Emily Berl for The New York Times
Emily Berl for The New York Times

When “All Def Comedy,” my showcase for up-and-coming black comedians, had its premiere on Nov. 12 on HBO, it brought back memories of “Def Comedy Jam,” its ’90s-era predecessor. In The New York Times, Jason Zinoman wrote an appreciation of the old show, calling it “trailblazing” and “filled with a staggering amount of talent.” While I liked a lot of what he said, he lacked insight on one point: how important a platform like this still is. The new show “arrives in a very different comedy climate,” he wrote, adding, “There are more platforms today” and noting that “the scene is less segregated.”

The fact is, “the scene” is still largely as segregated as it was 25 years ago. Though emerging and creative voices are readily accessible — my media company, All Def Digital, has put a great deal of such talent in front of audiences on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Spotify — Hollywood’s traditional gatekeepers still reach around the black community and its most cutting-edge comedic talent in favor of much safer performers. The comics favored by these gatekeepers are fine for television, but do you see any of them being cast in major motion pictures?

For the complete story, visit TheNewYorkTimes.com/Arts/Television.


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