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In the "content" era, TV comedy increasingly feels like a way to populate their YouTube channels and inevitably create some sort of podcast presence. Sketches are made to be shared without any larger context; scenes from sitcoms get turned into short videos to be shared. Late-night talk shows are competing to create viral moments that can become their own webseries. Narrative becomes irrelevant; there are only clicks. A Black Lady Sketch Show possesses a confidence in its first season that suggests the show is not interested in being chopped up into easily consumable chunks. A Black Lady Sketch Show seems more interested in creating a whimsical, loving world for its leads. The new sketch series Ashley Nicole Black, Quinta Brunson, Gabrielle Dennis, and the show's creator, Robin Thede.
Robin Thede, Quinta Brunson, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis
Friday, August 2 at 11 pm ET on HBO
Half-hour sketch show; complete first season (6 episodes) watched for review
Shows like Chappelle's Show and Key & Peele transitioned between sketches by having their respective hosts speak directly to the audience. On ABLSS, Black, Brunson, Dennis, and Thede sit around Thede's fictional apartment, play UNO and dominos, drink wine, and have the personal conversations in private when drink is flowing. The chemistry and ease between the performers playing perfectly styled versions of themselves would be enough to sustain an entire series. The conversations effortlessly drift from UNO rules to protect your edges to the racist origins of common phrases. ABLSS is not interested in drawing lines around what Blackness is or is not interested in presenting as many different depictions of black womanhood as possible.
Each of the four leads has made a name for themselves elsewhere, but getting to know them in the sketches and interstitial conversations is like getting four new girlfriends. Robin Thede is the most well-known novelist in the world. The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore ) and she hosted her own talk show on BET. On ABLSS, Thede balances a flirtatious presence with a shelf, authoritative air. She sizzles as a Betty Boop-esque vintage groupie in episode four and a reoccurring conspiratorial afro-centric guru. Thede plays Jackée Harry in a 227 parody in episode three, and it feels like
Quinta Brunson, a.k.a. the "Oh, you got money?" gif, is known for her work on BuzzFeed's early videos and her own internet shorts. Her strength is her playful and naughty energy. She is just as comfortable as she is in the office of a beautiful woman. Gabrielle Dennis previously appeared in Marvel's Luke Cage as the principled Tilda; she taps into the same intensity, but on a self-aware series, Dennis's forcefulness allows her to become a foil for the more ridiculous elements. Dennis can be downright terrifying, bringing with her an elegance and darkness that's surprising in sketch comedy.