A Black Lady Sketch Show is the first all-Black female sketch show created, written, and starring Black women. Thede’s brainchild is a hilarious celebration of Black women and Black culture, continuously proving that Black women aren’t a monolith.
“It starts with the writers room,” Thede told ESSENCE over the phone. “The six writers I chose plus Lauren Ashley Smith and myself are really different. We have older writers, younger writers, LGBTQ [writers], all sorts of different people in the room. Some from the Midwest, some from the coast, we just have different experiences in the room. When you get pitches from all of those different brains, inevitably you will get a range of experiences, socioeconomic statuses.”
The show, which stars Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Quinta Brunson and Gabrielle Dennis, sees the four women transforming into a myriad of hilarious characters but it’s Thede’s knack for improvisation that really stands out.
The former host and creator of The Rundown with Robin Thede says being left alone in front of the television as a child helped her hone the ability to disguise herself as someone else, notably as Jackée Harry’s Sandra Clark in a 227 sketch.
“I started mimicking characters and voices and I always found I had an aptitude for that. For me, it was about finding places to work in those celebrity impressions, accents and characters. We don’t do as many impressions on this show, because it is a narrative sketch show, but with 227 I knew we were going to do that reboot just as an homage to those women who have been so amazing. They were so pivotal in showing Black families on TV, which I love.”
Thede’s A Black Lady Sketch Show arrives at possibly a pivotal moment in sketch comedy as more diverse voices enter the space, including IFC’s Sherman’s Showcase. Created by Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin, the series centers around a character named Sherman McDaniel, who takes viewers through the hilarious history of a fictional musical variety show.
There’s also Arturo Castro’s Alternatino with Arturo Castro, which sees the comedian and actor exploring his experiences as a Latino millennial in the US through a series of funny sketches.
“I love everything that’s happening and I love that people of color are getting their overdue chances to make this type of content,” Thede said before adding, “I think, for me, because it is specifically Black women, I don’t think we are in the middle of that. I think we’re standing out amongst those. Not any better or any worse, I just think it’s a different category because ours is so unique and so different. But I know Bashir and Diallo, we used to do sketch comedy together for years. I love Sherman’s Showcase, I love what they’re doing. I think Arturo Castro is so talented. I love what’s happening with all the different types of offerings that are happening.”
Thede adds: “But, I think for [A Black Lady Sketch Show], we have a niche in the market that’s always going to be a stand out just because of the sheer point of view and also the type of show we’re making. We’re making a narrative sketch series that’s cinematic and has recurring characters and storylines that you follow throughout the six episodes. We’ve distinguished ourselves from the other offerings. And again, not to say that we’re better or worse, it’s just that we are doing our own thing.”
The six-episode series is brief but should HBO renew the series for a second season—which they should—Thede has plenty of ideas ready to go.
“We wrote hundreds of sketches and only shot 45. And not to say all those are ready to be shot but we definitely are not out of ideas by any stretch of the imagination.”