The “Phat Tuesdays” comedy showcase was more than a laughing matter. Started in the mid-1990s, the special night devoted to Black comics at the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip helped launch the careers of future stars such as Steve Harvey, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and several others. But it was also a response to the racial tensions that continued to simmer around Los Angeles after the police beating of Rodney King and other charged incidents.
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“L.A. needed to laugh again,” Guy Torry, who created and hosted the showcase, tells The Times. “The city was so divided, but Phat Tuesdays really brought people together. Folks came from everywhere. Plus, there needed to be a major venue where Black comedians could really get exposed and seen.”