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10 Louisiana Comedians Who Made it Big

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(KTAL/KMSS) – There must be something in the water because people in Bayou state have been acting weird for more than 150 years. Our comedic timing stretches back at least as far as 1869, when a baby was born in New Orleans just after the Civil War and grew into one of the nation’s first major screen comedians.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most famous comedians born in Louisiana, in no particular order.

1. Bernard Turpin, New Orleans

This Roman Catholic son of a candy store owner from southern Louisiana is said to have been the first actor to have a cake thrown in his face on film. Bernard Turpin’s signature style of physical comedy included a brush mustache and crossed eyes, which he claimed crossed when he suffered an accident as a young adult. Turpin performed in vaudeville, burlesque, and the circus, eventually appearing with American comedy legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Paddy McQuire, and Laurel and Hardy.

Like his better-known contemporaries, Turpin was famous in the silent film era. When sound hit the big screen, the southern actor decided to dabble in real estate rather than memorize lines — though he still made a few cameos here and there.

Born in New Orleans, Bernard Turpin was one of our nation’s early comedies superstars. This ArkLaTex bird has 4 sexes and refuses to mate with birds of the same feather color

2. Garrett Isaac Morris, New Orleans

Not quite 70 years after Tarpin’s birth, another little boy born in Crescent City was also sprinkled with some of that magical comedy dust.

Born in 1937, Garrett Isaac Morris sang with The Belafonte Folk Singers and acted in films such as Car Wash and The Thief before he was shot by a thief in real life. After his recovery, he returned to acting, taking on the role of “Uncle Junior King” on The Jamie Foxx Show.

Morris is also known for his role in the original cast of Saturday Night Live, where he stayed for five seasons, but he’s not the only Louisiana comedian to star on the show.

Garrett Isaac Morris, a native of New Orleans, was one of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Photo by Jason Kempkin/Getty Images.

3.Punkie Johnson, New Orleans

Punkie Johnson, a graduate of Nicholls State University, was the first black queer female member of the Saturday Night Live cast when she joined the cast as a lead in 2020 and is now appearing on the show in its third season. Johnson is also from New Orleans, although she now (obviously) lives in New York.

She has toured as a stand-up comedian, appeared regularly at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and has also appeared on Space Force, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Corporate, and Adam Ruins Everything.

Born in New Orleans, Punkie Johnson turns up the laughs on Saturday Night Live. Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/Getty Images.

4.Tyler Perry, New Orleans

Tyler Perry is also from New Orleans. He may be best known for creating and portraying the comedic character named Mabel “Madea” Simmons, but he is also an accomplished actor, filmmaker, playwright, screenwriter, producer and director.

Perry, recognized as one of the most commercially successful African-American filmmakers in history, speaks candidly about the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child.

Tyler Perry photo via Associated Press/Chris Pizzello.

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5. Mark Normand, New Orleans

Mark Normand was born and raised in New Orleans before launching his career as a comedian on YouTube. He has appeared on Conan, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Showtime’s Live at SXSW, Inside Amy Schumer, TruTv, Best Week Ever, MTV and Last Comic Standing.

Normand is also the co-host of a weekly podcast called Tuesdays with stories and proudly calls New Orleans his hometown.

Image of New Orleans native comedian Mark Normand via his Instagram.

6. Paul Mooney, Shreveport

This enigmatic Shreveport comedian was the behind-the-scenes partner of another famous comedian, the unforgettable Richard Pryor. Mooney has written/co-written for shows such as In Living Color, Sanford & Sons, Chappelle’s Show and The Richard Pryor Show to name a few. He was known for using comedy to push racial boundaries.

Mooney was one of many Louisiana natives who ended up in southern California, to parts of the country where Jim Crow laws did not exist, as part of the great migration of southern blacks in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

PASADENA, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: Comedian Paul Mooney performs onstage at the 2005 BET Comedy Icon Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 25, 2005 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

7. Theo Von, New Orleans

Emancipated at the age of fourteen, this Mandeville High graduate grew up in Covington and graduated from the University of New Orleans. He was featured on MTV’s Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour in 2000, where he began a series of whirlwind lineups in the reality television world. But by 2006, Von had won the Last Comic Standing online contest.

In 2008, Von beat comedians Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish and Bert Kreischer in the Reality Bites Back competition.

Image by Theo Von via his Instagram.

8. Ellen DeGeneres, Metarie

One of the nation’s quirkiest and most famous comedians, Ellen DeGeneres hails from Metairie. This TV host, actress, writer, and producer attended the University of New Orleans before dropping out and starting a strange series of jobs, including oyster shelling.

After finding her calling in comedy, Ellen’s career skyrocketed. She landed her eponymous sitcom, Ellen, in 1994 and made history when she appeared on the show as gay in 1997. Despite backlash, she eventually landed her own talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It aired from 2003 to 2022 and won 20 Daytime Emmy Awards in its first five years alone.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 05: Ellen DeGeneres attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

9. Dante Powell, Bernice

Dante Powell’s 2020 debut comedy album The squirrels are getting fat reached #1 on the iTunes and Amazon comedy charts. Powell hails from Bernice, where he worked as a truck driver before moving to Des Moines, IA and starting his comedy career. He now travels the country performing in comedy clubs.

Image of comedian Dante Powell, a native of Bernice, via his Instagram.

10.Charlie Wilson, Shreveport

Shreveport native Charlie Wilson hosts Laugh After Dark LIVE in Las Vegas, a television series that spotlights the rising stars of stand-up comedy. The award-winning show has won multiple awards and features too The Fremont radio.

Wilson grew up in Shreveport and attended Greenwood Acres Baptist Church, then moved to Dallas, Texas in his early 20s. He bought a one-way ticket to New York to join his wife and began his comedy career during an open mic night in Manhattan.

Image of Shreveport native comedian Charlie Wilson via his Instagram.

HHonorable Mention: George Carlin, based at Barksdale AFB, Bossier City

BURBANK, CA – OCTOBER 8: Comedian George Carlin appears on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ on October 8, 2003 at NBC Studios in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

George Carlin, who went on to become one of the most influential stand-up comedians of the counterculture era, was born in New York City but was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport/Bossier during his Air Force days and worked as a disc jockey at radio station KJOE in Shreveport before meeting his future comedy partner at a radio station in Fort Worth and then getting his big comedy break in California.

Rising social media comedy stars from Louisiana

Alongside accomplished stage and screen comedians, Louisiana is proving to be a robust breeding ground for some hilarious Louisians making their mark in the age of social media.

Among them is a Lafayette-based YouTuber known online as “The Real Spark.” James Bates is best known for his spoof news interview videos, notably one that went viral on YouTube and Twitter in 2021, in which he played a fictionalized version of a flight attendant who had to tape down an unruly passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight .

Shreveport’s own Leigh McLendon, aka Leigh McNasty, has more than 3.6 million followers on Tik Tok with his “caring teacher” skits. It’s a world he knows well, being actually an elementary school teacher.

A Pitkin, Louisiana native, David “Catfish” Cooley first made his mark in comedy when his online videos were featured on an episode of online comedy show Tosh.0 in 2017. He then took part in the Nitro Comedy Tour with Ginger in 2018. Billy is best known for his outspoken and upbeat “redneck” personality.

A native of Baton Rouge, Howard Hall is a self-described designer, content creator and laugher from Baton Rouge who has made his rounds of the South Louisiana comedy scene and was featured on the short series Comedy Boil.

Spend any time on social media, and you’ll see Mario P, the Crescent City’s comedy jerk. His NSFW digital shorts chronicle the good, the bad, and the ugly of his experiences as a New Orleanian…particularly the torments of the Saints fandom.

IT pro by day and comedic comedian by night, New Orleans native Brandon Haynes chronicles the trials and tribulations of teenage fatherhood, aging, and other hilarious observations on life. If you’re in the New Orleans area looking for a laugh, you’ll find him hosting the monthly comedy at Uncle Matts.

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