To celebrate Black comedy, CBC Comedy asked several comedians across the country to share their view on where things have been, how things are now, and their hopes for the future. These standup comics and onscreen performers each have a unique journey in the industry with a strong point of view, and we hope that their perspective helps provide some amplification, education and inspiration for the possibilities of Black comedy’s future in Canada.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
“If we’re talking about the legacy of Black Canadian comedy, the conversation starts with Kenny Robinson. For over 25 years Kenny has been hosting the Nubian Disciples comedy show, a monthly Black comedy show that gave so many of us Black comedians an opportunity to grow and perform in a setting where we don’t feel othered. Kenny is nicknamed ‘The Godfather’ and I owe so much of my success to him. Also, I have to shout out Ron Edwards, another pioneer. Those two played in places that I don’t think I ever could to establish something really special here.” – Alan Shane Lewis
“Kenny Robinson is the godfather of Black Canadian comedy, responsible for the longest running Black comedy show in North America, and is a mentor to many of us. Kenny is outspoken, funny and unapologetically Black… and not unrelatedly, he is woefully under featured on Canadian television.” – Aisha Brown
“I’m not sure how many other people have mentioned Kenny Robinson as someone who paved the way for Black representation in Canadian comedy, but I would like to jump onboard that train. And maybe be the conductor of said train because I like the hat.” – Jamillah Ross
“I’m sure the name you will hear the most is Kenny Robinson. Him and his Nubian Disciples of Pryor show are like the foundation for Black Canadian comedy. That show really gave a voice and place of opportunity that black comics may not have been getting elsewhere.” – Travis Lindsay
“If you google ‘Black Canadian Comedians,’ you get a list of Canadian comedians or comedians that do dark humour. That tells you everything about the legacy of Black comedy in Canada. It’s not that we’re not here, it’s that we’re not noticed.” – Coko Galore
“The legacy of Black comedy in Canada is one of growth, I see a lot more younger black comedians like myself coming out of the works, given the opportunity to showcase their talents.” – Ola Dada
“Black comedy shouldn’t be just what you catch on CBC Radio, or in a comedy special. I’d like to see Black comedians with their own TV shows.