Image of Robert Townsend

Robert Townsend

Robert Townsend was born on February 6, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. He is an actor, comedian, film director, and writer. In 1974, Townsend auditioned for parts at Chicago's Experimental Black Actors' Guild and performed in local plays studying at the famed Second City comedy workshop for improvisation. He enrolled at Illinois State University and a year and later moved to New York to study at the Negro Ensemble Company. Townsend had a brief un-credited role in the movie Cooley High (1975). His career hit mainstream in the early 1980s. This included stand-up comedy routines which appeared on cable television. He also appeared in small parts like the his role in A Soldier's Story (1984) opposite Denzel Washington. Townsend auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Live's 1980-1981 cast, but was rejected when Eddie Murphy was chosen instead. During the 1980s and early 1990s Townsend gained national exposure through his many appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Townsend established himself when he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the comedy Hollywood Shuffle, his 1987 film about struggling black actors in Hollywood. The success of this project helped him establish credit in the film industry and he gained notoriety, which helped him continue to succeed in other films like The Mighty Quinn (1989) with Denzel Washington, The Five Heartbeats (1991) and The Meteor Man (1993). He created and produced two television variety shows; the CableACE Award–Winning Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime for HBO, and the Fox Television Variety Show Townsend Television (1993). He also created and starred in the WB Network's sitcom The Parent 'Hood (1995). On the big screen, he has directed Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987); Halle Berry and Martin Landau in B*A*P*S (1997); James Earl Jones and Bill Cosby in The Meteor Man (1993), which Townsend also starred. Other credits include; Love Songs (1999), a TV movie starring Louis Gossett, Jr., and Andre Braugher; the Disney family film Up, Up, and Away (2000); and the Showtime movie, Holiday Heart, starring Ving Rhames. In 2009 he directed Phantom Punch, the film biopic of Sonny Liston, with Ving Rhames in the lead role. During his career, Townsend has made history through being nominated for more than 30 NAACP Image Awards for film and television.

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Feb 6, 1957 In Chicago, Illinois, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the series M*A*S*H 1972-09-17
Latest Project:
Movie A Walk with Charles Burnett 2019-02-27
Known For
Poster of Undercover Brother
Poster of The Meteor Man
Poster of Streets of Fire
Poster of Cooley High
Movie A Walk with Charles Burnett Himself 2019-02-27
Series Black Lightning Dr. Napier Frank 2018-01-16
Movie Playin' for Love Coach Banks 2015-01-16
Movie Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire Vampire Actor #1 (voice) 2012-03-13
Movie Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy Self 2009-01-01
Movie Of Boys and Men Holden Cole 2008-10-21
Movie Tao of The Golden Mask 2007-06-23
Movie Edge of Outside Bobby Taylor (archive footage) 2006-06-11
Series Black in the 80s Self 2005-02-01
Movie Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet, #*%$#@!! Himself 2003-01-01
Movie Black Listed Alan Chambers 2003-01-21
Movie Book of Love: The Definitive Reason Why Men Are Dogs Unknown 2002-02-14
Movie I Was a Teenage Faust Mr. Five 2002-06-01
Movie Undercover Brother Mr. UB 2002-05-31
Movie Up, Up, and Away Jim Marshall / Bronze Eagle 2000-01-22
Movie Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light Unknown 2000-02-02
Movie Love Songs 1999-04-25
Movie Jackie's Back! Robert Townsend 1999-06-14
Movie Mercenary II: Thick & Thin Charlie Love 1999-07-20
Movie Taxman Peyton Cody 1999-09-16
Movie Joseph's Gift James Saunders 1998-01-01
Movie Stuart Hall: Representation & the Media Archive Footage (Hollywood Shuffle) 1997-01-01
Series The Parent 'Hood Robert Peterson 1995-01-18
Movie The Legend of Dolemite! Bigger & Badder Himself 1994-01-01
Movie The Meteor Man Jefferson Reed 1993-08-06
Movie The Five Heartbeats Duck 1991-03-29
Series The Carol Burnett Show Unknown 1991-11-01
Movie That's Adequate Unknown 1989-01-01
Movie The Mighty Quinn Maubee 1989-02-17
Movie I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (Uncredited) 1988-11-10
Movie Hollywood Shuffle Bobby Taylor 1987-03-20
Movie Rodney Dangerfield: It's Not Easy Bein' Me himself 1986-01-01
Movie Odd Jobs Dwight 1986-03-01
Movie Ratboy Manny 1986-10-17
Movie American Flyers Jerome 1985-08-16
Movie Streets of Fire Lester - The Sorels 1984-06-01
Movie A Soldier's Story Corporal Ellis 1984-09-14
Movie In Love with an Older Woman James 1982-11-24
Movie Willie and Phil Thin Boy 1980-08-15
Movie Women at West Point Russell Baker 1979-02-27
Movie The Monkey Hustle Musician 1976-12-24
Movie Cooley High Basketball Player in Gym Class 1975-06-25
Series M*A*S*H Unknown 1972-09-17