“Women in comedy can be specifically cast but universally funny” declares Robin Thede talking about her work on HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), she adds, “Don’t let the title scare you if you are not a black lady. This show is for everyone to watch, enjoy and expand your horizons about what you think we’re capable of. I hope it challenges other people to write for us differently. Originally it was ‘THE Black Lady Sketch Show.’ I changed it because I said it should be one of many.”
Thede created the series in which she stars and writes. Renewed for a second season by HBO, it has a small cast of three other women (Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis and Quinta Brunson). In the current social and political climate, the show (which aired last year) has more relevance than ever. She explains, “We do all the interstitial stuff, where our cast are quarantining in a house at the end of the world. Sound familiar? Not only were we ahead of times in terms of our quarantine storyline. We were also ahead of it in existence. It’s a very political act to have an all black woman sketch show. Directed by a black women, edited, written, starting black women and created by black women. That will help people see that we can do ‘Monty Python’ or ‘SNL’-ish sort of comedy. On top of that we have our own style. This show is very indicative of what I’ve been working towards my whole career in changing people’s perspective in what black women can do. We can be silly and play a million different characters and be chameleons in this world just as much as anyone else. I hope people discover our show in a new way.”
Thede reveals, “There’s a sketch called ‘Courtroom Kiki,’ which the world knows as ‘Black Lady Courtroom.’ It’s a sketch where back women lawyers come into a court room and realize the judge, the bailiff, the stenographer and the defendant are all back women. They cannot focus on the case because they are so excited. It’s just pure joy in times like this when the world is in such unrest and people are stuck in their homes. It makes me laugh every time. ”
She was one of the first black women to host a late night talk show, “The Rundown with Robin Thede.” She also become the first black woman head writer in late night for “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” She does say, “Sketch is actually my home. I’m a sketch and improvisational comedian by trade. This is my seventh sketch show. So really, late night was a departure for me in a lot of ways.”
Despite her comfort with the genre the creator explains there are challenges in putting all the pieces together. She says, “Nobody tends to give ‘Game of Thrones’ money to a sketch show, which is weird because all of our sketches we want to make cinematic. Some look like bright musicals, some look like dark thrillers, and some look like sporting events. People don’t appreciate how much work goes into creating 50 individual pieces of material for just six episodes. And we shoot everything on location. We had almost 300 parts in six episodes, 55 of which were celebrity guests and 120 were the four of us playing characters.”
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