History in the Making

Document Type



Vast research can be found on African Americans’ culture and their use of humor to overcome struggles within American society. Much of the research found focuses on the study of African American humor in literature, folk tales, art, and theatre, but little has been done on the study of black stand-up comedy in the 1960s and comics’ use of humor to overcome and combat racism and social struggles during this decade. Different methods of approach are used to gain a broader understanding of the use of humor as a combative tool by black comics in the 1960s. The comedic performances and styles of Dick Gregory, Godfrey Cambridge, Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, and Jackie “Moms” Mabley are analyzed as well as newspaper and magazine articles during the 1960s for an in-depth perspective in how their humor impacted American society. The comedic styles and performances combated racism by breaking down racial barriers in stand-up comedy, helped change the image of black comedy, and integrated audiences from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The study of black stand-up comedy in the 1960s allows scholars to broaden their understanding of the tradition of humor within African American culture to overcome struggles in American society and the impact that comedians of the 1960s had on contemporary stand-up comedians.