Robert Townsend

Active - 1975 - 2018  |   Born - Feb 6, 1957   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

After seriously pursuing a baseball career, African American actor/writer/director Robert Townsend decided upon a life in show business. An alumnus of Illinois State University and Hunter College, Townsend worked as a stand-up comic, and with such organizations as Second City, the Negro Ensemble Theater and the Experimental Black Actor's Guild. In films from 1975, Townsend satirically encapsulated his frustrating experiences as a black performer in a white-dominated Hollywood with his first directorial effort, Hollywood Shuffle (1987), a labor of love which was largely financed with credit cards and chutzpah. He went on to direct the popular concert film Eddie Murphy Raw (1987), then tripled as actor, director and writer on The Five Heartbeats (1991) and Meteor Man (1993). Attempting to transfer his style and personality to the small screen, Townsend came up with the 1993 Fox Network variety weekly Townsend Television, which despite laudatory reviews folded after three months. Robert Townsend had better luck as star and co-executive producer of the WB network's The Parent 'Hood, a distressingly conventional 1995 sitcom which somehow caught on with its target audience.

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