DAR TV: Def Comedy Jam

By @TrueGodImmortal

Though I'm not the biggest fan of Russell Simmons, I would be in denial if I didn't admit his success is inspiring. For years, he took the Def Jam brand and made it viable beyond belief. While music was the focal point of the Def Jam brand, eventually Russell and company would venture into something different that would benefit them on a major level: Def Comedy Jam. Though stand up comedy was nothing new, the influx of a number of black comedians who were unfiltered, brash, and honest changed the way we consumed comedy forever. There wasn't a need for censorship, a need for understanding, or a need for trying to fit into the world of stand up comedy that was popular before. This stand up comedy was more confident, more self aware, more raw, with a bit of physicality behind the jokes due to the animated nature of the comedians. Unlike the comedians of the past, these comedians were like Eddie Murphy in RAW times 10. While the jokes they gave us might not have been as classic as Eddie, the influence was clear. The descendants of Pryor, Redd Foxx, and to a lesser extent, Eddie, all showcased the talent they had and used Def Comedy Jam as a platform to go higher and higher in their careers. Today, we recognize this legendary and important program by taking a look at the comedians that made their mark and catapulted their careers from this platform along with what Def Comedy Jam means to us, even now. Let's get into it.

*Bill Bellamy 

-Surprisingly, at one point, Bill Bellamy was one of the funniest comedians of his era. While that might be a small exaggeration, Bill was one of the more popular comedians on Def Comedy Jam, due to his playboy persona and the way he delivered his jokes. He focused mostly on women and was able to draw them in when on the stage. However, his biggest success? Many credit him with coining the phrase "booty call", which he popularized more and more through his act on stage. His whole routine on "Booty Calls" changed the game of comedy and the American lexicon, and for that, Bill Bellamy is easily one of the most important comedians to come along in Def Comedy Jam history.

*Cedric The Entertainer 

-I wasn't the biggest fan of the work that Cedric did on the Def Comedy Jam stage, but the fact remains he used that stage to help carry him to a much bigger career. If you've seen some of his Kings of Comedy routine then you saw a lot of his Def Comedy Jam work, as one of his most infamous bits came from his time here. When Cedric talks about black people and their knack for running at random times, it's instantly recognizable for two different reasons, the first one being it's relatable and the second one being it's been used by him quite a few times.

*Mark Curry 

-The Hangin With Mr. Cooper star  showed a much different side of himself than what you'd expect on Def Comedy Jam. His routine was more Oakland than Mr. Cooper and it managed to make him more popular than before. Some of his bits on living in the hood, the suburbs, and the infamous "Wanna Buy Some Monkeys" punchline all made his time enjoyable on the stage and though he wasn't my favorite, Mark Curry made his impact on Def Comedy Jam.

*Martin Lawrence 

-It's quite simple. The most important comedian in the Def Comedy Jam landscape was the initial host of the show at the height of his popularity growth. When Martin was getting ready to begin his legendary sitcom, he would also settle comfortably into his role at host. The best thing about Martin on the show as host was his ability to roast the audience members and if I'm being honest, his roasting of the celebrities who showed up to the tapings always went hilariously. From Ice-T to Lawrence Taylor to a random audience member, no one was safe when Martin was on the mic and that's what made it a pleasure to watch the vulgarity and comedic chops of Martin in a non traditional role for him.

*Chris Tucker 

-If I had to pick my favorite act from Def Comedy Jam, it would probably be Chris Tucker. In his prime, Chris was one of the most infamous stars on the show and he was able to captivate the audience every single time. From his act showcasing Michael Jackson as a pimp to one of my favorite jokes where he mentions that he's so broke that if he was robbed by somebody, they would only be practicing. With numerous appearances on the show, Chris was hilarious from start to finish, using his facial expressions and his loud, abrasive comedic style to fuel his success on the stage. I don't think Chris missed once on that Def Comedy Jam stage.

*Bernie Mac

-The truth be told, Bernie has the most infamous act in all of Def Comedy Jam. His star was essentially made through his most famous stand up bit. The greatest routine in Def Comedy Jam history comes from Bernie, from his talk of being able to buy sex in the store to his infamous line "I ain't scared of you muthafuckas", all the way to his consistent "you don't understand", and of course the infamous "Give Her Da Dick" line, Bernie could do no wrong. Even his opening line about the woman of New York looking good like a bacon and egg sandwich was hilarious in its own right. Bernie Mac might be the greatest comedian to ever touch the Def Comedy Jam stage, and no one left their impact on that stage quite like him.

*Adele Givens 

-There were some women that came through the Def Jam stage, but none funnier than Adele Givens. She managed to captivate audiences with her raunchy and aggressive comedy style and nothing was really off limits. When she walked on the stage and asked "Do I look like a fucking lady or what", you knew you were in for an interesting time watching her. There were a lot of great female comedians on Def Comedy Jam, but there weren't any quite like Adele.

*Dave Chappelle 

-Chappelle isn't the most infamous star to come off the Def Jam stage and many would say he was more infamous for his role in The Nutty Professor and his numerous failed pilots, but he showcased his strength as a stand up comedian via this platform, from his comedy bit on "fitting a description for the police", the N-Word and the usage of it, and the influx of gay people into the community and a hilarious encounter with a "robber", and edgy content. In his early years, you could tell Chappelle was mastering the comedic style that would take him to higher heights. Without his time in Def Comedy Jam, Chappelle wouldn't have experienced the level of success he has reached.

*Steve Harvey 

-While I'm not the biggest fan of Steve Harvey, the start of his comedy ascension clearly started during his run on Def Comedy Jam. With his infamous fade and dressed in a suit, Steve made his presence known. There aren't too many routines he brought to the stage that stand out, but I can admit he was consistently successful on the stage and his success on Def Comedy Jam led to him becoming the celebrity he is today.

*Eddie Griffin 

-While he isn't looked at as one of the best comedians, Eddie Griffin has a knack for comedy. He is brash, outspoken, and his comedy hits hard even when he goes as far as he can. His bits on Magic Johnson, police brutality and Rodney King, and other jokes made more eyes take a look at him. His funniest bit for me had to be when he discussed pioneers and other inventors using drugs, from Alexander Graham Bell to Benjamin Franklin. Eddie wasn't the funniest of the comedians on the show IMO, but he definitely helped to make a name for himself that led to more and more opportunities.

*D.L. Hughley 

-It should be no surprise that all four Kings of Comedy are mentioned here. They rose to prominence through Def Comedy Jam and saw success because of their style on this show. D.L. Hughley was yet another successful comedian from this show and while he's one of my least favorites to watch, there was no denying that the loud and abrasive vibe of D.L. Hughley garnered him some of the bigger acclaim and helped push his career to the next level.

There you have it. The best comedians and the impact they had through their stint on Def Comedy Jam. There are so many more comedians that could be discussed here from Joe Torry to Alonzo "Hamburger" Jones to Small Fry to bigger names like Chris Rock and Jamie Foxx (both appeared on the show at one point), as well as Corey Holcomb, Mike Epps, Teddy Carpenter, Ricky Harris (RIP) and so many more, but the fact remains, Def Comedy Jam was a true career starter and one of the most important shows in the history of black comedy, if not the most important.



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