This summer has been decidedly short on new TV comedies worth watching — no, sorry, BH90210 doesn’t count — but one freshman show did manage to shine like an oasis of funny amid the barren landscape: HBO’s wickedly clever gem A Black Lady Sketch Show.
Created by comedian Robin Thede and executive-produced by Insecure star Issa Rae (who pops up in the occasional sketch, too), A Black Lady Sketch Show is upfront about its mission to introduce us to a fresh crop of talented African American women. (I mean, it’s right there in the title.) But this isn’t just a win for representation: A Black Lady Sketch Show is damn hilarious, too, taking insightful swipes at the ridiculousness of modern life, wowing us with big-budget genre parodies and serving up a host of delightful celebrity cameos to boot.
To celebrate Friday’s season finale (11/10c) — and its recent Season 2 renewal — we’re blessing you with a selection of the best sketches from Season 1 so far, from a dynamite comedic turn from the one and only Angela Bassett to a lovingly recreated update of a classic ’80s sitcom. (Note: Some of our favorite sketches aren’t on YouTube, so you’ll just have to watch the full season on HBO Go to get the full picture.)
Read on to enter the world of A Black Lady Sketch Show, and hit the comments below to share your personal favorite sketches.
“Bad Bitch Support Group” (Episode 1)
We don’t get to see Angela Bassett do comedy very often… and based on this sketch, that’s a real shame. She’s terrific here as the regal leader of a support group for self-described “bad bitches,” trying to talk one of their glammed-up sisters out of lowering herself to become just “an OK bitch.” (“Like, I wanna wear regular house slippers, not three-inch-heel house shoes.”) Stick around for the Laverne Cox cameo — and the sinister twist at the end.
“No Makeup” (Episode 2)
The natural look can be hazardous to your health, apparently: Thede plays cubicle drone Shaela, who decides to save time by skipping her daily makeup routine and ends up looking like the walking dead. (Literally: She gets recruited to play a zombie on The Walking Dead.) It’s a savage takedown of female beauty standards taken to ridiculous extremes, as a makeup-less Shaela ends up in a hospital bed barely clinging to life. But she’s fine, guys!
“Gang Orientation” (Episode 3)
Who knew being in a gang offered such great benefits? Here, a new crop of gangbangers learn about all the lucrative corporate-style perks of joining the crew — including six months of paid parental leave! But “don’t let this 401k fool you,” Gabrielle Dennis’ fierce gang leader warns. “I’ll still f—k you up.” Man, filling out that 1099 is no joke. Blippety.
“227: The Reboot” (Episode 3)
The Black Lady Sketch Show writers clearly love 227 almost as much as we do, based on this spot-on recreation. Their “reboot” brings the ’80s NBC sitcom into the modern era with astonishing detail, including Thede’s absolutely flawless Jackée impression. (If you don’t absolutely crack up when she says “Maaaary” for the first time, you’re made of stronger stuff than us.) Plus, don’t miss the show’s original stars giving the sketch their blessing at the very end.
“Invisible Spy” (Episode 1)
All four of A Black Lady Sketch Show‘s main cast members are wonderful, but former Full Frontal With Samantha Bee correspondent Ashley Nicole Black might be the biggest revelation of all. In this action-packed spoof, she plays a CIA spy whose “regular-looking face” makes her an invaluable asset; she’s able to slip in and out of enemy territory without being noticed… at all. The self-deprecating jokes are razor-sharp as she waltzes right into a highly secure compound — and maybe meets her match?
“Chris and Lachel: Exit Row” (Episode 5)
Thede playing a male character is always high comedy: Here, it’s sky-high, as she returns as the smooth-talking Chris, who’s about to enjoy a honeymoon with his lady Lachel… if he can just say a simple “yes” to the flight attendant’s exit row instructions. (Chris’ responses: “Yerp,” “no doubt” and “yodel.”) Insecure‘s Yvonne Orji makes a perfectly patient flight attendant, and bless her for it: We would’ve tossed these two off the plane a long time ago.
“The Basic Ball” (Episode 2)
Not every LGBTQ person can be as fabulous as the characters on Pose, as we learn from this ball for less glamorous categories like the clinically depressed (“I’m looking for Eeyore in Dior!”), apron-wearing barbecue daddies who are “serving mispronounces-all-of-your-friends’-names-wrong realness” and (hahaha) “just awkward in the body.” Drag Race alum Bob the Drag Queen kills it as the emcee, and the whole thing — and Season 1 as a whole, really — gets 10s across the board.