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These '90s Sitcoms Feature the Most Memorable Black Male Characters

I've watched Dwayne Wayne crash Whitley Gilbert's wedding at least four times on A Different World. I’ve practiced Carlton Banks's iconic dance in the mirror more times than I can count. I’ve also giggled at a ton of Mo's one-liners on Smart Guy and I still swoon whenever I hear Kyle Barker sing on Living Single.

These are just a few of the Black male characters I loved watching on '90s sitcoms as a little girl. And throughout the years, they (and several others) continued to stick with me—not necessarily because they were perfect, but because they all carried an air of confidence that I really admired. These men didn't always have their lives figured out and they made several mistakes, but they stood up for what they believed in and weren't afraid to be vulnerable. Not to mention their incredible sense of humor.

Keep reading for seven unforgettable '90s Black sitcoms that feature the most memorable Black male characters.

Fox

1. Living Single

  • What is it about? A tight-knit group of six Black friends in their 20s navigate their personal and professional lives while living in a Brooklyn brownstone.
  • Standout Male Characters: Kyle Barker, Overton Wakefield

I would never in a million years date someone like Kyle (T.C. Carson), but boy, is he entertaining to watch. The young stockbroker carries himself with dignity and is very meticulous when it comes to his appearance, but he's also pompous enough to casually remind his friends that he can easily score multiple women. Even so, he's proven multiple times that he has a soft side for his friends, and his sparring matches with Max are comedy gold.

Meanwhile, his best friend and handyman, Overton (John Henton), is quirky, down-to-earth and easygoing. In fact, he is the most level-headed and unproblematic friend of the group, and he's incredibly romantic when it comes to his partner, Synclaire.

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

2. A Different World

  • What is it about? A Different World follows several Hillman students as they deal with the challenges of college life.
  • Standout Male Characters: Dwayne Wayne, Dorian Heywood

I could go on about the show’s accurate portrayal of the Black college experience and rave about how it balances humor with complex issues, but let's face it—ADW would not have been the same without the Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) or Lena's heartthrob boyfriend, Dorian (Larry C. "Bumper" Robinson).

Sure, Dwayne makes his fair share of questionable decisions (like breaking up Whitley's wedding), but his strong work ethic, his passion for teaching and his unwavering support for Whitley makes him stand out. As for Dorian, he is more than just eye candy. He is emotionally intelligent and driven—and he is never more attractive than when he tells Lena—shamelessly—about his celibacy.

NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

3. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

  • What is it about? When a teenage Will Smith moves from West Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in Bel-Air, there’s a bit of a culture clash and hilarity ensues.
  • Standout Male Characters: Carlton Banks, Will Smith

If there's one thing we learned about Will (Will Smith), it's that he'll never pass up an opportunity to crack jokes or roast someone. He can be self-absorbed and he's quite crafty, but there's no denying that he loves and cares for his family. And who can forget about his heartbreaking emotional speech when his dad left him (again)?

Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), on the other hand, is whip-smart and incredibly talented on the dance floor. Many are quick to label him as cocky and entitled (which, yes, he is), but let's also remember that he boldly stands up to a prejudiced fraternity leader after being accused of being a "sell-out."

Fox

4. Martin

  • What is it about? Martin follows the everyday lives of an ambitious radio host, his girlfriend and their group of friends.
  • Standout Male Characters: Tommy Strawn, Martin Payne

We could debate all day about what Tommy (Thomas Ford) really does for a living, but if there's one thing we can agree on, it's that Tommy is always the voice of reason. He's the one who calms everyone down when tensions get high, and he isn't afraid to call Martin out or put him in his place. And of course, we can't forget his special ability to turn practically any topic into a church sermon.

As for Martin (Martin Lawrence), there's never enough room to hold his ego. He's arrogant, rude and quick-tempered. (Just imagine if we had a dime for every time he said "step!") However, he easily gets the most laughs—thanks in part to his one-liners and slapstick humor. And it's important to remember how resourceful and determined he is to land his own show.

The WB

5. The Wayans Bros.

  • What is it about? Two young brothers try to make it in New York while living together in Harlem.
  • Standout Male Characters: Marlon Williams, Shawn Williams, John "Pops" Williams

Of all the Black men I've seen on screen during the '90s, Shawn (Shawn Wayans) and Marlon (Marlon Wayans) felt the most real. They aren't polished, poised bachelors that keep a clean image 24/7. They are messy. They are layered and flawed and so freaking funny—and I love this about both of them. Shawn's character is suave and responsible, and he can play most women like a fiddle. Marlon is practically the opposite: dimwitted, childish and disorganized. But together, they just work.

Their dad, also known as "Pops" (John Witherspoon), is the icing on the cake. The diner owner is known for bow ties and colorful shirts, and he finds no shame in recycling leftover food to cut his costs. But one thing we appreciate about his character is that he won't hesitate to humble his sons or call them out.

The WB

6. The Jamie Foxx Show

  • What is it about? A man named Jamie, who moves from Texas to Los Angeles to work at his family's hotel and pursue a career in entertainment.
  • Standout Male Characters: Jamie King, Braxton Hartnabrig

Jamie (Jamie Foxx) may be over-the-top and impulsive, but his vocals are quite impressive and he knows how to bring humor to serious situations. Despite all his mischief, he's the glue that holds the King's Tower staff together, and his advances toward Fancy (Garcelle Beauvais) show he'll go to great lengths for love.

His high-strung co-worker, Braxton (Christopher B. Duncan), would likely get along well with Carlton Banks. His crisp image and self-assuredness are a sharp contrast to Jamie's laid-back demeanor, but his many awkward moments—like when Jamie tries to teach him to pick up women—prove to be the funniest (and most memorable) parts of the show.

7. Smart Guy

  • What is it about? When a 10-year-old prodigy enrolls in the same high school as his siblings, he finds it a bit challenging to adjust.
  • Standout Male Characters: Morris Tibbs, Marcus Henderson

From their hilarious happy dances to their sneaky schemes with TJ (Tahj Mowry), Marcus (Jason Weaver) and Mo (Omar Gooding) are one of the most underrated duos in the world of '90s sitcoms. Mo's comedic timing and one-liners are unmatched, and the way he stands up for Yvette in season two shows his loyalty to those he cares about. But Marcus is obsessed with his social life and very self-centered. He's not the sharpest tool in the bunch and he often goes to great lengths to win girls, but the high schooler has one thing going for him, and that's his swoon-worthy singing.

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Nakeisha Campbell

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...
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