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Codeblack Entertainment CEO Jeff Clanagan announced today that “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy,” the groundbreaking film examining the history and cultural influence of American black comedy, has been acquired by Showtime and will premiere on the cabler Thursday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. The film will air throughout Black History Month.

Directed by noted actor-producer-director Robert Townsend (“Hollywood Shuffle”), the documentary, which originally screened at Sundance in 2009 in the Premiere section, features interviews with prominent scholars, politicians, cultural critics, and a host of notable comics, including Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Steve Harvey, and Katt Williams.

“Why We Laugh” tracks the evolution of black comedy from the character of Stepin Fetchit and minstrels in blackface to the politically tinged humor of Dick Gregory, and from the television success of Good Times and The Jeffersons to the big-screen accomplishments of stars such as Eddie Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg. The film also turns a perceptive eye on the controversial career decision of Dave Chappelle and the implications of corporate efforts to capitalize on the massive success of Russell Simmons’s Def Comedy Jam and Spike Lee’s The Original Kings of Comedy.

“‘Why We Laugh’ is a major historical contribution to American culture,” said Codeblack executive vice-president Quincy Newell. “This film is a tribute to the way one courageous person with a microphone can change history.”

Newell produced the documentary which he co-wrote with John Long. The film is based on the book “Black Comedians on Black Comedy: How African-Americans Taught Us to Laugh,” by Darryl J. Littleton. Codeblack’s Clanagan, Richard Foos, and Littleton are executive producers on the project.

Director Townsend has been at the forefront of black cinema for 30 years and received a Career Achievement Award from the American Black Film Festival in 2002.

Codeblack Entertainment produces the All Star Comedy Jam franchise. The DVD of “Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam – Live from South Beach” will be available on February 2, 2010, and a third installment of the franchise will be filmed at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas with an airdate on Showtime later in the year.