Robert Townsend (born February 6, 1957) is an American actor, comedian, film director, and writer.
Townsend was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Shirley (née Jenkins) and Robert Townsend.
Townsend had a brief uncredited role in the movie Cooley High (1975). His career hit mainstream in the early 1980s. This included stand-up comedy routines which appeared on cable television. Townsend auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Live's 1980-1981 cast, but was rejected when Eddie Murphy was chosen instead. During the 1980s and early 1990s Townsend gained national exposure through his many appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Townsend established himself when he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the comedy Hollywood Shuffle his 1987 film about struggling black actors in Hollywood. Prior to Shuffle, he appeared in small parts in films like A Soldier's Story (1984), directed by Norman Jewison, and after its success garnered much more substantial parts in films like The Mighty Quinn (1989) with Denzel Washington. He created and produced two television variety shows—the CableACE award–winning Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime for HBO, and the Fox Television Variety Show Townsend Television (1993). He also created and starred in the WB Network's sitcom The Parent 'Hood (1995).