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Is Amazon's Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy a direct response to the whiteness of Showtime's The Comedy Store?

  • When Mike Binder's five-part Showtime docuseries on the history of the iconic Comedy Store premiered in October 2020, some noted how white and mostly male it was, as if it was "a documentary made by these older white comedians for other older white comedians." "Enter Reginald Hudlin’s Amazon docuseries Phat Tuesdays, which fills three hours with what feels in retrospect like a mighty telling absence from Binder’s version of Comedy Store history," says Daniel Fienberg. "It’s hard to know if Phat Tuesdays is a direct response to how myopic that series was in its examination of Black comics — specifically how the Phat Tuesdays showcase kept the club afloat for several years in the ’90s, or if there was simultaneous production on both documentaries and the directors elected to make them complementary texts. It feels like the former, because Hudlin’s series climaxes with many of the Phat Tuesdays comics lamenting their exclusion from the overall Comedy Store narrative in the form of the club’s famous wall-of-signatures. In that respect, it’s important that Phat Tuesday gives so many of these voices their moment to shine in a personality-packed series that manages to remain thoroughly entertaining even as Hudlin generally loses focus toward the end. For an episode-and-a-half, Hudlin expertly lays the context for Phat Tuesdays, an all-Black showcase that impresario Mitzi Shore handed to comic Guy Torry (also an executive producer here) to curate mostly in response to a dead night at the Comedy Store. Initially restricted to one of the venue’s smallest rooms — 'We were like the McRib for McDonald’s. We were seasonal,' comic Aries Spears cracks — Phat Tuesdays exploded into a Los Angeles sensation, one that attracted sports stars, models and the biggest names in established comedy, helping launch countless movie and TV parts and development deals."


    • Comedians from Jo Koy to Aries Spears recall their brushes with fame at Phat Tuesdays: “I was just like, what the f—! I was a tour guide for a dolphin habitat and here’s RZA and Quentin Tarantino watching me!” says Koy. Spears recalls Tupac Shakur watching him. “I was doing a few Mike Tyson jokes and he wasn’t too pleased about it. He stood up and let me know about it in the middle of my set," he says. "At the end of the show, strangely enough, he came backstage and told me how great I was. It was kind of like an honor and a curse.”
    • Phat Tuesdays creator Guy Torry says it was not just a showcase, it was a comedy party: "We saw comedians become stars," he says. "We saw Hollywood stocking its shelves with new Black talent. We experienced the healing of a city that had been divided and burned from the Rodney King verdict because laughter purified the air. Phat Tuesdays was not only a movement, it was the best damn comedy show PERIOD."

    TOPICS: Phat Tuesdays, The Comedy Store (docuseries), Aries Spears, Guy Torry, Jo Koy, Mike Binder, Reginald Hudlin, The Comedy Store, Documentaries, Standup Comedy