If you need to turn off the world and laugh until your cheeks hurt, Phat Tuesdays: The Age of Hip-Hop Comedy is the perfect documentary to binge-watch this winter.

The three-part documentary series tells the story behind the groundbreaking all-black showcase comedy created, hosted and produced by comedian-writer-host-actor-producer Guy Torry (American History X, Life) and Oscar-nominated producer Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained, house party).

It’s mind-boggling to look back and realize how many black comedians who are now household names all got their first big break after performing at Phat Tuesdays in West Hollywood in the 1990s. have dedicated “urban comedy” nights at predominantly white comedy clubs around the country, but by the early 1990s comedy was almost as segregated as the state of Alabama was in 1952. The documentary shows how Guy Torry’s relentless work ethic, creativity, and desire to provide space for black comics to be centered in the spotlight created, as Snoop Dog says in the film, “A Crucible for Genius s* it.”

Phat Tuesdays is divided into three episodes that are all almost 60 minutes long, which just goes by.

  • Episode 1: “Hood to Hollywood” tells the origin story of Phat Tuesdays which, like all great moments in black culture, were created by a black person for black people to provide a space where our talent and our culture could be visible and allowed to be recognized beyond the restrictions of prejudice.
  • Episode 2: “That’s How We Do It” focuses on black female comedians and recounts the decade-long rise and ride that has been Phat Tuesdays with all the triumph and drama that has come with it.
  • Episode 3: “Who’s Next?” gives us a glimpse into the future of comedy while honoring the living legends who debuted on one of the most iconic comedy nights in history.

Director Reginald Hudlin’s brilliant cinematography, ingenious editing and current interviews with comedians who worked Phat Tuesdays combined with Guy Torry’s voice-over narration create an archive too funny for words in the black entertainment industry.

The best part of this documentary is seeing all of the black comedians whose careers began by being seen by agents on Phat Tuesdays. We see interviews with Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, Luenell, Dave Chappelle, Guy Torry, Chris Tucker, Tiffany Haddish, Snoop Dog, Steve Harvey, Martin Lawrence, Regina King, Lil Rel Howery, Marsha Warfield, and the list goes again and again.

In episode 1 there is a beautiful story from one of the greatest comedians who have ever been on stage, Robin Harris (Baby kids, do the right thing, house party). He had been rejected by the Comedy Store, so he performed at the Comedy Act Theatre, the black-centric comedy club in Crenshaw. Oh, how I kinda liked myself Robin Harris – he was more than funny. Every comedian in the documentary who has seen him perform talks about his quality, and he was. I had the privilege of seeing him on stage myself and I have never laughed so much at an actor in my life. We made sure we weren’t in the front rows, and we didn’t get up to go to the bathroom during his set.

The film also showcases the talent and brilliance of the legendary Bernie Mac (The Bernie Mac Show, Charlie’s Angels) and the rise of Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam on HBO. It also tells the tragic story of Robin Harris’ death at 36 and how the success of the Comedy Act Theater came to an abrupt end, ultimately benefiting the Comedy Store.

Phat Tuesdays: The Age of Hip-Hop Comedy is truly inspiring because it shows how one person’s determination to achieve their vision can create a ripple effect that positively impacts an entire culture. Stand-up comedy is a brutal profession, but seeing all of these dedicated professionals talk about their craft and the impact of Phat Tuesdays is compelling and engaging. Best of all, this documentary is hilarious! I particularly liked the interviews with Snoop Dog and Tiffany Haddish, who sat down together for their part of the documentary. Their friendship shines through the screen and their chemistry was funny and super sweet. I’ve never been a fan of Snoop Dog, but their scenes together endeared me to him a bit.

The 1990s were a truly special time for black Americans. Our culture had grown in a way that had never been seen before. We were the first generation of black children raised after the civil rights era with the ability to dream of lives beyond mere survival. Phat Tuesdays: The Age of Hip-Hop Comedy is an important narrative story of an era that reflects everything we go through in the 21st century, that makes you laugh, think and give you hope for the future.

Phat Tuesdays: The Age of Hip-Hop Comedy premieres on Prime Video, Friday, February 4, 2022.