Just likes eggs in vinegar, sketch comedy seems to be #BiggerThanBefore. In addition to Baroness von Sketch Show, dearly departed Portlandia, the return of Sherman’s Showcase and The Kids in the Hall, our new TV obsession, A Black Lady Sketch Show, is further proof that the format is having a moment. The series, which hails from producer Issa Rae (of Insecure fame) and is created by and stars fierce female crush Robin Thede (RIP The Rundown), premieres Friday night on Crave.
Here are a few reasons we know you’re going to want to settle in with your squad (and a bottle of red) to watch.
1. Robin Thede
If you don’t know the force that is Robin Thede, either from her on-point social media or through her now-defunct TV series The Rundown, who are you even? The woman is funny as hell and has a sharp way of breaking down relevant issues, all while looking fabulous and picking up the cheque.
View this post on Instagram
Oooooo only 2 more days until the premiere of @ablackladysketchshow on HBO! Who’s having a watch party?? Make sure you set your DVR too! You’re gonna wanna watch each episode twice (at least) to see things you missed the first time cause you were laughing! Yaaaaassss we’re giving you multi-layered comedy realness! #ablss
This series is her brainchild and she’s clearly been caring and fittingly maternal in making sure it’s had everything it needs to grow. Funny sketches? Check. Amazing talent? Check. A little bit of political commentary with just the right amount of zing? Check, check and check.
2. Did we mention Issa Rae?
As if we needed another reason to love the star and creator of Insecure, Rae is an executive producer on ABLSS and lends lots of creativity to the writer’s room. We don’t actually see her on-screen (except in a guest-starring capacity), but if you know her brand of comedy it’s all over the sketches. And that makes her a very important contributor to this show.
3. The rest of the crew
Rounding out the rest of the ah-mah-zing cast is Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis and Quinta Brunson. The three comedians are also friends with Thede, and when Thede contacted them a year ago to see if they were interested in developing a show together the answer was a resounding, hell yasssssss.
4. The guest stars
Thede said it best: there’s an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to talented black women in the business and her goal is to eventually get all of them on the show.
“The lie that we are not out here and not ready and prepared continues to be perpetuated, but I hope this show can break that down,” she said during the Television Critics Association summer press tour last week in Los Angeles. “We were intentional about different types, and it was important for me that we had a plus-size woman on the show. It was important to me that we had different skin tones on the show. It was important to me that in our guest stars we had different age ranges. I mean, we have guest stars nine to 90, literally, on the show and they’re all equally funny.”
These aren’t just words. From what we’ve seen so far we’ve counted the likes of Gina Torres, Angela Bassett, Lena Waithe, Laverne Cox and Patti LaBelle popping up on the show, which is basically a list of dream guests in our books.
5. This show is making history
What’s better than working on a fun show with friends? How about when you’re also making history. Not only is ABLSS the first of its kind to feature an all-female cast, but the writer’s room is also entirely comprised of black females. (So THAT’S what progress looks like.)
6. The title
When Thede was first developing the series it was tentatively called The Black Lady Sketch Show. But when she brought Rae and her production company on board, Rae had a very on-point thought about that title: it sounded too finite, and as though that were the only show that could ever exist in that space. By changing the first word from The to A it became more freeing and set the stage for more diverse shows to follow.
Isn’t it funny how words actually do matter?
7. There’s a recurring gag that’s to die for
Sometimes, if you stop and think about the awfulness going on in the world for too long, or if you read one too many headlines, it can be a little depressing. That’s why we’re totally here for the recurring sketch in ABLSS about the world ending. It’s just another brilliant way for the series to feel so relevant while also tying the episodes together.
“Black women are very resilient and who better to survive an apocalypse than four black women in a gorgeous house,” Thede said. “We wanted to have an interstitial device that was both funny and a palate cleanser. On a network you have commercials and you get to take a breath while there’s a Tide commercial, but on HBO we obviously don’t have any commercials. So it was a nice return to a home base between the variety of the sketches because they’re so different.”
8. Intentionally GIF-able moments
Ask any late night show writer what their sketch goals are, and they’d say having one go viral. Thede and co. are well aware of the power of sharing, which is why many of their sketches were written with the #BlackTwitter audience in mind.
“When the trailer dropped, #BlackTwitter lost its mind. I mean we had like three million views in 48 hours or something for a show no one had ever heard of,” Thede said. #BlackTwitter is going to give us a chance and if we piss them off they’ll go away. But I don’t think that will happen. We’re very intentional about the content. We’re very intentional about the impact. We know what we’re doing with our bodies, meaning what will make a good GIF or what would make a good meme. Very intentional about that.”
9. There are puppets
No really—puppets! Each of the main cast members had a puppet created in their likeness as part of the show’s opening credits, and it seems like Thede could talk at length about how fun it was to go through that process. From crafting the perfect black hair to nailing each actor’s specific look, you can tell that a lot of thought went into the concept.
“They took 360 photos of us. They sculpted our cheekbones. They made sure—Ashley’s hair? Oh my god. Ashley’s hair is five different types of textures that they hand-placed strand by strand, because it was very important to us that black women’s hair was represented well even in puppets,” Thede said. “That was really fun for us and puppets have always had a long history in sketch, so we just wanted to use them in a way that was native to the show.”