The 2010s and 2020s spawned a black sitcom renaissance after experiencing a drought in the late 2000s. The aughts gave audiences classic shows like My wife and children, The Bernie Mac Show, girlfriendsand Everybody Hates Chris. In recent years, black-led comedies have not only replenished the genre, but subverted and evolved it. Since then, black sitcoms have provided laughs, WTF moments, and commentary on the black experience.
Now, here are some of the most influential black comedies to hit the airwaves over the past decade.
Billed as a successor to the classic sitcom, The Cosby Show, blackish focused on an upper-middle-class black family living in suburban Los Angeles (not a brownstone in New York). The sitcom centered on the daily life of married couple Andre and Rainbow Johnson (masterfully played by Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross) and their family.
While family formed the heart of the show, most episodes dealt with the Johnsons’ interactions in a predominantly white society. Dre, Bow and their children have had to deal with daily cultural conflicts, whether at work or at school. The outside world was nothing compared to having multiple generations living under one roof with different ideologies and viewpoints.
As a spin-off from blackish, adult centered on one of the Johnson kids heading off to college (a la Denise Huxtable and A different world except at a PWI). The coming-of-age comedy centered on eldest daughter Zoey’s exploits into adulthood.
Being in college served as the perfect backdrop to watch the eldest Johnson child grow into a woman, including multiple relationships and floating in and out of academia. But the real purpose of the show was to present personal, professional, societal and academic issues through a Gen Z lens. With Zoey having graduated, the blackish the connection lives on with Johnson’s eldest son Junior taking over for Season 5.
Being the brainchild of Donald Glover, Atlanta explored the dark (sometimes extravagant) nature of the Southern city and its music scene. The surreal comedy shed light on Earn’s quest to make his cousin, Paper Boi, a hit in the wayward music industry.
With the Southern metropolis as its backdrop, the show has evolved since its premiere in 2016. The comedy shone best when it provided a black perspective on mainstream culture and thought-provoking takes on African-American topics. The main four – Earn, Paper Boi, Van, and Darius – served as the emotional center of the show thanks to their varying dynamics.
After years of creating premium content on YouTube, Insecure allowed Issa Rae to go from the web to cable television. The hit web series-turned-comedy HBO examined the exploits of Issa Dee as she navigated life in her 30s.
Issa Dee’s flawed persona shone a light on awkward black women. Viewers got to see his day-to-day interactions in different avenues of life. Issa’s evolution from blurry to stable was remarkable, but the real heart of the comedy was her relationships. While other significant people and families fleshed out the characters, it was the female friendships, particularly those of Issa and Molly Carter, that made the series beloved. This all culminated in the series becoming a weekly water cooler conversation.
The Carmichael Show
Jerrod Carmichael’s family life caused quite a stir in his NBC sitcom, The Carmichael Show. The family sitcom followed a fictionalized version of the comedian’s everyday life.
Viewers got to see Carmichael, his fiancée, and his family deal with a lot of issues. The series saw the young couple’s progressive focus and their parents’ conservative views constantly clash over issues within black American culture. He did it with humor and finesse. Unfortunately, the comedy ended after three seasons.
The last OG
More than any show on this list, The last OG was built on culture shock from a distinct perspective. Tracy Morgan’s return to television saw him become ex-convict Tray Baker, as he attempted to reconnect with his family and society after a prolonged prison attempt.
Tray fought to regain his past glory as he struggled to reacclimate to society. The comedy allowed Morgan to go all-in, giving a lopsided and silly performance. Viewers got to see Tray’s progress throughout the series as he grew closer to his children.
Before Abbott Elementary School stormed the television, South side put a unique spin on workplace comedies. The buddy comedy follows two BFF furniture delivery guys, Simon and Kareme, who strive for success through failed get-rich-quick schemes.
By spotlighting Southside Chicago, the show offers quirky, silly humor while offering a different take on the area’s black citizens. The series offers subtle social and professional commentary through outrageous storylines and employee dynamics. It also has an ensemble full of up-and-coming and well-known talent letting the laughs and cultural nods fly (like Office and Hypermarket).
What happens when you have a play centered around a sexually repressed black woman leaving the nest for the first time? You get channel 4 Chewing gum. As Michaela Coel’s groundbreaking project, the British slice-of-life comedy explored the hilarious exploits of 20-year-old shop assistant Tracey Gordon.
Viewers got to see Tracey Gordon’s daily life – work, friends and family. A little like Insecure, Gordon’s evolution led her to learn more about the world and about herself. While addressing young adulthood and tackling topics like religion and sexuality with humor. Unfortunately, viewers couldn’t watch Gordon’s story for long, as the comedy ended after two seasons.
Turning a successful indie film into a TV series might be a tough transition, but Dear Whites managed to do so without compromising the premise. The Netflix comedy followed the 2014 film by exploring the lives of black students at a predominantly white university.
Unlike some film-based series, the college comedy expanded on the concept of the original film relying on more character and plot development with episodes dedicated to the characters. The mixed comedy shed light on issues such as microaggressions, sexuality and the transition to full adulthood. The show never lost its bite despite mixing actors from original films with new ones.
Unfortunately, some of these salons have closed shop recently, with blackish and Insecure airing their finals this year and in 2021, respectively. Soon another will join the list, with AtlantaThe fourth and final season of will air later this year.
There’s no need to worry, though, as new sitcoms have arrived to fill the void. There are series like The good years to restart, Great crewand Abbott Elementary School ruling television network. On the streaming side, there are those of Netflix The Upshaws and BET+ The First Women’s Club reimagine. If you want to see what other black-led comedies are coming this year, you can check out our 2022 TV schedule.