If ever there were a Lifetime Achievement Award for bringing laughs to the black community, Stan Lathan’s name would be at the top of the list. In a career that has spanned over four decades, Lathan was the mastermind behind sitcom classics such as “Moesha”,”The Steve Harvey Show“, “The Parkers”, “Amen”, and “Eve”. Lathan was also instrumental in helping to launch the careers of countless black comedians (Mo’Nique, Mike Epps, Dave Chappelle) when he partnered with Russell Simmons to create one of the most successful franchises in entertainment: “HBO’s Def Comedy Jam” in 1992, which ran for five seasons.
Lathan cut his teeth on public television directing an African American PBS series Say Brother, episodes of “Sesame Street” and one of the first live performance shows, “Soul!”
“I started in 1969 or 1970 directing the show, and I was one of the few black television directors around; I was doing “Say Brother” in Boston,” he told Elyse Eisenberg for Thirteen.org. “In fact, the reason I came to New York was because “Black Journal”, which was produced by WNET, came to Boston and recruited me to come direct and produce documentaries for them. But my real love was live television, and I immediately got a job with Sesame Street directing segments – I was going between Black Journal and Sesame Street. I finally met Ellis Haizlip (Soul!’s producer/host) because I was at WNET, and he offered me the directing job on Soul! – it worked out because Soul! was shot on weekends. So I was able to produce and direct for Black Journal at the same time that I was directing Soul!”
On the personal side, Lathan has also contributed to the pool of black talent–his daughter is actress Sanaa Lathan. Lathan’s body of work is proof positive that black comedy can be funny and smart, without ever delving into coonery and buffoonery.
“The Steve Harvey Show”
“Def Comedy Jam” (NSFW)