Robin Thede looks to build legacy in HBO sketch comedy show

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robin Thede (pic below) knew plenty of talented African-American female comedians, but only a few were getting hired on popular TV comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live and Mad TV.

So, Thede decided to create her own show featuring some of the industry’s funniest black women. The comic-writer-producer-actress is breaking new ground with her HBO comedy series A Black Lady Sketch Show.

The six-episode series offers sketches written and performed by an all-black female cast. It stars Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis and Quinta Brunson. Guests, mostly black women, include Angela Bassett, Kelly Rowland, Marsai Martin, Lena Waithe, Patti LaBelle and Natasha Rothwell.

“It’s a culmination of a lifelong passion for sketch,” said Thede, a co-producer of the series with Issa Rae, who also makes an appearance. “When black women do get on sketch shows, we really stand out. But there are only a handful of black women who have ever been on sketch shows. Why not stack the deck and put them on all at once on one show?”

Between each sketch, the four ladies huddle up inside an apartment after a mysterious apocalypse wiped out the rest of civilisation. The cast plays more than 100 different characters in sketches exploring a variety of comedic story lines. There’s an invisible plus-size black woman spy, for example, and sketches about ashy skin and unexpected marriage proposals.

That variety is the point, Thede said.

“I wanted to do a show that was challenging the views of black women in comedy for a lot of people and showing we can do anything. We can play men, women, aliens or whatever we want. It’s all sorts of genres, styles and characters in this show,” she said. “We’ve never seen black women like this before. … In a way, this show is a love letter to black women.”