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The Black Comedians Who Made Us Laugh In 2021

Black Is The New Black is R29Unbothered’s celebration of Black trailblazers who are changing the game. Black trailblazers who are reminding the world that we are not a trend or 'a moment.' We’re here — and we’ve been here.
If there’s one thing Black people are gonna do during tough times, it’s laugh our way through them. Ask the ultimate entertainer, our creative advisor, recent Emmy winner, and resident comedienne Keke Palmer. Because we are the most brilliant, creative, witty people on the planet, it’s no wonder our comedy — at its best — is next level: punching up at power, comically capturing the genius of our shared everyday experiences, and just plain getting us through another seemingly endless pandemic day. The best comedy is healing, and this year, the jokes of Natasha Rothwell, Quinta Brunson and Danielle Pinnock were medicine.

Natasha Rothwell

We all fell in love with Natasha Rothwell with her breakout role as Kelli Prenny on HBO’s Insecure. Throughout the show’s five seasons, Natasha’s witty one-liners, dead-pan delivery and hilarious physical comedy had us consistently laughing and craving more Kelli on our screens. Natasha’s comedic dominance on the show is only truly understood when you factor in her triple-threat role as a star, writer and director of Insecure (she helmed  two of the show’s episodes, including this final season’s eighth episode). Framing the images and characters that she helped to create has not only elevated her skill, but also our appreciation of the many technical layers that go into building culture-defining, unforgettable comedy. 
Natasha recently spoke about her time in the creatively-stifling Saturday Night Live writers room, and we can only imagine how much more dull the television landscape would have been if SNL had  dimmed her light  long-term. Fortunately, Insecure creator Issa Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny snatched Natasha up and gave her a loving, supportive environment where all of her talents were nurtured and encouraged, highlighting the irrevocable necessity of loving Black spaces where creatives can shine. That’s why we’re giving Natasha her flowers; this force of nature is going to be making us laugh for a long time to come. 

Quinta Brunson

O.G. fans of Quinta Brunson know her as our cousin on our Instagram side. We’ve watched — and cackled — as her viral comedy videos propelled her career from social media fame to her own network sitcom Abbott Elementary on ABC (which she created and stars in) this year. In the workplace comedy, Quinta plays Ms. Teagues, a dedicated and hopeful teacher at a Philadelphia public school who’s leading the fight to make her school better for her students. Through comedy, Quinta’s bringing much-needed attention to the plight of both teachers and students in underfunded and poorly-managed schools serving Black and brown children, while also giving space for a mostly Black cast to shine on network television alongside the legendary Sheryl Lee Ralph. 
Whether it’s on TV, online, or in her recently published memoir She Memes Well, Quinta has the range to dominate the genre in every medium. Through the highs and lows of Hollywood, she’s brought us along on her journey, reminding us that representation in the industry is only step one. We need creators who actually love Black people making content about Black people for a Black audience. We need Quinta Brunson.

Danielle Pinnock

Danielle Pinnock, another master creator of riotous social media videos, may have risen higher in the public consciousness with her pandemic parodies of Bridgerton, Malcolm & Marie, and Meghan and Harry’s American escape from the crypt of white supremacy, but Danielle’s not new to this. Grinding for the past 20 years — long before her 2016 appearance on This Is Us and her recurring role on Young Sheldon Danielle stepped into her highest heights yet this year in her first series regular role as Alberta on the CBS sitcom Ghosts, the #1 comedy in America. 
The heartwarming series shows Danielle flexing her comedic chops every week as a jazz-singing ghost with a mysterious past and a heart of gold. On top of her starring role and her recent development deal with Taraji P. Henson, Danielle still finds time to create hilarious and inspiring videos on TikTok and Instagram, some with her partner in comedy Lanisa Frederick for #HashtagBooked, in order to encourage emerging actors and her peers in the sometimes-soul-crushing industry that their dreams are still worth the effort. We stan an inspiring comedy queen!

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