A Comedy Favorite: How The 'Act Blacker' Sketch Has Evolved : Code Switch : NPR: It's an old, hardy comedy trope: A black person has to turn up the volume on some stereotypical behavior in order to navigate some social situation. The sketch is a self-aware take on a modern reality. Even after the era of minstrel shows ended and black actors stopped living out egregious stereotypes for white audiences, white folks still ran mainstream showbiz. If you were going to be black onstage or on camera, your image was still controlled by a largely white industry.
That's still the case, and there's a whole thread of comedy that goes to that well, poking fun at black actors being instructed "to act blacker" (whatever the hell that even means). Let's call them "Black It Up" routines. The most famous one is probably Robert Townsend's bit from Hollywood Shuffle, in which he imagines an acting school designed to prep aspiring black actors on how to land the roles most available to them. Here it is, if you haven't seen it (heads-up: salty language):