Within our humor lies a rainbow of issues and Robert Townsend covers them all in his new documentary “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians On Black Comedy.”
The movie is currently set for multiple screenings at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, which is being held now.
Townsend displays rare and insightful clips and interviews from comedy giants Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Bill Bellamy, DL Hughley, Keenan Ivory Wayans and many more in “Why We Laugh.”
“Well if you know me, you know that I have always tried to educate in my work, as well as entertain and ‘Why We Laugh’ is no exception,” Townsend told us.
The new film is inspired by the book “Black Comedians on Black Comedy” by Darryl Littlejohn. In it Townsend has skillfully compiled a historic backdrop of the comedy material that has earmarked us as a people in the best and worst of times.
From the satiric antics of the minstrel shows of the 1800s to the segregated stages of 1930s, 40s and 50s as well as the early days of Hollywood and the controversial rise of Step ‘n’ Fetchit, Pigmeat Markum and Moms Mabley. Then it’s a glide through to the humorists of the civil rights movement to the contemporary points of view of Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson to name a few.
Townsend is also mindful to note that often times behind the punch lines and follies are painful realities, “In many situations, it is a case of having to laugh to keep from crying.”
“Why We Laugh” is wrought with social and political commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and other scholars who apply a more academic assessment of the things that make us laugh.
“Why We Laugh” is written by Quincy Newell and John Long with Richard Foos; Jeff Clanigan of Codeblack Entertainment serves as Executive Producers. Also on the production team are Townsend, Littleton, Newell and Angela Northington.
The Sundance Film Festival continues through January 25 in Park City, Utah. For more information visit www.sundance.festival.org.
Also on deck for Robert Townsend is a new media project that he’s especially excited about.
“The new thing is a web series called Diary Of A Single Mom which stars Monica Calhoun, Richard Roundtree and Billy Dee Williams,” he told us.
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