Sun, Jun

Joel Boyd’s journey through comedy, television, and film

Photos by Jason Lewis


Boyd performs comedy, has written for Arsenio Hall, and his latest project, “High Power: A Mystical Short Film,” has been released on YouTube.



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By Jason Lewis

Joel Boyd found his calling at a pretty early age.  Years before he became a comedian, television writer, actor, and filmmaker, one of his grade school teachers in his hometown of Milwaukee told him that he should be an actor, so she put him in school productions.  Not long after that he found his true calling in comedy.  

“At 14 or 15 years old, I discovered Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’ and ‘Delirious,’” he said.  “For hours I would be consuming Eddie.  From him, I found out who Richard Pryor was.  And then I’d go back further on these deep YouTube dives; George Carlin, and probably stuff that I shouldn’t have been watching.”

Like many teenagers, Boyd was going through the growing pains of adolescence, and comedy helped him through that phase of his life.

“One of the reasons why I started doing comedy, and that I started being funny on purpose, was because I was nervous,” he said.  “It was a defense mechanism.  I was actually uncomfortable in my own body, and I would use humor to talk to people.  It would put people at ease if I could get a joke out of the room.  I would feel better, and I kept doing that from when I was really young.”

Boyd was not the type of kid to sit around and dream to be something; he took the initiative to become it.  While still in high school he would rent a small theater for $100, which would get him two hours to put on live shows.  He would put up flyers at school and charge students $5.

“There was no other way that I was going to get on stage,” he said.  “So that’s how I was getting like 20-minute sets at like 15 years old, because I couldn’t do that anywhere else.  And I’d have to do a new 20 minutes every other month because if kids from high school are going to come back, I had to have new stuff.”

Boyd became a well-rounded person growing up in Milwaukee, even though he said that while it is a very Black city, it’s also one of the most blatantly segregated cities in the country.  

“My parents luckily found this little pocket in the north side where there were Black families that mostly had two-parent households,” he said.  “It was kind of Black folks and Jewish folks living in the same neighborhood.  My mom was very smart in putting me into situations where I was getting exposed to other cultures and other kids.  She would always give us an opportunity to learn stuff.  There was never a summer where I wasn’t in a program somewhere.  There was never a free summer.  I would go to summer school, even if I did great.  She exposed us to random stuff when we were young.”

Boyd would go to Chicago on weekends to take stand-up comedy classes, and after high school he attended Columbia College Chicago.  

“That where I sharpened my teeth in comedy,” he said.  

Boyd was in the film department for about a week before he figured out that he would be better suited in the television department.  He studied television writing and producing.  While in college he was a scholar with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which led him to obtaining an internship on the film “42,” the biographical film about Jackie Robinson.

“That was my first exposure to seeing how a big-budget set works,” he said.  “In college, I was always figuring out who had a high-quality camera and that likes to be on set.  And I’d make shorts.  We would write them and edit them, and just put them out on YouTube.  That was my earliest exposure to being a person who wanted to put something out.”

In 2017 Boyd landed a job as a writer on TBS’s “Drop the Mic,” which led to him moving to Los Angeles.  

“I was a writer’s assistant,” he said.  “It wasn’t that much money, but it was more money than I had ever made.”

After a year he was promoted to being a staff writer.  

“From there, I’ve been lucky enough to job hop,” Boyd said.  “I’ve used everything that I’ve ever learned to be a freelance artist.  I’d do some acting, and I’d produce for another job.”

Boyd worked for Arsenio Hall as a writer on “Arsenio! Live” from Netflix is a Joke Fest.

“That was one of the most fun jobs that I’ve ever had,” he said.  “And he was one of the best bosses in the world.”

Boyd partnered with fellow Jackie Robinson Foundation scholar Neima Patterson to co-create, co-direct, and star in the YouTube series “Sad-Ass Black Folk.”


Joel Boyd with co-created “Sad Ass Black Folks” with Neima Patterson (right). The series was filmed in Inglewood and South Los Angeles.


“We wanted to make something that was high quality,” Boyd said.  “So we needed to make some money.  We had to figure out how we could find $20,000.  And we did it.”

Boyd’s most recent project, “High Power: A Mystical Short Film,” is doing very well on the film festival circuit.  The nine-minute short film can be viewed on his YouTube channel, @TheRealJoelBoyd and on his website www.therealjoelboyd.com