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A Black Lady Sketch Show

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
A Black Lady Sketch Show TV Poster Image
Brilliantly original sketch show is fresh, raunchy, funny.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Stereotypes, sexism, and race are subverted in witty comedy sketches that may make viewers think twice about some of their preconceptions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women are rare in comedy, black women even rarer -- it's a treat to see women enjoying themselves and airing their issues, even if some of their characters are less than positive (e.g., shallow "bad bitches," gangbangers). 

Violence

Violence is infrequent and played for laughs, like when a puppet is shot by a convenience store worker and then sports a red flag from the "wound" that symbolizes blood, or when a character breaks another's phone and is threatened, "You're going to die!" 

Sex

Jokes may revolve around sex, like when a group of friends plays "Never Have I Ever" and talks about a "walk of shame," and a man who has a "Flintstone dick" ("You have to use your feet to make it work"). In other sketches women talk about "fapping" (masturbating) and dance to Khia's "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)," which has explicit lyrics about oral sex. 

Language

Language is frequent and generally used for comic emphasis: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "damn," "bitch" (generally used as a synonym for "woman"), "ho," "d--k," and the "N" word. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine and liquor at gatherings. A background song has lyrics about "Molly." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Black Lady Sketch Show is a comedy show starring and created by an all-female, all-black group of comics that focuses on the humor of living as a black woman. The subjects that sketches tackle can lean toward the mature: a singer who uses a lot of sexual language about ice cream, for example, and women debating if it's OK to "fap" (masturbate) to a star who's in a movie with a notoriously racist celebrity. Language is mature too: Expect to hear lots of the "N" word as well as women calling themselves and each other "bitches" and "hos"; "f--k," "s--t," and "damn," are frequent. Violence is minimal and played for laughs: A puppet is shot in a showdown with a convenience store worker and then sports a piece of red felt meant to be blood pouring from her wound. Characters drink in some scenes. Background songs can have mature lyrics: Khia's "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" is played prominently at one point, with its explicit lyrics about oral sex. It's worth noting that women, women of color in particular, and comedy from a female perspective is relatively rare, so it's refreshing to hear new viewpoints aired, and sketches may make viewers reconsider some of their preconceptions about gender and race. 

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What's the story?

Created, written, and starring an all-female, all-black team, A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW turns its irreverent gaze on just what's funny about being a black woman in America today. Unrealistic beauty standards? A wedding with a groom who can't commit to "I do"? A CIA spy who's practically invisible on her spy missions because her "regular looking face" renders her invisible to both women and men? Hot takes on "Romeo and Juliet" and 227? With a voice that's both surreal and inventive, this sketch show goes to some very unusual places and finds plenty to laugh at.

Is it any good?

Strange, subversive, and surreal, this sketch show isn't laugh-out-loud hilarious every second, but it's so dazzlingly original that even when it's not, it's still a joy to watch. Its bona fides may make viewers fear they're about to get a blast of overly earnest comedy: Comedy's first all-black and all-female writer's room crafts the jokes, the sketches are directed by a black female director (Dime Davis, Boomerang), and the main cast is made up entirely of black women. But instead of skewing preachy, the show leans brilliant and bizarre instead, taking us to places we've never been before: a support group for bad bitches, a Motown revue in which a singer goes rogue, a drag "Basic Ball" in which average women are celebrated ("She's doing errands!" enthuses emcee Caldwell Tidicue, aka "Bob the Drag Queen." "She has all her receipts!"). 

Speaking of Tidicue, another great thing about A Black Lady Sketch Show is the absolute bananas parade of guest stars: Angela Bassett, the fierce leader of the Bad Bitches, Patti Labelle, David Alan Grier, Kelly Rowland. As they and the regular cast race wildly through topics like Fenty highlighter, cocoa butter lotion, the Britney Spears cover of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," writing love poetry to Cornell Woolrich, it quickly becomes apparent that not only is this show speaking loudly and specifically to an oft-ignored segment of comedy fans, it's illuminating a whole new set of truths. It's about time. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Sketch comedy shows centered on people of color have a distinguished TV history -- e.g., In Living Color, Key & Peele, Chappelle's Show. How much presence did women have on these shows? Did the sketches tend to focus on female stories and concerns, or were women side characters? How often were women played not by women, but by men dressing up as women? Why do you think that is?

  • A Black Lady Sketch Show airs on HBO, not network television. Why? What types of audiences do pay cable stations seek to reach, and how are they different from network audiences? Does this type of comedy need the freedom of pay cable to focus on mature content and subjects? Would the show still be funny without this type of mature content? 

  • Did any of the sketches on this series make you reconsider a point of view you hold, or see something in a different light? Do you think these sketches are intended to? Can humor create social change? How? 

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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