A Tribute to the Elite Black Comediennes of the 90s

by Raisa Habersham

In recent weeks, emails from Sony executives and those among the Hollywood elite were leaked to the public. While there are rumors about why hackers leaked the information, and who was responsible, there was one ne tidbit that stood out to me: a Destiny’s Child biopic is being pitched by Mathew Knowles, father of Beyoncé and Solange and previous manager of the group. Immediately I thought it was a bad idea. (Too soon.) I mean look how well unauthorized and hastily produced biopics of renowned musicians and pop stars has worked out for Lifetime! (Exactly.)

I rolled my eyes and sucked my teeth, but for a split second, I thought of the hilarious bits MADtv alumna Debra Wilson would do of Destiny’s Child. It then got me thinking: Where are our black female comediennes? I don’t remember the last thing I saw Wilson in, but her talents are truly missed on screen, as are those of her fellow black female comediennes from the heyday of the 90s, when Black comics and comedies were seemingly everywhere. Take a trip down memory lane with us as we celebrate eight of our most beloved black comediennes.

Debra Wilson

Wilson was first introduced to us on FOX’s hit show MADtv, what most would call a funnier and more diverse alternative to Saturday Night Live. Unlike its predecessor, MADtv was more willing to embrace black female talent, and Wilson didn’t disappoint. Wilson continues to act and do voiceover work. While her most memorable skit was as Destiny’s Child leading member Beyoncé, she had plenty of other hilarious bits on the show.

Watch her here as Oprah Winfrey discussing fine literature with her book club and Stedman.

Kim Wayans

Who doesn’t remember Kim Wayans on In Living Color as neighborhood-gossip Benita Butrell, who scolded you for talking bad about Ms. Jenkins, but did it herself? While Kim is one part of the famously funny Wayans family, she’s often overlooked among her sea of brothers, but her comedic talents are unforgettable.

Here’s Wayans as Butrell talking to a neighbor while washing clothes!


Perhaps best known as one of the original queens of comedy, Sommore’s comedic prowess mixes her honest observations with her cunning wit. These days, Sommore has returned to her ComicView roots as a host and continues to do her stand-up.

As it's the holidays, this stand-up routine about gift giving is particularly relevant right now.

Adele Givens

Givens, perhaps best known for her stand-up in The Queens of Comedy, has been in a host of films including Beauty Shop and The Players Club, showcasing her comedic ability. Adele still remains true to her stand-up routine touring in comedy clubs around the U.S.

Below, you can see her doing an entertaining bit on "being a lady" from Def Comedy Jam.

Wanda Sykes 

Sykes’ refreshing humor combined with her political viewpoints catapulted her to stardom. She appeared in and wrote for The Chris Rock Show. She has also been featured in several films. Sykes stand-up has earned her two televisions shows. Currently, Sykes plays Senator Rosalyn DuPeche on Alpha House, a political satire produced by Amazon.

You can see more of her skewering political themed humor below, from the 2009 White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Sheryl Underwood

Underwood currently serves as co-host of The Talk, but some may forget she got her start as a comedienne. Underwood’s stand-up gained her notoriety, allowing her to appear in various films and television shows.

Here she is talking about relationships and what men do when they're in love.


Mum is the word on the former talk show host. Last reported, Mo’Nique was set to star in and produce a movie about Hattie McDaniels, the first African-American to win an Oscar. This year she appeared in Blackbird, a drama about a singer coming to grips with his sexuality within the black church. Perhaps most known for her comedic acting and award-winning role in Precious, Monique’s comedic flair is what’s catapulted her onto the silver screen.

Catch her out on The Queens of Comedy, discussing the difference between white women and black women.

Whoopi Goldberg 

Now a regular on daytime television as a co-host on The View, many forget Whoopi is an acclaimed comedienne and accomplished actress. Many remember Goldberg from the Sister Act movies and The Color Purple among many favorites. But what’s perhaps appreciated in Whoopi’s comedy is her ability to make you laugh and ponder. You can catch Goldberg in Chris Rock’s new movie, Top Five.

Watch her here in her comedy special on Bravo, where she is equally hilarious and thoughtful.

Raisa Habersham is a regular contributor at For Harriet.