Just before hitting the Orpehum Theater stage in New Orleans, The ladies of Essence After Dark’s HERlarious comedy show pulled no punches when it came time to talk comedy, legacy, and controversy in the industry. 

Comediennes Kym Whitley, Kim Coles, Sherri Shepherd, Melanie Comarcho and Jess Hilarious discussed the difficulties associated with keeping it funny in a society that has gotten progressively more sensitive amid online “cancel culture.” 

Jess Hilarious—real name Jessica Moore—got her start in the comedy world via Instagram, and has faced a fair share of online backlash on that very same medium over her jokes, comments, and personal life. However, she says the key is to continue forward no matter what comes along. 

“I’m always in some trouble and some controversy,” she said, speaking to press at the 2019 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. “That should be my name, Comedian Controversy. I’m always in trouble for some sh*t I said, but you know what? You just gotta keep going. For real, you can’t please everybody. It’s impossible. Every time I’m in some trouble, I just pray about that sh*t and I keep on going. It’s not going to cripple me, it’s not gonna stop me. That’s why I’m on stage with these ladies.” 

Kim Coles and Sherri Shepherd attend the 2019 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images,)

Sherri Shepherd pointed out that social media has made things difficult for comedians testing material at stage shows as well. 

“I get in a lot of controversies trying to be funny,” Shepherd added. “It’s hard when you do a joke, and then it’s on Twitter and people take it completely out of context. What’s hard is, we’re in a world where people have to apologize all the time, ‘I’m just a comic it was just a joke.’ Or, when you go to a club and bring those cameras in. We’re forming a joke. It’s in its infancy. That’s what messes us up all the time. You get into a lot of trouble when just starting to do a joke and get it together.” 

The Ladies of the ESSENCE After Dark HERlarious Comedy Show attend the 2019 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. (Photo by Getty)

Shepherd & Moore joined Whitley, Coles and Comarcho as part of the ESSENCE After Dark comedy series debut at the 2019 ESSENCE Festival.

For more of everything you missed as we celebrated 25 years of moving the culture forward in New Orleans, head back over to ESSENCE.com

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