The festival is set to open with “a loving look at the life and legacy of an enduring comedy heroine.”
In celebration of the greatest (and stupidly shortest) month, we asked the cast and crew of The Second City’s Black History Month Show and Harold Ramis Film School students, staff and alumni to make their recommendations.
Get ready to watch your way your way through 28 days of Black Excellence.
“A Natural Born Gambler” – 1916
Bert Williams was the breakout African-American vaudeville star and the first to join the Ziegfeld Follies. While the film makes heavy use of the minstrelsy stereotypes common to the era, Williams’ famous “Poker Routine” is a pantomimed master class in timing and specifics. -Anne
“She’s Gotta Have It” – 1986
A popular romantic comedy that came out during a time when I still had my virginity, listened to Boy George, Prince and the Cure and tamed my raging hormones baking bread and pastries. Shot with Spike Lee’s nostalgic black and white frames and several cameo appearances, I experienced a peek at what my tumultuous twenties would look like. Contrast this gem with the current Netflix original series “She’s Gotta Have It” (also created by Spike) with more beautiful brown folks exploring social mores, erogenous zones and the inner conflict of an artist finding their voice —and you’ve got a binge worth bingeing for. Seriously…the scenes, music, poetry and acting and the eye candy had me hooked in the best way. –Dionna Griffin-Irons
“Hollywood Shuffle” – 1987
The humble beginning of some of comedy’s best black comedians. -Seth Thomas
Bobby Taylor is an actor who dreams of making it big in Hollywood. He finds his way into the casting room for a big, Hollywood feature. The issue is that it’s an exploitative film depicting African Americans in demeaning stereotypes. Some say, “Go for it.” Others say, “Don’t be a sell out.” What will Bobby decide? This classic film stars Black comedic legends Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Anne-Marie Johnson, and Helen Martin. -James
“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” – 1988
The Wayans Family (Keenen Ivory, Kim, & Damon Sr) sends up blaxploitation flicks with the help of some classic blaxploitation legends including Jim Brown and Issac Hayes. It’s the film debut of Chris Rock and one of the features appearances from Kadeem Hardison and John Witherspoon. Do yourself a favor and watch The Mack, SuperFly, Dolemite, Shaft and Three The Hard Way. Be in on the jokes. -Terrance T. Brown
“Coming to America” – 1988
Not only one of the best comedies ever, but I believe it was also the first of its kind. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play multiple roles flawlessly with a perfectly engaging combination of humor and thoughtfulness throughout. Incredible cast, and the script holds up brilliantly (forgiving the occasional non-progressive joke) after 30 years. Watch closely for one of the greatest cameos of all time. -Winter Davis
“House Party” – 1990
Another film on the enslavement/cries/plight of black (the entire African diaspora). People won’t keep you woke this February as you settle in for 28 days of Maya Angelou poems and Dr. King quotes. Instead, have yourself a merry little black experience and enjoy Reginald Hudlin’s first feature, “House Party,” with Martin Lawrence. Teenagers and Kid ‘n Play–who just wanna party, talk to the finest girls and outrun the bullies. Do yourself an extra favor and memorize the choreography… just in case you find yourself in a dance battle on a school night. -Tavia Woodie
“Life” – 1999
The movie stars Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy and a ton of other huge-name comics, including Bernie Mac. It’s not only hilarious, but it’s also a poignant story about the injustice Black Men have and still suffer at the hands of the prison industrial complex. It is my favorite movie because of how well it balances expert level comedic moments and deeply emotional storytelling. -Maya Haughton
“Friday After Next” – 2002
My go-to movie after a stressful day. It never gets old! O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson’s films depict the hilarity of common narratives impacting black communities. Scenarios like not knowing how to swim, staying with cousins for the summer, pouring water on cereal and friends that pull you into their drama all hit home for me. It’s remarkable to see Ice Cube evolve from musician into writing comedies. It’s helped me realize that we should NEVER limit our talents and should always be exploring new ways to share our gifts. -Chanel Hemphill
“Last Holiday” – 2006
When Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) is given misinformation that she is dying of a terminal illness, she gives all of her worldly possessions away and heads out on her dream vacation. And lives large. “Last Holiday” has all the makings of the things I love in a comedy: confusion, a love interest (LL Cool J), a few sinister villains, nice clothes, wacky ironies, and food! Lots of delicious food! The plot is predictable, but there are lots of laughs as we watch the story unfold. I liked this movie so much, I purchased two copies. Good thing I did, because my sister liked it so much that she took one. Enjoy! -Jil Ross
“Atlanta,” Episode 9, “Juneteenth” – 2016
The ninth episode of Donald Glover’s beloved FX series follows Earnest Marks (Donald Glover) as he attends a Juneteenth party with his girlfriend. Immediately, it’s revealed that the party’s host is a white male. Earn struggles to hold back anger towards this man, who seems to have a genuine appreciation of African American culture and history. Although it felt to Earn that he was throwing it in his face. Personally I saw this as a beautiful way to comment about the privilege that is so often connected to the depth of knowledge, art, experience, and culture. All things considered, this episode and series is a must-watch. As people of color, we must remember to not only seek information about our culture, but also share what we have gathered with those who may not have had the privilege. -Erikson Dockery
“Black Panther” – 2018
If you don’t see it…then you must think that Africa is full of “shithole counties,” and you are part of the problem. #WakandaIsWorthMoreThanTheGolbalGDP -Anthony LeBlanc
The Second City celebrates Black History Month by bringing you the most iconic sketches created by our African American alumni and looking back at Second City’s first Black History Month show, 2002’s ‘Words.’ A high-energy retrospective featuring material created by Keegan-Michael Key, Tim Meadows, Amber Ruffin, Bob Curry, Sam Richardson, and many more. February 14, 21, and 28 ONLY at 8PM in The Second City’s e.t.c. Theater. Tickets & info here.
Harold Ramis Film School is the only film school in the world focused entirely on comedy. To find out more, check out ramisfilmschool.com.