This past Friday, Robin Thede’s A Black Lady Sketch Show concluded its second season on HBO. Experiencing the show during this horrendous time for humanity has definitely been a relief. The cast stuck with what made us fall in love with the series and turned up what really worked in 2019. The last episode opened with a continuation of Ashley Nicole Black as the overly enthused Ally in the “Come on Somebody” skit, with an ending rant that was reminiscent of the hilarious note she ended the “Last Supp-her” skit on in episode 3.
Speaking of the mega talented Ashley Nicole Black, season two was an opportunity to showcase her range on and off camera, as she was also a writer on this season. She talks about writing to ET online, while referencing my favourite recurring role of hers (the Invisible Spy) and season 2’s “Invisible Date” sketch:
“I wanted to, as a writer, know where she goes next. While the fight “between two Black women that are heroes in the story” was one small part of the sketch, it clicked because it’s something audiences don’t often see onscreen in any capacity. “I’m like, ‘You know what? I haven’t seen that before. And it didn't even occur to me until people were so excited to see it.”
There are many ordinary and outrageous things the characters do this season and this brilliant approach continues to be Robin Thede’s secret weapon for the show. Last August, she told AV Club:
“We need to be seen as normal people, not as some sort of other sort of character or some one-dimensional best friend character or coworker. I want to know what’s going on in those Black character’s lives. I want to know the normal things they do, the mistakes they make, the successes they have. I think modern, regular-ass Black stories are really important to tell. And it’s why our interstitials, even though they take place at the end of the world and they’re on a big sketch comedy show, they still are for women, as you said, having these regular conversations, these very normal conversations about relationships, and cancel culture, and personal likes and dislikes. I think all of that is important, and it helps to normalize Black images; it helps to normalize the preconceived notions about Black women. We’re not all strong and loud and whatever. We can be those things, but we don’t have to be those things.”
Thede on the writer’s room:
“…in season one, we had vets, we had Emmy winners; we had people from The Good Place, we had people from Transparent, from Sam Bee’s show [Full Frontal]. We had nothing but vets the first season. In season two, it was important to me that we brought in new writers who could join those women, those veterans in the room and learn from them, but also bring a fresh perspective.”
“Even in my all-Black, all-women writers’ room, we had writers who went to Ivy league schools. We have writers who were strippers. We have writers who never went to school. We had writers who grew up dirt poor. We had writers who grew up with more money. We had every sort of different type of person in the room. And yes, they all ended up being Black women. Well, they were intentionally all Black women, but they range in economic differences, LGBTQ, age. We have writers in their 20s and writers in their 50s. So for me, it was really, really critical, if we were going to be a show called A Black Lady Sketch Show, people were going to be looking for a variety of types of Black women to be represented.”
On the show receiving three Emmy nominations, (including one for Angela Basset’s epic performance in season one’s “Bad Bitch Support Group” sketch), Thede said:
“I think Angela’s nomination in particular means that other people of her caliber will be super-comfortable coming to play because she signed on having seen nothing but a script. There was no reason, honestly, why she needed to do it. She didn’t need it. Her career was fine. But I wrote her a letter and I talked to her about it, and she signed on right away. I think that that’s a testament to the vision of the show and the team that we put together, and of course to my vision. But, I definitely am not doing it alone.”
Thede is such an incredible creative, and her passion for the show shines in her vibrant acting scenes. Season two opened with her continuing her dead on, loud and wrong Dr. Haddassah character: antics from this character in season one included the Hertep Homecoming skit, where she ruined her sister’s wedding reception. Then in episode 3, this amazing character sits down with the real Gabrielle Union and a cardboard Dwyane Wade for the hilarious “Black Table Talk” skit. And in my favourite skit of the season, episode one’s “Get Your Life”, features Thede as Salina, a woman whose whole life was cursed by a game of M.A.S.H. she played with her friend in 1996. Skye Townsend plays the manipulative life-stealing and married-to-Omarion friend Ladonna perfectly, and shines in other skits throughout the season including “Ya Nona Love 2 C It” as pop star Nona Love, where the show actually released the single “Air” on iTunes.
Lacy Mosley , another new cast member stands out for her seamless chemistry with the cast, a hilarious skit about hair with Jesse Williams and an athletic and ridiculous one about being a twerkologist with Miguel.
Gabrielle Dennis, my favourite cast member of the show, queen of physical comedy and versatility, kills this season. It’s hard to decide which performance was her best, but standouts include her continuing her epic Shantira the Bailiff character for another legendary Black Lady Courtroom sketch called “Courtroom Kiki Part 2” and her leading the “Gang Retreat” as a militant, condescending woke gang leader. A bonus is Issa Rae in both of these scenes – Issa is the EP of A Black Lady Sketch Show and it’s such a treat to see her onscreen occasionally having opened the door to the series at HBO with her own groundbreaking work on Insecure.
And the best news? A Black Lady Sketch Show has been renewed for season three! If you haven’t already, you have two seasons to catch up on now!