Phat Tuesdays, a pioneering comedy night held at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles during the mid-1990s and early 2000s, helped pave the way for comedians including Chris Tucker, Nick Cannon and Tiffany Haddish.
The three-part Amazon Prime Video docuseries Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy explores the history of the popular night, created by Guy Torry, and its impact on Hollywood, building comedy superstars and offering movie and TV opportunities to a slew of Black performers.
Director Reginald Hudlin said during the show’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted event that the reach of Phat Tuesdays is global, with comedians from around the world and across the United States inspired by its success. “Phat Tuesdays definitely inspired a hundred of flowers to bloom. That said, there’s nothing like the original and I think you’ll be hearing and seeing more of Phat Tuesdays moving forward,” he said.
Torry teased that the night, which ran from 1995-2005, might return in some form. “It’s gaining a little weight, we might need to call it Obese Tuesdays in a minute. There’s a lot of people interested in wanting to see more and the great job that Reggie and his team did was leaving you in a place where you’re wanting more and let’s see if there’s more. If the demand is out there, it will be.”
The series, produced by Original Productions, Phat Tuesdays Productions, Grammnet Productions and Amazon Studios, features interviews with the likes of Anthony Anderson, Tichina Arnold, Cannon, Dave Chappelle, Snoop Dogg, Cedric the Entertainer, Haddish, Steve Harvey, Lil Rel Howery, Regina King, Jo Koy, Luenell, Flame Monroe, Jay Pharoah, Craig Robinson, JB Smoove, Tucker and Kym Whitley as well as never-before-seen footage of legendary comedy sets.
Torry said he had a lot of footage archived. “The Comedy Store didn’t let you have cameras in but there were some special times when Mitzy Shore would let me [shoot]. I had a lot of those archives. I’m a hoarder so I kept a lot.”
Hudlin said it was an easy decision to direct, particularly as he got to spend a month laughing.
“We wanted to tell the story, not only of the institution of Phat Tuesdays, but the arc of Black comedy in that time, so we also had to talk about the Comedy Act Theater in South Central L.A., we had to talk about Def Comedy Jam, Wild N Out, we had to show the entire arc of the movement. What Phat Tuesdays did so successfully, it’s easy to take for granted that of course, Black comedians are everywhere, they’re on late-night talk shows, they’ve got comedy specials. But as recently as the ’90s, there was this Berlin Wall separating Black comedians from their white counterparts. It’s hard to imagine because we’ve gone so far so fast. We had to tell a much bigger story.”