Published on October 10th, 2019 | by Ian Goodwillie0
A Black Lady Sketch Show
If you have yet to get on board with A Black Lady Sketch Show, find a place to stream and do it. Get on it.
Sketch comedy is a fine art. Sketches need to be funny, engaging, and relevant, all in a matter of roughly three to ten minutes, depending on the format of the series. Then, you have to repeat that successfully several times over the length of your show. Then after that, if everything goes well, you have to repeat the same formula successfully over multiple episodes over multiple seasons with the expectations of fans, the network, and your peers hanging over your head.
Is it any wonder Dave Chappelle walked away from Chappelle’s Show?
For every series that does this well, ten fail miserably at it. Keeping in mind that comedy is a very personal taste, there are surprisingly few shows that do succeed and even they had their problems.
Kids in the Hall.
In Living Color.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Key & Peele.
The previously mentioned Chappelle’s Show, which is one of the best sketch comedy series to have ever hit the airwaves had its issues. Even a series like SNL that has been doing this for decades has good and bad years, depending on the writers and the cast involved. That’s what makes a show like A Black Lady Sketch Show so special and unique.
Created by writer, actress, and comedian Robin Thede, the name of the HBO series delivers exactly what it promises. This is, in fact, a sketch show with a principal cast of Black women, the first sketch comedy show to do that. In addition to Thede, A Black Lady Sketch Show also stars Qunita Brunson, Gabrielle Dennis, and Ashley Nichole Black, alongside a litany of incredible guest stars. The first episode features Angela Bassett, Gina Torres, Kelly Rowland, Phil Lamarr, Laverne Cox, and Nichole Byer. Issa Rae also features heavily in the series, both as a performer and as an Executive Producer. One thing A Black Lady Sketch Show is not short on is talent.
The brilliance of A Black Lady Sketch Show is in its willingness to take the comedy into places that are absurd and simultaneously socially relevant. There is a consistent, but not preachy, commentary on modern Black culture that’s focused on the perspective of Black women. At the same time, A Black Lady Sketch Show has absolutely no fear of going into some dark, absurd places.
Through the six episodes of season one, there’s an ongoing series of sketches about the four women being the last people on Earth in immediate hours after “The Event.” They explore what it means to be a Black woman based on the society that no longer exists. It’s an amazing series of sketches.
Beyond that, the show manages to build several recurring characters and themes within the span of six half hour episodes. David Alan Grier stars in two sketches as a preacher who has severe problems managing his congregation in front of open mics. Thede’s Dr. Haddassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman, an author, thinker, and “philosophizer” is an absolute standout character, particularly when she gives a speech at a wedding.
Reminiscent of Mr. Show, Kids in the Hall, and Chappelle’s Show, A Black Lady Sketch Show is at its best when a sketch leads you in an entirely unexpected direction. There are sketches that start off somewhere that feels obvious but end up somewhere that catches you completely off guard. Your mind actually needs a moment to process the punchline but when it does, that punchline is funny as hell. In a world so inundated with media that everyone is accustomed to consuming on daily basis, many stories become predictable and obvious despite themselves. The ability to surprise is a gift. Period.
Frankly, A Black Lady Sketch Show is worth the price of admission for the Patty LaBelle sketch alone.
If you haven’t gotten on board with A Black Lady Sketch Show, find a place to stream and do it now. HBO Go. Crave. Get on it. HBO has greenlit season two so there is more on the way. If you’re a comedy fan, you don’t want to be the one who came late to the dance on this one. If people aren’t talking about A Black Lady Sketch Show now, they will be soon.
The opening credits are done with puppets. What more could you possibly want?