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Ice Cream, Bad B*tches, and Spies: A Review of ‘Black Lady Sketch Show’

It happened!  The history-making Black Lady Sketch Show premiered on HBO this past Friday and it didn’t disappoint.  As promised it was a star-studded debut with a well-rounded collection of sketches about blackness, womanhood, beauty standards, and biters. The show takes on an interesting format in that it uses one sketch that features the women sitting around talking as the glue loosely forming the structure of the show.  It feels mildly like a kooky channel surf. Here are some of my observations thus far about the show.

My favorite sketches were Bad Bitch Support Group and Dance BitersWithout giving too much away these bits tickled me in that they took a simple concept such as: what would a support group for aesthetically high maintenance women be like?  How awkward would it be if you were in a club and someone stared into your eyes as they copied your dance move for move?  The characters and reactions that come from the curiosities are quite humorous.

There is this tendency for these weird twists.  These unanticipated moves take the viewer somewhat outside of the original, smaller scope of the world of the sketch.  This is not inherently a negative thing. However, since the world of the sketch is already an interesting place, the leap feels jarring and sometimes unwarranted. 

I was pleasantly caught off guard by Gabrielle Dennis’s comedic chops.  Of the cast, Dennis is best known for her dramatic roles (Insecure, The Game, etc.) so it was a welcomed to surprise when I gravitated towards many of her characters in the sketches.  I was most invested in her bad bitch character, which she performs with a high pitched voice and slight cluck of the tongue.  Dennis is showing perhaps what she and her co-stars already knew, that she can hold her own in a room full of funny women.  

My favorite line is “not nary a n— was merked.”  This line was delivered by Robin Thede’s HerTep character who is filming a commercial for a masterclass.  While she delivers other offbeat yet in-character sayings this is by far the most outstanding. I mean, when was the last time (or even the first) you head someone use the verb nary in a sentence.

While some of the sketches felt more quirky and odd than laugh out loud funny, I believe it is only a matter of time before the series gets into a rhythm and I find my footing as a viewer.  Tune in with me next week. Be sure to comment on your thoughts!

MJ VanDevere

MJ VanDevere is a doctoral candidate at a predominately white elite institution in the South who uses humor to combat racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that seek to diminish her greatness. She is a self-proclaimed “stand-up snob” who does not have a favorite comedian, so please don't ask unless you have several hours to spare. Some of her favorite movies include, Life, Dead Presidents, and Happy Feet. If, she could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would definitely be laugh, and maybe write. Adulting is her greatest work in progress.

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