Robin Thede aims for laughs, longevity and legacy

Apr 20, 2023, 9:52 AM

Robin Thede poses for a portrait to promote her HBO series, “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” on Wedn...

Robin Thede poses for a portrait to promote her HBO series, “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” on Wednesday, April 5, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

(AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

NEW YORK (AP) — Success in television can be measured in many ways, but one of Robin Thede’s sure tell signs is longevity.

“A season four is a testament to the most appreciation, right? Because we’ve seen a lot of great shows — I’ve created a lot of great shows — that don’t last as long. And it’s not for lack of quality,” said the creator and star of “A Black Lady Sketch Show.” “There’s so many options that you have today on TV. So, the fact that people want to spend six episodes with us is great.”

HBO’s hit sketch comedy returned last week, positioned to be bigger and more expansive than ever. The three-time, Emmy-winning show welcomes new cast members, DaMya Gurley, Tamara Jade and Angel Laketa Moore, to its hilarious foundation of Thede, Gabrielle Dennis and Skye Townsend.

“My vision was to allow the most voices as possible to create this plethora of Black lady voices that lead to what the show is now and honestly, it’s become bigger than me,” explained Thede.

Supported by a staff of women of color in all departments, Thede is grateful for the fanfare, but she also expected it, saying she never heard naysayers remark that a sketch series by Black women, primarily for — but not limited to — Black women, would fail.

“No one ever said that….I guess maybe that should’ve happened. We also were so cocky about it. We’re like, ‘This is going to be great!’ Our only goal was excellence,” said Thede of her and fellow executive producer Issa Rae. “I’ve always gone, ‘This is the greatest show on earth! Why wouldn’t someone want to be here?’…I just think the concept of it was so dope that people were already on board and they wanted to support.”

This fourth season shies away from its previous mysterious, dark twist sketches and moves toward big laugh-in your-face comedy. Part of the magic resides in guest stars, and this season boasts names like Tracee Ellis Ross, Colman Domingo, Jay Ellis and Kym Whitley, while past guests like Rae, Yvette Nicole Brown and Jackée Harry return.

The Second City alum says Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett, who displayed her comedic chops in the first season, helped show the series is safe and fun for all actors. While she doesn’t hold auditions for guest spots, she frequently taps into her entertainment network and friends, saying recruiting is among the easiest parts of the gig.

The writers room, comprised of all Black women with a wide array of life experiences, backgrounds and viewpoints, begins each season with about 100 ideas and whittles it down to around 30 to form the season. Thede says the show stays funny by “keeping the voices fresh, keeping the cast fresh, much to some people’s dismay,” she said with a laugh. “I want this to be a place where people don’t stay forever. I want this to be a place that’s the jump-off to your next thing.”

So far, it’s worked: Emmy winner and “Abbott Elementary” creator Quinta Brunson starred in season one, and Ashley Nicole Black went on to win an Emmy for “Ted Lasso.”

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” show brought home two Emmy awards for last season: outstanding directing for a variety series and a second consecutive win for outstanding picture editing for variety programming.

Raised in Iowa and named after comedian Robin Williams, Thede graduated from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She’d eventually land the head writer position for “The Queen Latifah Show,” and host a short-lived, BET late-night program, “The Rundown with Robin Thede. ” She was the head writer on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” becoming the first Black woman to hold that role on any any late-night talk show. She’s also written for various awards shows, as well as comics like Chris Rock, Kevin Hart and Mike Epps.

While Black female sketch comics are scarce now, they were even more rare when Thede was growing up. She credits Whoopi Goldberg for showing her what might be possible, which she tearfully shared with the iconic performer recently on “The View.”

Thede was also inspired by funny woman Kim Wayans from “In Living Color,” the groundbreaking ’90s sketch show featuring a primarily Black cast. Thede, who says the show was “pivotal” for her, was touched when Kim said “A Black Lady Sketch Show” is forging a path similar to what the legendary Wayans did.

“She told me she was proud of me… That just means so much to me to have my heroes, my role models say to me, ‘You did it and you’re doing it, and you’re that for the next generation,’” recalled Thede. “My hope is that eventually, no one has to go on “The View” and cry to Whoopi and tell her thank you…They’ll say, ‘Oh, there were so many Black women doing it, of course, I could do it.’”

Happy to no longer be engulfed in the 24-hour-news cycle of late night shows, Thede is in the early stages of developing “Disengagement,” an HBO comedy that centers around a Black family in the Midwest, and will star in the upcoming holiday film “Candy Cane Lane” with Eddie Murphy.

While she hopes to pursue more film roles, her priority is making sure “A Black Lady Sketch Show” eases the road to Hollywood for those behind her.

“The institution of ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ is so great because it will live on beyond all of us… Dozens and dozens of Black women and other women of color have put Emmy nominee and-or Emmy winner in front of their name because of this show,” said Thede. “I don’t want me to be the singular person who’s done these things..…I don’t want them to be as impressed (with me) as I am with the few who came before me. I want them to be like, ‘Yeah, you were good and now I’m going to be better.’ That’s the whole point: surpass everything I’ve done, and hire me when I’m old and gray.”


Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.

United States News

Protestors gather in the atrium of Atlanta City Hall to protest the proposed police training center...

Associated Press

Atlanta project decried as ‘Cop City’ gets funding approval from City Council

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta City Council on Tuesday approved funding for the construction of a proposed police and firefighter training center, rejecting the pleas of hundreds of activists who packed City Hall and spoke for hours in fierce opposition to the project they decry as “Cop City.” The 11-4 vote is a significant victory for […]

3 hours ago

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in the Oval...

Associated Press

White House website highlights infrastructure as Biden pushes policy wins

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday is launching a website to map and track tens of thousands of manufacturing investments, an effort by the administration to show the positive impact of its policies on the U.S. economy to a skeptical public. The site,, documents roughly 32,000 infrastructure projects and more than $470 […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

California investigating whether DeSantis involved in flying asylum-seekers from Texas to Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Officials were investigating Tuesday whether Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind a flight that picked up asylum-seekers on the Texas border and flew them — apparently without their knowledge — to California’s capital, even as faith-based groups scrambled to find housing and food for them. About 20 people ranging in age […]

1 day ago

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, poses for a selfie after a town hall style meeting a...

Associated Press

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set to launch 2024 presidential bid at New Hampshire town hall

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to launch his bid for the Republican nomination for president at a town hall in New Hampshire on Tuesday evening. The campaign will be the second for Christie, who lost to Trump in 2016 and went on to become a close on-and-off adviser […]

1 day ago

This booking photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Michael Tisius. Tisius ...

Associated Press

Missouri man facing execution for killing 2 jailers in failed bid to help inmate escape in 2000

A man who shot and killed two rural Missouri jailers nearly 23 years ago during a failed bid to help an inmate escape is set to be executed Tuesday evening. for killing Leon Egley and Jason Acton at the small Randolph County Jail on June 22, 2000. Tisius’ lawyers have urged the U.S. Supreme Court […]

1 day ago

FILE - E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. Donal...

Associated Press

Trump’s lawyers say defamation claim by NY writer must fail because jury agreed he never raped her

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York writer who won a $5 million jury verdict against ex-President Donald Trump can’t win a pending defamation lawsuit against him because the jury agreed with Trump that he never raped her, his lawyers told a judge Monday. The lawyers urged Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to reject columnist E. […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]



Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

Robin Thede aims for laughs, longevity and legacy