Funny Money

Black comedians have always been among the funniest. Now, by tapping into the business side of the industry, today's comics are laughing all the way to the bank.

as an industry.” Cedric is currently wrapping up a film based on the 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners, which stars Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union, and Regina Hall. The film has a $30 million to $33 million budget.

Feature films are like the Holy Grail for many comedians — potentially the most lucrative and highest-profile medium in the world of entertainment. Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson is one comedienne who’s breaking into films while pursuing other business ventures. Her film credits include the MGM comedy Soul Plane; Showtime’s Good Fences with Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover; 3 Strikes with David Alan Grier and George Wallace II; Baby Boy by director John Singleton; and Two Can Play That Game opposite Vivica A. Fox, which earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. She’s currently starring in the lead role of the comedy Hair Show co-starring Gina Torres and The Bernie Mac Show’s Kellita Sm
ith.

Mo’Nique also hosts Showtime at the Apollo and co-owns Ten Times Greater, a production company she founded with her brother. And if that wasn’t enough, she has a clothing line for plus-sized women in the works. A one-woman marketing machine, Mo’Nique often wears her own clothing — particularly when on camera or in front of an audience. And in April of last year, she authored a book titled Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World (Atria; $13.00), which became a New York Times bestseller.

The entrepreneurial roots run deep for the former star of UPN’s The Parkers. When she first performed in nightclubs in her hometown of Baltimore in the late 1980s, she said she autographed black-and-white posters of herself for $3 in order to help make ends meet.

Mo’Nique has had her share of business failures. For instance, a clothing line she tried a few years back went under. “I thought I could just make some clothes [and] put them on a Website and have a clothing line — wrong,” she says, conceding that the line suffered due to substandard workmanship and her inability to size clothes. A nightclub venture also didn’t pan out. “I used to own a comedy club, but back then I didn’t know how to run a business,” the comedienne recalls. “I knew how to have fun. Baby paid no bills.”

This time, she did her homework. She learned the business and worked out things like marketing plans. “Now, there are other people involved who are experts in [producing] clothing lines, so we can get it done right.” She’s working toward a 2005 launch.

For Mo’Nique, business is about ownership. “Remember the Power Rangers? You know those kids really made no money?” she points out. “They had lunch boxes — everything was a Power Ranger at one time. But they had no control of the business, so someone else generated money off of those kids. I don’t want that to happen to me.”

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