The Untold (Until Now) Story of Black Comedians at The Comedy Store

Docuseries “Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy” tells the story of how one man, actor/comedian/writer Guy Torry, moved mountains to create an all-Black comedy night at The Comedy Store. Torry serves as executive producer on the series, along with  Reginald Hudlin (“Django Unchained”), who also directs the three-parter. Here, Torry and Hudlin talk about the challenges and rewards of an incredible project. (“Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy” is available for streaming on Prime Video.)

What prompted the launch of an all-Black comedy night?

Reginald Hudlin: It’s hard to believe today, but even in the ’90s it was hard for Black comedians to be seen in the big comedy clubs like The Comedy Store on Sunset Strip, where legends like David Letterman got catapulted to fame. Guy Torry convinced them to create a showcase where some of our biggest stars today – Nick Cannon, Chris Tucker, Tiffany Haddish, JB Smoove – got their start.  
Guy Torry: What prompted Phat Tuesdays was seeing a void in a community that was screaming for something to happen. Phat Tuesdays filled that void. 
What were the challenges getting it off the ground, and how was it received?
Torry: The challenges we were having include having no experience in running a business or a comedy night, no money for advertising, no social media back then, not being a household name, and how would I get the word out. 
Hudlin: Guy had never hosted a comedy night, had never run a business, and was new in town.  Despite all that, he turned Tuesday nights from the lamest night of the week to the hottest.  All that great comedy talent attracted celebrities like Prince, Mike Tyson, Tupac, and the Lakers, which in turn attracted all of the beautiful people in LA. 
Why was it such an important platform?
Torry: It was an important platform because there were these untapped Black talent that were not being seen. Phat Tuesdays provided an answer to that problem
Hudlin: No one should be denied an opportunity because of their race or culture.  Phat Tuesdays helped everyone.  Comedians went from sleeping on friends’ couches to owning mansions after starring in hit movies and television shows.  The success of that night single-handedly kept The Comedy Store alive in the lean years.  So, everyone benefited from it. 
What will viewers learn from the series that might surprise them?
Hudlin: Viewers will learn so many things; how hip hop and comedy are so similar, why Robin Harris and Bernie Mac are forever legends in comedy, how many jokes you have to tell per minute to afford an apartment in Hollywood, why you shouldn’t use your aunt’s ID to sneak into a club when you’re under 18.  Lots of good things to know. 
Torry: The viewers of this wonderful story will learn that with success comes problems and hurdles, and if you do something from your heart and it’s pure and it’s to help others, GOD will reward you. 

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