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​13 Black Women Slaying The Comedy Game

They keep us laughing, inspired and woke with their commentary and talents.

Culture & Entertainment

When it comes to representing for black female comedians, these women are not only funny, but they are about their business and building bridges for other black women to come up and succeed. They have been part of some of the most hilarious moments in TV and film, and several continue to hold their own in entertainment. Check out 13 femme phenoms slaying the comedy game:

Quinta Brunson

If you've never seen her self-produced series The Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date, you are truly missing out on some good laughs and relatable tea. Quinta Brunson, a writer, producer, comedian, and actress, has also produced and acted in BuzzFeed Video content and developed streaming series with BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. Her voice has recently been featured on Netflix's Big Mouth and Adult Swim's Lazor Wulf.

Tiffany Haddish

We are so here for our favorite "We Ready" sis who continues to glow up in Hollywood. From her start being consistently featured in works including Real Husbands of Hollywood, and The Carmichael Show, to her breakout role in Girls Trip and on to Night School, The Last OG and Self Made, Tiffany Haddish has done nothing but flourish and rise. She made history as the first black female stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live in 2017, and landed a big deal with Groupon as a spokeswoman. Today, the best-selling author is paying it forward with the launch of an internship program and has an upcoming project with legends Billy Crystal and Sharon Stone called "Here Today".

Amanda Seales

We loved her as the well-put-together mom and friend on Insecure, and she's a multi-hyphenate who proves that you don't have to box yourself into one lane. The former MTV VJ and The Real talk show host now leads the Small Doses podcast and Smart Funny & Black (SFB) Entertainment, and she does not hold her tongue when it comes to commentary. Amanda Seales recently partnered with Bumble to launch Dating in Boxes, an improv series about romance and social issues.

Ashley Nicole Black

An Emmy-winner in her own right, Ashley Nicole Black has career receipts that include writing for the TBS late-night show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and being a featured actress and writer for HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show. She's also appeared on Comedy Central's Drunk History, and the 2014 film An American Education.

Jasmine Luv

Jasmine Luv got her start on social media more than four years ago, and after her videos went viral, she was named one of the "top influencers" by VH1 and an "It Girl" at the 2018 BET Social Awards. She now has more than 1.3 million followers on Instagram alone, has gained features in projects sponsored by companies like AT&T and has served as a red carpet host for the NAACP Awards.

Nicole Byer

Nicole Byer is super-funny as host of Netflix's Nailed It---which got her an Emmy nomination---and she's featured on the streaming platform's series Comedians of the World. She's also hosted a slew of podcasts including Why Won't You Date Me? and 90-Day Bae that will literally have you laughing all the way out loud.

Luenell

One of our favorite aunties has been showing us what true confidence is---rocking the hell out of Savage x Fenty lingerie both online and in a live show----and she recently appeared in an episode of Power Book II: Ghost, the spin-off to Starz's Power series. She's held down a successful career in comedy for more than 20 years and has been featured with the likes of Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), Lady GaGa, Beyonce ("Telephone" video), Rickey Smiley, Master P (I Gotthe Hook-Up 2), Snoop Dogg, Martin Lawrence, Katt Williams and Kevin Hart. She's set to appear alongside Murphy again in Coming 2 America next spring.

LaLa Milan

When LaLa first hit the scene, you could not scroll through your feed without seeing a viral video featuring her crazy reenactments of pop culture and celebrity moments and her videos that make you laugh until you cry, and she's since grown her online following to more than 3.4 million. Her role as part of the cool and accomplished crew of Boomerang, a spin-off of the Eddie Murphy classic, was the perfect addition to the show, and she's always refreshing to watch hosting red carpet interviews. She's been a Savage x Fenty ambassador, did a legendary virtual table read directed by Sanaa Lathan and featuring heavyweights like Cedric the Entertainer and Wayne Brady, and now hosts a podcast called The Salon.

Sommore

One of the "Queens of Comedy", Sommore has sold-out shows and been featured in her own Netflix special Sommore: The Reign Continues. She's also been in cult classics including Ice Cube's Friday After Next, Family Reunion, and Soul Plane. She remains engaged with her more than 950,000 followers on Instagram, has been featured on shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The View. She continues to tour both domestically and internationally, keeping the grind and hustle going.

Jessica Williams 

She got her claim to mainstream fame as the senior correspondent on The Daily Show and was co-host on the hilariously engaging podcast 2 Dope Queens with Phoebe Robinson. She also starred in Netflix's The Incredible Jessica James, and HBO's Girls, giving us depth, laughter, and a much-needed sprinkle of black girl magic. She will expand her role from the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in part 3 of the franchise, set to release in 2021.

Naomi Ekperigin

Naomi Ekperigin uses comedic savvy and tell-it-like-it-is candor to talk about issues that hit home, from racism to capitalism to the pandemic, and co-hosts Couple's Therapy podcast with her beau. The actress, stand-up comedian, and writer has appeared on MTV, VH1, and FX's Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, and her insights have been seen in Huffington Post and on VanityFair.com. She's also worked as a writer on Comedy Central's Broad City and Difficult People.

Sasheer Zamata 

In 2014, Sasheer Zamata made headlines after becoming the first black woman to join the main cast of SNL since Maya Rudolph's 2007 departure, and she made a name for herself hosting with Drake and impersonating top entertainers like Rihanna, Solange, and Nicki Minaj. She's been a featured actress in Hulu's Woke and Netflix's The Last OG, and she now co-hosts a podcast with Nicole Byer called Best Friends.

Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones has been an Emmy-nominated comedian and a staple on the Saturday Night Live cast. She's also had her own Showtime special, Problem Child and has been a featured performer at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal and the Aspen Comedy Festival. She raised more than an eyebrow starring in the reboot of Ghostbusters in 2016, and owned the screen as a spirit-slaying part of a landmark all-female team. She now hosts ABC's reboot of Supermarket Sweep, adding quirky fun and excitement to the modern remake.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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