BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — There was no YouTube when “Def Comedy Jam” premiered on HBO in 1992. The only way for standup comedians to find an audience beyond the club circuit back then was to score a spot on TV, and “Def Comedy Jam” provided that opportunity for black comics, including Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle, D.L. Hughley, Sheryl Underwood and Cedric the Entertainer.
Those comedians were joined by Steve Harvey, Tracy Morgan, Craig Robinson and others at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Sunday to tape “Def Comedy Jam 25,” a Netflix special airing later this month that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Russell Simmons’ groundbreaking comedy showcase.
“It put me on the map,” Robinson said before stepping into the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s International Ballroom to tape the special. His first-ever TV appearance was on “Def Comedy Jam” in 1992.
Lawrence hosted the original “Def Comedy Jam” series at the same time he was starring in his own network sitcom in 1992.
“It blew up my career, along with the ‘Martin’ show and everything,” Lawrence said on his way into Sunday’s taping. “I’m just so happy to be a part of all this.”
Morgan compared the event to a high-school reunion.
Hughley, who hosted “Def Comedy Jam” in its later incarnations, said he didn’t initially appreciate the show’s impact.
“I didn’t know that it was going to be as explosive and special as it was,” he said. “Now, I don’t know a person that was associated with this [show] that doesn’t work.”
Tiffany Haddish, the breakout star of the summer movie hit “Girls Trip,” launched her career on “Def Comedy Jam.”
She remembers watching the show as a kid, then auditioning incessantly as an adult until she finally got airtime in 2008.
Now a bona fide movie star, Haddish said she’s “grateful and thankful and honored that they even thought to call me” for the 25th anniversary special.
“I feel like a magical creature,” she said. “It feels great to come full circle.”
“Def Comedy Jam 25” is set to premiere on Netflix on Sept. 26.