‘Black Jesus’ Saves the TV Sitcom

'Black Jesus' Saves the TV Sitcom

When I first heard that "The Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder was creating and writing a series entitled “Black Jesus,” I thought I knew exactly what to expect. Having followed "The Boondocks" so closely, even until its bitter fourth season end, I thought we’d be gearing up for more blunt uncompromising satire with the addition of sharp pokes at contemporary Christianity. As the first episode started and Jesus Christ, played with jovial energy by Slink Johnson, offered a homeless man good will and compassion, instead of that day’s lottery numbers, I was pleasantly surprised.

“Black Jesus” is a good-hearted sitcom without the sanitizer – “Sanford and Son” with the edges left in tact and still just as funny.

Mind you, "Black Jesus" is a collaboration between McGruder and "Trailer Park Boys" creator Mike Clattenburg, and that show’s looser structural sensibilities gel well with a modern day Jesus story. 

The series starts off like many Adult Swim shows do, with what seems to be a one-joke premise (what if Jesus was Black and homeless in Compton?) and builds from there. Jesus lives out of his van, smokes weed and gets in to and out of trouble with a group of modern day disciples, and deals with the schemes of neighborhood grumps, like landlord Vic (Charlie Murphy), and homeless moocher Floyd (John Witherspoon). 

The show doesn’t play cute with whether or not Black Jesus is the real deal, either. Johnson’s Jesus turns water into grape cognac, cures wounds, and summons telephone alibis out of thin air, over the course of the first three episodes. 

The main recurring arc of the series at the moment has Jesus and his posse attempting to start a community garden, but they run into setback after setback, as Jesus’ tendency toward treating everyone with respect, leaves the group without supplies or funds.

It was at this point where the show pulled back the curtain as to what its central joke is; beyond the “old-fashioned supernatural sitcom, but with Jesus” set-up, McGruder isn’t so much attacking the religion, as he is commenting on how Jesus’ overall messages of peace, love, and good will toward all people, are falling on deaf ears in contemporary society. Jesus is the Lamont Sanford in a pessimistic and self-centered society. He’s caught in a bind between his friend’s drug-lord mother and a Mexican gang who own the space he wants to garden in – but all he wants to do is garden for the community’s betterment.

That’s the main question at hand, and it’s a good one to be asking; even though religion still serves as motivation and inspiration to millions of Americans, is it possible that we misinterpret Jesus’ overall message? If he were to show up, would he be treated as a savant or just another bum, regardless of said message? Even with a lighter tone than its spiritual cousin “The Boondocks,” McGruder can’t seem to keep the sociological questions at bay.

While “Black Jesus” may seem to be pretty small scale at the moment, it could easily build to something bigger; was Jesus sent down to Earth for a particular reason? Normally, Jesus’ presence on Earth is one of the first signs of The Apocalypse. Is the loose narrative setting us up for a kick to the guts later in the season? Only time will tell.

Whatever the answer to these questions may be, McGruder and the cast have a ball finding out. As mentioned before, Johnson’s Jesus is a revelation as the moocher with a heart of gold, and Charlie Murphy and John Witherspoon make for a great dastardly duo. For a show so lackadaisical in structure, its characters are so well-developed, its humor and voice so confident, its controversial subject matter so nonchalant, that I’m astonished it exists, even on a network as welcoming as Adult Swim. 

It may not be funny in the same immediate way “The Boondocks” was, and that I still enjoy, but the laughs stick in the back of my throat all the same. 

McGruder is, hands down, one of America’s boldest pop satirists, and he’s showing that his particular voice can sound off in a number of different ways. I’m really glad that Adult Swim is taking yet another risk, because “Black Jesus” is just another chapter in the gospel.

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I have gone through your blog this is such a good topic. I really enjoyed a lot and the blog is really very interesting.


Black Jesus is very funny and a breath of fresh air…..I laughed, I cried, and I then ate cheeseburger sliders…cannot wait for tonite's episode #6 and I loved the battle with the facebook bitches…just tooooooo funny!

Lynda S. Layton

ONLY IN IT, Will You FIND The TRUTH Which Will SET You FREE.


Ok, first of all this is not a sitcom, you don't even know what a sitcom is, this is a comedy. And secondly, this is a mediocre comedy with a couple of laughs in the pilot but nothing more. No stories, no funny storylines, just a series of stupid vignettes. Mediocre comedy.


This show is a treasure of metaphors that gut punches reality. Christians beware!!


This show is very good. You know what it's like when you think you put one food in your mouth day Coke but it turns out you actually picked up your orange juice? At first there is a strange disconnect between your tongue and your mind because it is not what you expected. Same with this show. Watch closely and you see awesome commentary that is NOT embedded in the jokes as is usual in sitcoms. Take the scene where the homeless man has built an elaborate shelter on the ground immediate in front of a house that is fenced off. While there is comes in the foreground with the shelter and seeing him crawl through rooms etc., the overall tableau asking what have we done wrong such that an available house is closed off and he is in the street. Take a closer look at this show.


Best commentary I ever read on this show, Nate. You hit it hard on the mark. You need to be writing for S&A; sometimes they get a little fanboyish for my liking.

Nate Jackson

You must be watching a different show bruh man. This joint is not funny, edgy, smart, satirical or any of that. It could be- but it ain't. This is a one joke show that tells the same joke over and over again. A show about a Black Jesus in the hood should be playing off of all of the stories we all know from church and Sunday school and either turning them on their ear or providing an updated truth experienced through the characters. Where's the white people, other Jews, Muslims, atheists, mega church Preachers of LA, Conservative right wing Christians, civil rights activist preachers? C'mon this show should have you screaming or furious- either one.

Black Jesus walking around the same five blocks fighting with Mexicans and Charlie Murphy is going to get old. The drug dealer Mom professes love for Jesus and all he stands for and then three scenes later she's threatening him if he doesn't stand up to the Mexican gang. Her character and the tone needs fine tuning. They producers need to take some chances and go out on a limb with some crazy story lines and guest stars with the quickness. I'm giving it two more shows and them I'm out.


This show is absolutely blasphemous and an indictment against christianity. Don't support junk like this…


I tried to hang in there with it. I was hyped over the first episode because it was new and different, but I checked out halfway through episode #2. Not holding my interest for some reason.


I don't know about this show. I like it- but not as a comedy. It's more about shenanigans than it is about jokes. That first trailer definitely lumped all the jokes of the season into one video.

It feels like the FX (Then FXX) show Legit. It had a heart to it that was not expected. Where are Black Jesus' jokes at, though?

Dave's Deluxe

Dylan Green, I don't know what kickback you're taking, but this show is wizzack-diddly-iddack.

FIRST of all, EVERYbody know Black Jesus has an afro; Black Jesus does NOT wear a horse-hair assimilated wig from the discount table next to the fire hydrant on 125th St.


As I am a cord-cutter: I've seen the trailer online and was fortunate (or unfortunate ) enough to catch one of the episodes (is this a 15 minute show like Loiter Squad) ? I felt it was awful in everyway awful could be- Poor Production Value, stodgy uninspired directing, and the writing "coonerific" pedestrian. I didn't see the episode where "Negro- Jesus" turned water into boones farm, ripple, Alize or whatever ghetto drink they thought would make Negroes laugh – but it didn't work- it's exactly what I expected & exactly what i hoped it wouldn't be .

The humor is so incredibly uninspired : this is what ai expect to see joke and plot wise for the rest of the season:

Jesus heals a gang of paraplegics only to have them form a dance crew.
Jesus heals a blind man in a strip club because he wants to see the titties and the Badonk on the stripper on the pole.
Jesus starts a gourmet food truck serving fish "Samiches" Called "2 Loaves 1 Trout" – Im sorry correction – that's not coonish enough- "2 loaves and a Catfish"
Jesus recruits a gang of prostitutes to help him make a grow house and community marijuana dispensary- because who better to work with plants than a gang of HOES!
Jesus joins the A$AP rap clique as A$AP Emmanuel and becomes blinded by the fame becomes an unreliable a**hole that is always Late for performances never there when you need him and tends not to be there right on time- doing disservice to both the word "ASAP" as we'll as hundreds of gospel song  lyrics.


McGruder isn't so much attacking the religion, as he is commenting on how Jesus' overall message of peace, love, and goodwill toward all people, are falling on deaf ears in contemporary society. Jesus is the Lamont Sanford in a pessimistic and self-centered society ~ Dylan Green

Hey Dylan, from a writer (albeit hackneyed) to another, your article was well-written, "fair" and very insightful. That said, the above paragraph, which no one has referenced, caught my eye. First, with all the debates, push-backs and indifference with the whole Jesus and religion issues, I was surprised that no one questioned your take on Jesus' overall message. Well, I believe I know the reasons behind the silence but… nah, not today.

But today I do want to pick your mind on the Lamont Sanford reference. Well, at least I wish you would have expounded on the connection.

In short, cutting from the chase, I love seeing a writer reference an issue, person, place or thing for the sake of debate or to explore the issue further. In other words, the writer opens the door to a different perspective that many may not have — previously — even thought about.

All that to say I have a challenge for you. There's a hot button item/issue that has the world buzzing… and I know this is off-topic, but hey, if not you than who and who defines the proper time to talk about any issue?

Now, if I say "Ferguson Missouri" you'd say_______. What would you, or anyone say? Well, of course each person would respond differently. I immediately think of the 1967 movie "In The Heat Of The Night". Although this is 2014 and the town is Ferguson Missouri, not Sparta Mississippi, the dynamics and principle players are all there.

Check it out. Both "stories" opens with the murder of a resident. In the movie it was a rich white man. In Ferguson the focus is on the murder of a young black man.

Setting: Racially divided city (anywhere in America)

Cast: 1) Crusty police chief and his incompetent and prejudice deputies.
2) Influential and powerful voices in the city. In the movie it was the victim's widow. In Missouri it's the Governor.
3) In the movie a well-spoken black police lieutenant, they call him Mister Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), an outsider, is needed to help on the case. In Ferguson that roles goes to Captain Ron Johnson.

Now Dylan, there's the setup but there's something missing. Well, for many Captain Johnson is a hero. However, from my perspective, Mr. Johnson was not a Mr. Tibbs. He didn't slap those who disrespected him, as Sidney Poitier did when a white man refused to accept the fact that he was the head man in charge. Nor did ANYONE heed to his commands, especially the militarized police presence.

No-no, don't fall for the hype. They let him stand out front and glad-hand with the press, but they DID NOT reduce their fire power nor the size of their troops. If one cared to notice, the day after his rise to "fame" there was actually MORE police officers AND National Guard, who had not been there.

Yes sir, Ron Brown was not a Mr. Tibbs. He bent under the pressure of being ostracized from his fellow "thug force", which forced him to put on a front (smiling face) as he stood in front of the riot gear clad police force, in larger numbers than those in previous night's encounters.

So Dylan, can you work with that? Can you write something on the order of "In the heat of the night, in Ferguson Missouri, the Big Bamboozle was on display and many ate it up with a smile.


After three episodes I see the method to the madness… but it still isn't funny. Doesn't even make me smile. It is definitely more heart-warming than I expected. Those Christians who protested against it would probably like it a lot if they gave it a chance. Time will tell if it was a completely lost opportunity. I guess McGruder preferred something less edgy and satirical than his previous work.

Floyd Webb

I have not seen it. The trailers were not encouraging to me. I will watch two episodes and see what the actual show is like. I gave Amos and Andy a chance and I will give this a chance.


This show is pretty awesome and pretty much what I expected when I heard Clattenburg was involved. The use of the "N-word" is just a reality portrayed in the show. Clattenburg's show didn't pull any punches either but it made everyone lovable. Black Jesus is taking off and Trailer Park Boys is back on the air with a new movie on the way iirc, everything is right in the world.


I don't like the use of the N word, but I didn't like it in
"The Boondocks" either. I am happy that there is a
message in this show. A positive message.

Black Nine LA

Nah, this show is good.

Patch Neck Red

I have to say I enjoy Black Jesus I think its edgy and satirical. There is insight by the supporting players who are his disciples and still being flush out. My one red flag against the show is the use of the N word. It's a trap for the black man in America and we can't shake it.


Nah, this show is great


nah, this show is horrible.

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