A Black Lady Sketch Show is back for another season of pure hilarity from the minds of brilliant Black women who know how to tap your funny bone. Along with Robin Thede, Gabrielle Dennis and Ashley Nicole Black there’s a new addition to the cast. Skye Townsend, a comedian who rose to fame from YouTube, makes her debut this season. Townsend’s father is actor and director Robert Townsend, known for Parent Hood, The Five Heartbeats, The Meteor Man, Hollywood Shuffle and just being an all-around comedic gem. Even though she is a Townsend, she wanted to succeed in the comedy industry on her own without any handouts from her famous father. Building her career from the ground up has now landed her on a groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated sketch show where she can solidify herself in the world of comedy.
Besides starring on the show, Townsend also gets to also “build her characters from the ground up,” something that is unheard of on other sketch shows.
“We get a lot of creative control with the characters,” she told MadameNoire. “With most shows, wardrobe, hair and makeup is already laid out for the character. On this show we are allowed to submit our ideas. They wrote these amazing scripts and then leave it open enough for us to create the characters. We pick the voices, we pick how they act. We are not given instruction on how they sound.”
MadameNoire got to chat with Townsend about what to expect on The Black Lady Sketch Show, the highs and lows of being a Black comedienne and what her father thinks about her following in his footsteps.
MadameNoire: What can we expect this season on The Black Lady Sketch Show?
Skye Townsend: I think they came in really hot season one [with] three Emmy nominations and with season two I think our creator, Robin Thede, just wanted to elevate. So the colors are brighter, the jokes are riskier [and] the cast is so bold this season. I think it’s really awesome because you can see the elevation between the two seasons and every great show gets better. I think people can expect to cover their mouths a lot [laughs]. There’s wonderful character work. I just think we took so many more risks this season.
MN: During such tense times how do you figure out how to draw the line when it comes to your jokes?
ST: It’s so difficult to know where to draw the line but for me personally where I draw it is I never want to do humor that’s mean or hurts somebody’s feelings or that I would regret in the future. As a Black woman especially I am not afraid to go there and speak my mind and make bold choices or look crazy in character. Whether it’s ugly as possible or wild as possible or as crazy they can make me, the better. I try to avoid anything mean but I am not afraid to take risks when it comes to delivery and being bold. They do a great job of playing it safe but not too much to where it is boring.
MN: I saw that Omarion was on an episode. How was it working with him?
ST: So Omarion played my husband in the first episode and it was the funniest day, probably my favorite day. He was fantastic though. I really did not expect him to come so prepared with so much improv and he had so much fun. All the guest stars came and put their best foot forward but Omarion was probably my favorite one of the season because he was so willing to try new things and could laugh at himself.
MN: What other guest stars can we expect this season?
ST: Of course Gabrielle Union, who was in the trailer, was amazing. I am really excited that Kim Wayans is on the show this season because I think it is super important to give flowers to the other Black female comedians that came before us. She came, she played and she showed us how the Wayans do and I am really excited for the younger generation to be exposed to her. I grew up on In Living Color so that was really exciting for me.
MN: I still watch her on In the House. She is hilarious!
ST: The younger generation needs to know about that fearlessness! She brought that energy to the set and made us go further and really be into our bodies and tap into the physical humor of the sketch that she was in. I think people will be hysterical when they see her.
MN: How does your dad feel about your career and you following in his footsteps?
ST: He is ecstatic, honestly. I think what’s really awesome is that it took me awhile to get here and so he really got to watch me earn it. I think as a parent it was still exciting that he didn’t feel like it fell into my lap or that I only got the gig because I was his daughter. It really supports a lot of conversations about legacy and working together and what it means to really earn something despite people thinking you have a foot in the door. He’s ecstatic to watch me though. We visited the billboards when they popped up around the city and we watched the premiere together because he’s just my road dog. It’s awesome to him to watch me now because I’ve been watching him my whole life so it is really full circle.
MN: Are you going to be collaborating with your dad in the future?
ST: I was really hesitant to do it too early in my career because I never wanted people to feel like I got any of the opportunities because of my name. I think now that I have the show under my belt and stepping into other things I would love to collaborate. There’s nothing more awesome than two generations coming together to make something. I think my dad overall is such a fantastic director and being able to watch him on set, I would love to be on set with him instead of watching from the sidelines.
MN: You started your career on YouTube, right?
ST: I started out using online because I felt that I had access to the whole world and it was free [laughs].I didn’t want people to ever say that it was clear that I was put into a position that I was not prepared for. For me it was really important to jump those hurdles and learn those hard lessons and learn how to navigate in these spaces as a Black woman and properly articulate the things I needed in my career before getting to this place. When people find out that I am a Townsend, I want people to say “Oh, that makes sense” instead of “That’s how she got the job.”
MN: Since you are also a recording artist and a comedian, would you ever do a comedy album?
ST: I absolutely would. I think if everything made sense and the timing was aligned I would love it. I am open to everything but it’s about pacing myself.
MN: What makes you stand out from the rest of the cast on The Black Lady Sketch Show?
ST: I think we all have different strengths on the show and it’s beautiful and it shows. For me personally, I really love quirky, witty humor. I grew up watching a lot In Living Color, a lot of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams and people who use their body and transform their faces for the characters. I really like to transform physically and use my body in the process. Even during the premiere a lot of people reached out and said they didn’t realize it was me in the scenes. I want to be the chameleon where you don’t know it was me for two minutes and then you do the math.
MN: What’s the biggest challenge and best part about being a female, Black comedian?
ST: The biggest challenge is avoiding the stereotype and still staying busy. I think a lot of people have an idea of what a Black woman is and what a Black woman looks like when she is funny. Sometimes the difficult part is saying no a lot and passing on a lot of projects that you feel might affect your dignity or might affect the way that people view you or support Black people. There has to be an understanding that you have to pick respect over the money. The best part is that Black women are the culture from fashion to lingo to hairstyles. To have that voice and be able to [make people] laugh and uplift our people is so amazing. There’s no voice like the Black woman’s voice. It’s amazing to see how many different types of personalities exist in the comedy space now because before it was very difficult to break out and be bold or be really smart because they wanted to dumb us down. The best part now is being able to have that freedom to speak your mind and be unapologetic about it. Now we have a space to do that and it is beautiful.
The Black Lady Sketch Show premieres every Friday on HBO at 11 p.m EST and is available on HBO Max.