In the field of comedy, black comics have distinguished themselves as some of the best in the world. Their impact has been felt across multiple genres and they have used comedy to tell truths unapologetically and highlight social injustice, among others.
Combining their comic skills with acting and other endeavors, these comedians have amassed a fortune running into millions of dollars even though black athletes tend to take the spotlight.
In this piece, Face2Face Africa highlights some comics who have acquired substantial wealth.
Kevin Hart is a renowned American comedian, actor, and businessman. The Philadelphia-born native started his career in comedy after performing at an amateur night held in a Philadelphia-area club. He was also featured on ABC’s “The Big House,” but his act did not resonate with his audiences, leading to the cancellation of the show after six episodes.
He went into comedy, drawing inspiration from comedians like Chris Tucker, among others, and later reworked his act to get his career back on track. His career rebounded in 2006 when he released his first stand-up album, “I’m a Little Grown Man.” This cemented his career as one of the best emerging young comedians in the 2000s. His second album, “Seriously Funny,” was released in 2010 and proved to be even bigger. He later released a series of comedies in 2011 and 2013.
Hart’s success in comedy landed him a number of movie roles. He got movie recognition when he was featured in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Soul Plane,” and “Little Fockers.” Since then, he has starred in several movies. His success in comedy and movies also earned him a gig in event hosting. In 2012, he hosted the MTV Award Show and other high-profile events.
According to the Asiatimes, Hart has an estimated net worth of $450million.
Bill Cosby was released from prison in 2021 after his conviction on sexual assault charges was overturned by Pennsylvania’s highest court. The 86-year-old was sentenced in September 2018 to three to 10 years in prison on three counts of aggravated assault for drugging and sexually assaulting former basketball player, Andrea Constand, in his home in 2004.
The comedian and actor had served more than two years of his sentence when the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that he had been denied a fair trial in 2018. Before the allegation of sexual assault surfaced, he was making millions through syndication for reruns of The Cosby Show, specials, various TV deals he was working on, appearances, and touring, according to Forbes.
However, Cosby took a heavy financial hit as a result of the sexual allegations and trial, losing millions from earnings from his once-lucrative career. According to Forbes, The Cosby Show was dropped by BET and TV Land. Also, a planned Netflix special, Bill Cosby 77, was indefinitely postponed. An NBC family sitcom that was in development with Cosby as both producer and star was also terminated. NBC had made a seven-figure deal with Cosby without even seeing a script, Forbes said, adding that “Cosby’s deal with NBC for the proposed show included a penalty fee awarding him more than $1 million should nothing materialize.”
Cosby has a reported estimated net worth of $400 million. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid television actor in the world with a base salary of $1 million per episode for starring in The Bill Cosby Show.
American comedian, actor, playwright, director, and entrepreneur, Tyler Perry, like many successful black people, started his journey from a humble beginning. He grew up in a poor home and had an abusive father. At one point, Perry had to make a home in his car; however, he is a celebrity billionaire today.
In 2020, the veteran Hollywood filmmaker and business mogul became a new member of the “billionaires club” with a net worth of $1 billion. One of the contributory factors to Perry’s success and rise on the financial ladder is credited to his exclusive 100% ownership of his works. He has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.
Stephen Harvey is an American comedian, broadcaster, show host, author, and businessman. He is widely known for his popular show “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” and as host of game shows such as “Family Feud” and “Celebrity Family Feud”.
In 1985, he tried comedy at the Hilarities Comedy Club. At one point, Harvey was homeless during his early career. He slept in his 1976 Ford in the late 1980s when he performed at shows that did not provide a hotel.
Harvey had his breakthrough when he emerged as a finalist in the Second Annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search in 1990. He landed a spot as the host of the TV show “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” replacing Mark Curry in the role. That was how he broke into the comedy industry and has since not looked back.
Harvey has a reported net worth of $200 million.
Byron Allen is a comedian and media mogul. He is the owner of The Weather Channel, a platform he acquired for an estimated fee of $300 million in 2018. His Entertainment Studios also reportedly purchased Bayou City Broadcasting for $165 million.
Also, in 2021, he made an $8 billion bid for the acquisition of TEGNA, the local TV company with 64 stations in 51 markets across the U.S., according to Hollywood Reporter.
Allen’s acquisition of multiple media platforms has made him one of the richest Black Americans. However, it also plunged him into debt. During the peak of the pandemic, his Weather Channel incurred a “huge debt load” due to TV advertisers drying up, affecting their ad spending budget.
Still, he is said to be worth $800 million.
Dave Chappelle is undoubtedly a comic extraordinaire who has consistently drawn praise as a comic and a social critic. The comedian does it better than anyone in the industry. Chappelle trained as a teacher at Duke Ellington School of the Art but moved to New York City to pursue a career in comedy. His first show at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night turned awful as he was booed off the stage. However, he quickly made a name for himself on the New York comedy circuit.
He also appeared on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam in 1992 and won critical and popular acclaim for his performance. He subsequently became a regular guest on the late-night circuit on shows like Late Show with David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
At age 20, Chappelle made his first film debut in Robin Hood: Men In Tights and took on other film roles. In 2003, he launched the ‘Chappelle’s Show’ on Comedy Central. The popularity of the show earned him a $55 million contract to continue the show for two years. He walked away from the show during the production of the third season, turning down a new $50 million contract from Comedy Central.
In November 2016, reports said he inked a $60 million deal with Netflix to deliver three standup specials to the streaming service. “Between June 2016 and June 2017, Dave earned $47 million. Between June 2017 and June 2018, Dave earned $35 million,” according to Celebrity Net Worth. His Netflix production led him to receive a Grammy Award in 2018 for Best Comedy Album for his first two Netflix specials: The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas.
He has a reported net worth of $60 million.
Whoopi Goldberg is a comedian, actress, and daytime television host. She started comedy before becoming the moderator of ABC’s The View. She got her first Grammy after her 1983 one-woman show, Spook Show, eventually landed on Broadway under the title Whoopi Goldberg, running from 1984 to 1985.
She got her breakthrough role when she played Celie in The Color Purple, for which she received her first Oscar nomination and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama in 1985. Goldberg has a net worth of $60 million, based on speculative estimates from various sources.
Chris Rock is an American standup comedian, actor, producer, and movie director. However, it’s his craft as a comedian that shot him to fame. He first started stand-up comedy in 1984 at the club Catch a Rising Star in New York City.
With his popularity soaring after the show, Rock secured a role in the TV series “Miami Vice”. Rock was then spotted by Eddie Murphy who mentored and gave him his first film role in “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987).
Rock joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1990 along with new cast members Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and David Spade. They became famously known as the Bad Boys of SNL. He went on to release his first comedy album in 1991 titled “Born Suspect.”
Rock has a reported net worth of $60 million.