As a filmmaker, a common question that’s often asked is, “what movie made you want to make movies?” While some artists would say dramatic classics like Citizen Kane or Blade Runner, mine is Mallrats, a Kevin Smith film from the 90s that has little to no cultural significance. I just think it’s dumb but brillant at the same time. Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, and so on were my Gods when I was the little awkward black girl who just wanted to touch cameras and unapologetically be Paul Rudd. Comedic movies have always been the foundation of my art and craft but unfortunately black women weren’t making these movies, nor were they in them. (Okay wait, there were a few nurse and lady waiting at a bus stop cameos.)
Looking back at my creative evolution and high school DVD collection, I don’t have DVDs with funny black women next to Clerks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall or even Friday. I think black women are the funniest people I know and yet lack the roles and character depth that white men, white women and even black men have the opportunity to embody on stage, on the screen, and especially in sketch comedy.
Fast forward to 2019, the young black girl inside me is crying (and ahahhakeke’ing) because we now have A Black Lady Sketch Show, by the power houses created by Robin Theade and executive produced by Issa Rae and other amazing black women like Lauren Ashley Smith,
To say that no form of comedic entertainment from black women has ever existed would spit on the pathways created for the Issa Rae’s and Robin Thede’s of today and the future. Whether this be in Monique’s stand up, Whoopi Goldberg’s entire existence or even the true iconic OG Moms Mabley’s career in the 1930s, black women have always gotten laughs. Unfortunately, regardless of the entertainment medium, they haven’t always controlled or fully profited from those laughs.
After the success of Girls Trip, I think Hollywood is finally ready to accept that black women show out for other black women. That’s partially the reasoning for why I’m taking the time to highlight A Black Lady Sketch Show. The content is hilarious and groundbreaking but more importantly the business decisions that are being made behind the camera are revolutionary and inspiring.
Black women are supporting and putting other Black women on to the game and we love to see it. This monumental pop culture moment begins with Issa Rae’s beloved Misadventures of An Awkward Black Girl redefining what a web series could be. For some, one’s first time seeing Issa Rae could have been Insecure but she was in talks with HBO for a show years beforehand. Although she was commissioned to create a pilot in 2011, it wasn’t picked up nor after the network reworked it was it her vision or funny. After creating and starring in the cultural phenomenon Insecure, she was able to obtain two development deals. After Robin Thedes’ The Rundown with Robin Thede was canceled. Rae called Thede and said “What’s next? I have these two development deals, what are we doing?”
As the show was being developed Thede then hired Laura Ashley Smith to be an executive producer because she recognized her work ethic on The Rundown with Robin Thede as a writer. The talent and writers behind ABLSS are all black women who have put in a lot of time and work on their craft. Ashley Nicole Black, Quinta Bruson, Gabrielle Dennis, and of course the talented Robin Thede have perfected their craft in white spaces and finally have a show FOR them and BY THEM on a platform as big as HBO. This is an important step in a world where Monique, a comedic legend, declined and publicly protested being paid $500,000 dollars by Netflix and was turned into the butt of a joke.
My passion and adoration for this show wouldn’t allow me to end this without noting the content. If my words describing the origin and framework of the show aren’t moving you, please go watch it to laugh. Without too many spoilers, I’ll say they have a sketch about Monster.com being a gang that made me pee. If the loss of my bodily fluids didn’t do it for you, just read this: Angela Basset is a guest star. That right there is the only reason you need. Also Meg thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer” is the theme song. Do I have to say anymore?
Just as everyone is tired of seeing slave movies, I’m sick of seeing traditionally strong black women on my TV. I want to see them be dumb, lazy, promiscuous, ditzy, problematic and everything in between which this show has. I’ve seen enough pain, enough trauma, enough church hats with a side of pimp slaps by bad husbands for a lifetime. Join me in watching and celebrating A Black Lady Sketch Show which was just picked up for a second season.