NBC may be drowning in white folks, but there are a few black gems among its lineup of comedians making it known that they’re just as crucial to the network’s success and comic nuance. Take a look below at five of the best black comedians keeping NBC jamming.
5. Jay Pharoah – Saturday Night Live
Still largely underrated, Jay Pharoah has an ace up his sleeve of such impeccable precision and undeniable authority that he’ll hopefully become a household name someday; his impressions kill. Impersonations on SNL are a dime a dozen, but there’s something about Pharoah’s delivery–which only deviates into the inaccurate when he deliberately commands it–that sets him apart from his colleagues. His Will Smith does the close-your-eyes-and-you-can’t-tell-the-difference kind of convincing that indicates a wealth of talent waiting to be recognized, and his Jay-Z has the same effect. Hopefully he’ll be blowing up sometime soon.
4. Retta – Parks and Recreation
She’s not exactly a lead on Parks and Recreation, but Retta as Donna has so much swagger that it doesn’t really matter. Defying every stereotype about fat women, Retta’s Donna is incredibly confident in her sexuality and not at all threatened by thin ladies. Retta’s comedy is understated but integral to the atmosphere of the show, coming with lines delivered wtih matter-of-fact bluntness and even-handed expressiveness that make her a consistent source of fun on the show.
3. Craig Robinson - The Office
Craig Robinson’s Darryl has the kind of calm mischief that makes his role an effortlessly entertaining one on The Office. Robinson’s straight-faced jokes and pitch-perfect delivery pack more punch than many of the over-the-top performances of his colleagues, and it’s a shame that the Office hadn’t made him more of a central character until the last few years of its eight-season run. Robinson commands attention with his quiet brand of comedy, providing some much-needed balance to a show that can be a little too loud for its own good.
2. Tracy Morgan – 30 Rock
Tracy Morgan is a force of nature. Despite the consistency of his timing and delivery, Morgan’s Tracy Jordan still manages to catch you off guard with his raging talent and bullet-to-the-stomach laughs. Not so much “making” you smile as slapping one on you, Morgan outshines every other cast member–including the enormously gifted Alec Baldwin–with the sheer ambition and boundless energy of his performance. There are none like Morgan; he knows it, we know it, and that’s what makes him so valuable on screen.
1. Donald Glover – Community
It’s not that Donald Glover is necessarily “better” at each niche of humor the previous comedians inhabit: it’s that he’s just so uncannily good in all of them. From the over-the-top to the matter-of-fact to the introspective to the extravagantly expressive, Glover excels at each facet of comedy without, it seems, lifting a finger. His broad range of humor–and humanity–on screen are unparalleled by his colleagues on Community, and it’s exciting to contemplate how much better he can get if he’s already this good at such a young age. Glover has promise, to say the least, and the fact that he’s proven himself to have potential for even greater heights makes him a phenomenon.