North Texas Daily

‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ shatters stereotypes and builds bridges

‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ shatters stereotypes and builds bridges

‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ shatters stereotypes and builds bridges
October 01
16:30 2019

HBO’s new show “A Black Lady Sketch Show” breaks ground in being the first sketch comedy show with a nearly all-black female cast and writer’s room. Created by comedian Robin Thede, the show premiered on Aug. 2, and wrapped its first season with six episodes.

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” delves into magical realistic, often nonsensical worlds where almost anything can happen. Like soul legend Patti LaBelle emerging from a smoke cloud like a fairy godmother to serenade a woman through her break-up, for instance. The sketches often deceive audiences as they take unexpected turns at the last possible moment, to the point where audiences can’t help but be amused by how ridiculous the situation is.

Surprisingly, some of the most true-to-life scenes in the show find the central cast surviving in the apocalypse. As someone who has thought extensively about how black women will experience the end of the world, I enjoyed watching a comedic take on how it will play out.

Though the show’s twists are outlandish, it doesn’t shy away from making genuine statements, like when one woman convinces her friends there’s no one correct idea of blackness. It was in scenes like those where we see the women playing a high-stakes game of Uno and discussing whether R. Kelly is still “cancelled,” that the show made some of its strongest impressions on me. Often the scenes felt conversational, like they were inviting the viewer into their chats. The bickering and loving banter felt very familiar as a black woman, and though exaggerated, it effectively captured what having a friend group of black girls is like.

Some of the sketches are solid cultural reaffirmation. In a sketch titled “Get the Belt,” two sportscasters chronicle a disciplinary showdown between a mother and daughter, with “calls” and “plays” that are familiar to many black viewers who’ve ever received a whooping from a disgruntled parent.

Alongside the main cast of Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Brunson, the show features an array of prominent black women celebrities. Guests range from women who are fairly new to mainstream stardom, like musician Amara La Negra and actress Laverne Cox, to more established actresses like the timeless Angela Bassett and America’s Favorite Aunty, Loretta Devine. The show’s opening theme even features “Hot Girl” by Megan Thee Stallion, who skyrocketed to mainstream recognition this year with her songs “Big Ole Freak,” “Cash S***,” and the #hotgirlsummer mantra that decorated social media timelines everywhere. The show provided a comedic outlet that adds yet another dimension to these ladies’ careers.

Too often in comedy involving black women, easy laughs are garnered from women playing into stereotypes or from being insulted on their appearance. A Black Lady Sketch Show doesn’t generally use these tactics. Instead of the women bashing each other based on their physical appearances, they tease each other for truly dubious lifestyle choices like Ashley’s decision not wrap her hair up at night or for her preference for “Glee” covers over the original songs. This makes for smart comedy, and gives black women more varied comedic roles and creative license.

The show is produced by Issa Rae Productions, and Rae, of HBO’s “Insecure,” appears in several of the sketches herself. In an interview with Wendy Williams, Thede shared that Issa Rae stepped in to help make “A Black Lady Sketch Show” a reality after Thede’s late-night talk show “The Rundown” was cancelled by BET. Such a demonstration embodies black women’s tendency to lift each other up where there is an opportunity.

This is best showcased in one of the last sketches of the season, entitled “Courtroom Kiki,” where the ladies find themselves in a courtroom of all black women. The women revel in it, complimenting each other’s hair, referring to each other as “queens,” and even taking a selfie to capture the historic moment. This scene, with its catchy improvised jingle, warmed my heart as someone who can attest to the recognition that black women give each other when we don’t have to represent as “the only one” in a professional setting. Online commentary shows that other black women appreciated having that phenomenon captured on mainstream television as well.

HBO has already renewed the show for season two, and it is well deserved. The show centers black women, but is enjoyable for anyone who can appreciate silly, often dark humor. Some of its cultural references can be confusing for viewers unfamiliar with them, as they were even for me, but that doesn’t take away from any of the hilarious antics. The season ended on a significant cliff-hanger, so I’m eager to see how it is resolved, and what comes next for the apocalyptic girl group. Knowing this show, it will take a complete turn from what the audience might expect, while making perfect sense in the context of the show.

My rating: 4.25/5

Featured Image: Courtesy A Black Lady Sketch Show facebook

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Shardae White

Shardae White

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