s publicist confirmed the comedian’s death, and the cause of death was leukemia.

“We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP,” Chris Rock, Murphy’s CB4 co-star, tweeted. “Charlie Murphy changed my life,” tweeted “Chappelle’s Show” co-creator Neal Brennan. “One of the most original people I’ve ever met. Hilarious dude. Habitual Line Stepper. So sad.”

After making his big screen debut in 1989’s “Harlem Nights,” directed by his younger brother Eddie, and appearing in bit roles in Spike Lee films like “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Jungle Fever,” Murphy’s big break came as a cast member on “Chappelle’s Show,” where “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” resulted in a pair of that series’ most memorable sketches.

Both sketches featured Murphy reminiscing about he and Eddie’s celebrity encounters in the Eighties, with Dave Chappelle portraying Rick James and Prince in the now-legendary sketches. Charlie Murphy also co-wrote “Vampire in Brooklyn,” another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007’s “Norbit.”

Murphy also appeared in 1998’s “The Player’s Club,” directed by Ice Cube. The rapper paid tribute to Murphy on Twitter Wednesday, “Damn, sorry to hear about my friend Charlie Murphy. He took a chance on a young director in The Player’s Club. Always made me laugh. RIP.”

Growing up in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, Charlie often stuck up for his younger brother; in defending Eddie, Charlie joked about fearing his mom’s wrath if bullies picked on Eddie more than the bullies themselves. That guardian role made Charlie a natural to serve as Eddie’s security guard as the comedian quickly ascended to stardom.

Due to Charlie’s propensity toward overreacting while guarding his brother – “Whoever say something, I almost gave this old man a heart attack on a plane because he asked us if we were a basketball team. I took that personally,” Murphy said in a Chappelle’s Show outtake – forced Murphy to embark on his own career.

One night at an Eddie Murphy stand-up performance, Charlie went after one heckler “who tried to squeeze the lemon.” “I took it as a personal crusade until they were like, ‘You’re a little overzealous in how you’re performing your job.’ So that’s how I ended up not doing [security] anymore,” Murphy said.

To read more, go to: Charlie Murphy, Comedian and ‘Chappelle’s Show’ Star, Dead at 57 – Rolling Stone

“Get Out” Writer/Director Jordan Peele Signs 1st-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment

Jordan Peele (photo via Variety.com)

article by Oriana Schwindt via Variety.com

Jordan Peele has just signed a first-look deal with Sonar Entertainment for his production company, Monkeypaw Productions. The agreement encompasses all content for television, including digital. The news comes just ahead of the premiere of Peele’s feature directorial debut with horror film “Get Out,” which is already earning rave reviews.

Peele and Keegan-Michael Key created and performed in the Emmy-winning sketch series “Key & Peele,” which concluded a five-season run on Comedy Central in 2015. “Jordan Peele is one of the brightest stars in our business — a true hyphenate — actor, writer, producer and director. We are excited to partner with him and Monkeypaw,” said Sonar CEO Thomas Lesinski.

“I am thrilled to partner with the incredible folks at Sonar Entertainment as they are committed to truly elevated quality content. Especially now as I move into this next chapter in television, my aim is to help develop untapped voices as well as my own dream shows, and continue to push the boundaries of television,” Peele said.

Monkeypaw Productions was founded by Peele in 2012.  In TV, Monkeypaw produced “Key & Peele” and is also behind Tracy Morgan’s TBS comedy series, which is set for production later this year.

To read more, go to: Jordan Peele Inks First-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment | Variety

Jalen Rose ABC Comedy Pilot Casts TV Vets Anna Maria Horsford, Marla Gibbs

Anna Maria Horsford (l); Marla Gibbs (r) [photos via Variety.com]

article by  via Variety.com

NBA star and ESPN host Jalen Rose has cast his mother and grandmother for his ABC comedy pilot, Variety has learned.  Anna Maria Horsford and Marla Gibbs have signed on to play Rose’s mother and grandmother, respectively, in Rose’s single camera comedy “Jalen vs. Everybody.”

The half-hour follows Rose as he juggles his career responsibilities with the challenges of being a single dad. The project hails from the team behind ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.” Nahnatchka Khan wrote the pilot and will executive produce with Jake Kasdan, Melvin Mar, and Mandy Summers. Aside from starring, Rose will also serve as a producer.

Horsford has a career rich in both comedy and drama, from long roles on FX’s “The Shield” to even lengthier stints starring with Sherman Hemsley in the NBC comedy “Amen” and also in the WB’s “The Wayans Bros.” Gibbs, of course, was a 1980s sitcom staple with “The Jeffersons” and “227.”

To read full article, go to: Jalen Rose ABC Comedy Pilot Casts Anna Maria Horsford, Marla Gibbs | Variety

Rashida Jones’ Nail Salon Series ‘Claws’ Starring Niecy Nash Gets Greenlight from TNT

‘Claws’ TNT

“Claws” cast (photo courtesy of TURNER)

article by Elizabeth Wagmeister via Variety.com

TNT has given the greenlight to “Claws,” a nail salon-set dramedy hailing from executive producer Rashida JonesVariety has learned.

“Claws” follows the rise of five diverse and treacherous manicurists working at the Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon in South Florida, where there is a lot more going on than silk wraps and pedicures.

The hourlong series stars Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Harold Perrineau, Jenn Lyon, Judy Reyes, Jack Kesy, Karrueche Tran, Kevin Rankin and Jason Antoon. TNT has ordered 10 episodes for the first season.

Rashida Jones Claws TNT

“Claws” Executive Producer Rashida Jones

At the center is salon owner Desna (Nash), who lives with and cares for her mentally ill twin brother, Dean (Perrineau). Desna’s staff includes best friend Jennifer (Lyon), a tenuously sober ex-party girl raising two children from previous relationships; Quiet Ann (Reyes), Desna’s enigmatic driver who also provides security for the salon; Polly (Preston), a mild-mannered preppy who recently served time in prison for identity theft; and Virginia (Tran), who makes no effort to hide her boredom and impatience with her job. Adding chaos to the Nail Artisan mix is Roller (Kesy), a gangstered-out redneck who runs a barely legal pain clinic and uses Desna’s nail salon to launder the obscene profits; Bryce (Rankin), Jennifer’s husband who is also newly sober and trying to stay legit by working as an abundance coach; and Dr. Ken Brickman (Antoon), a bona fide doctor at a decidedly un-bona fide and illegal drug clinic.

The series hails from Le Train Train, Jones’ production company with Will McCormack. The duo will serve as executive producers, along with Janine Sherman Barrois who will also serve as showrunner. The pilot was written by Eliot Laurence, who will serve as co-executive producer, and was directed by Nicole Kassell. Warner Horizon Television and Turner’s Studio T are behind the project with Le Train Train.

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/claws-tnt-greenlit-nail-salon-series-niecy-nash-rashida-jones-1201941136/

Trevor Noah to Interview President Barack Obama on “Daily Show” Dec. 12

Trevor Noah (l); President Barack Obama (r) [photo via vibe.com]

article by J’na Jefferson via vibe.com

“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah will sit-down with President Barack Obama, and their “in-depth” discussion will air on Monday, Dec. 12 on multiple channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and BET.

The interview, which will take place in the White House, will not be the President’s first time on the Comedy Central show. He was interviewed by former host Jon Stewart on the program seven times. He’s also no stranger to the late-night circuit, as he’s appeared on “The Tonight Show” with both Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, “The Colbert Report,” “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Noah has interviewed former President Bill Clinton and the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta. This will be the first time Noah has interviewed President Obama.

To read more, go to: Trevor Noah To Interview President Barack Obama