Robert Townsend was born on February 6, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. He is an actor, comedian, film director, and writer. In 1974, Townsend auditioned for parts at Chicagos Experimental Black Actors Guild and performed in local plays studying at the famed Second City comedy workshop for improvisation. He enrolled at Illinois State University and a year and later moved to New York to study at the Negro Ensemble Company. Townsend had a brief un-credited 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. He also appeared in small parts like the his role in A Soldiers Story (1984) opposite Denzel Washington. Townsend auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Lives 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. The success of this project helped him establish credit in the film industry and he gained notoriety, which helped him continue to succeed in other films like The Mighty Quinn (1989) with Denzel Washington, The Five Heartbeats (1991) and The Meteor Man (1993).