Who Are the Women of ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’? A Quick Primer

HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show” invites viewers into uncharted territory. The series, created by Robin Thede and co-executive produced by Issa Rae, boasts a rarity for TV: a cast, writers room and director (Dime Davis) comprised entirely of black women.

Thede, who also stars in the new series, is no stranger to blazing trails. “For the record, I was the FIRST African-American woman to be head writer for a late-night show,” she recently tweeted, referring to her stint on Comedy Central’s short-lived “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.” For the “Black Lady Sketch Show” writers room, Thede tapped such talk-show veterans as her former “Nightly Show” colleague Holly Walker, Amber Ruffin (“Late Night With Seth Meyers”) and Lauren Ashley Smith (a writer on Thede’s own brief late-night show, “The Rundown”).

While the guest list is stacked and star-studded — with appearances by Angela Bassett, Patti LaBelle, Laverne Cox, David Alan Grier and more — viewers may be less familiar with the series regulars, who deliver spy spoofs, beauty mishaps, dating disasters and scenes from an all-black lady courtroom in the first season. Here’s a quick primer to acquaint you with your comedy queens-to-be before the show premieres Friday.

Robin Thede

Named one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch for 2019,” she previously hosted BET’s “The Rundown With Robin Thede,” a late-night news show that allowed her to riff on both pop culture and politics. (Fun fact: She’s the daughter of Representative Phyllis Thede of Iowa). The Chris Rock-produced program was canceled in 2018 after one season, despite receiving critical praise. In addition to her “Nightly Show” credits, Thede was the head writer on “The Queen Latifah Show” from 2013-2014 and wrote for “The Real Husbands of Hollywood” as well as several BET awards shows. Of her new sketch show’s title, Thede recently said that the use of the word “A” — rather than “The” — is intentional. “We want to be one of many. This opens the door for many more to come.”

Ashley Nicole Black

A former correspondent and part of the Emmy-winning writing team for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” Black entered the late-night scene with a Second City background, having taught comedy writing at the famed Chicago comedy institution. She’s also held down hosting duties on “Sip on This,” an advice podcast that’s featured such guests as the author Ijeoma Oluo, the activist Charlotte Clymer and Thede. In the Twitterverse, Black is known as a risk-taker. After establishing a failed, yet valiant, campaign earlier this year to become the first lady to the presidential hopeful Senator Cory Booker (#PresidentialThirstTrap), Black returned to the timeline in May seeking dating advice from Senator Elizabeth Warren. This resulted in the comedian and the senator sharing a heartfelt telephone exchange and making headlines.

Quinta Brunson

This dry-witted stand-up comedian first earned viral status with her 2014 Instagram series, “The Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date.” (Yes, she’s the wide-eyed “He got money!” girl.) Since then, Brunson has earned millions of clicks for her hilariously matter-of-fact skits and GIFs — you’ve likely seen her patting herself on the back for a silver medal win, Milly Rocking across the globe or supportively declaring that “People be gay.” The former BuzzFeed development partner went on to create and star in the YouTube Red sitcom “Broke” and proved she’s a maven of minutiae with her Facebook Watch series “Quinta vs. Everything.” She’s currently doing voice work on the Adult Swim animated series “Lazor Wulf.”

Gabrielle Dennis

From 1998-2000, Dennis served as a host of BET’s youth-targeted talk show “Teen Summit.” She has since made the rounds as a TV actress, appearing in shows like “Insecure,” Mara Brock Akil’s pro football sitcom “The Game” and the procedural drama “Rosewood.” More recently, Dennis played Whitney Houston in the 2018 biopic “The Bobby Brown Story” and the holistic doctor Tilda Johnson on “Luke Cage.”

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