Robin Thede On the Secret to Success for ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Aug 21, 2019

Robin Thede—actor, writer, producer and creator of “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (ABLSS) on HBO—is very clear of what had to happen for her to helm a show that features Black women.

“I think about ‘In Living Color,’ ‘Chappelle's Show’ and ‘Key & Peele’ even, honestly which just went off the air not so long ago…and you don’t even watch those shows and think, wow, women aren’t centered,” Thede said on the New Hollywood podcast on Tuesday (August 20). “That’s fine, but I think centering Black women feels so revolutionary now and it’s crazy because you never thought it wasn’t there.”

Even though she auditioned for “Saturday Night Live” a few years ago, before NBC hired Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata  and LaKendra Tookes, Thede knew that her show would be different. “The thing you’re going to feel differently on our show is that Black women are writing for Black women and a Black woman is directing the show. A Black woman created the show, there are Black women executive producing the show, so our hands are felt all in it,” Thede said. She also made it clear that she has no plans to showcase White women. “There are so many qualified Black women in comedy that I didn’t have to look outside that circle to make this show,” Thede said. “It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else; it’s absolutely only for the inclusion of Black women.” 

With a creative crew that understands the nuances of Black womanhood firsthand, Thede said she wanted ABLSS to be a show within a show that allows the layers of what it means to be a Black woman to shine through. “You get to see sisterhood, you get to see friendships, you get to see different types of Black women. Some don’t cover their hair at night and that’s real,” Thede said. And the puppets in the opening credit were as intentional as the cast. “First of all, when have you ever seen a Black woman puppet, let alone four, of different shades and different sizes?” Thede asked of the sequence, which she directed.

For more on Thede and her wishlist for ABLSS guest stars (hint: Whoopi Goldberg), listen to the complete episode: