[Editor’s note: The following review contains spoilers for Season 2 of “A Black Lady Sketch Show.”]
It’s been too long since we last saw the ladies of HBO’s sketch comedy series “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” and, as you might know, a lot has changed since September 2019. But creator Robin Thede and her team remain the best at exploring the mundane and obnoxious things women, specifically Black women, put up with.
In Season 2, “A Black Lady Sketch Show” once again delivers hilarity and absurdity in equal measure. It’s the end of the world when the series starts and we meet Robin (Thede) and her friends celebrating. But when things take a turn for the weird, it causes Robin to start questioning the women around her and their intentions.
This running gag takes up a significant portion of each episode and it’s unclear what the intent is — short of possibly being an allowance for new COVID protocols limiting people on-set. There’s commonalities to when “Key and Peele” did their road-trip storyline, and the ongoing joke here is just as fun because Thede, Gabrielle Dennis, Ashley Nicole Black, Skye Townsend, and Laci Mosley have such fantastic chemistry.
As they navigate possibly being the last women on Earth it causes them to snipe at each other. Will this narrative expand in the next season? If so, it will be interesting to see how the team creates a payoff for this within a sketch show.
There are a few sketches brought back from Season 1 that emphasize just why they were so popular in the first place. A return to the “Black Lady Courtroom” sees special guest Yvette Nicole Brown reprise her role as judge. As the women come back they start to wonder if the legend of an all-Black woman court can ever be achieved again…until an all Black woman jury shows up.
This short takes on an added reverence considering current events, and the fact that the script revels in the joy of seeing so many Black women in the court reminds audiences of why this show is so significant in the topics it picks. Like an all Black woman jury, you don’t realize how important something is until you see it manifested onscreen. And to see the celebration of such a momentous occasion, it’s a balm for all the insanity going on right now.
Another returning short involves the Coral Reef gang who offer members excellent benefits and a 401K, but if they step out of line they’ll get killed. This time around we see them going on what passes for a corporate retreat. This sketch still works so well because of the comedic talents of Dennis. She might not seem like an intimidating presence, but she makes the leader of the Reefs intense yet heartfelt.
Ali P. Goldstein/HBO
Thede also brings back her character of Dr. Hadassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman, an academic whose Black history comes off as reductive and overbearing. She gets the first sketch of the season that clearly illustrates even a pandemic can’t stop her from speaking what she believes is the truth. Dr. Hadassah later returns with actress Gabrielle Union for a hilarious back-and-forth, as the guest star strains to emulate the person her doctor pushes her to become.
Some of the best sketches this season are the weirder ones, such as one involving a group of friends visiting a resort only to meet one woman (played by Thede) they don’t recognize. Like the dueling versions of Robin’s end of the world party in the running gag, there’s an emphasis on duality this season that’s a lot of fun.
Ashley Nicole Black, like Thede, is a writer as well as actress on the series, and she walks away with some of the best sketches. One involving her wearing of a presumably vintage jumpsuit builds up towards bigger topics about fashion and Black women. Black has such an expressive way of delivering a turn of phrase, so even in a sketch wherein she takes a friend to a self-help seminar, the weirdness is cut by how Black deadpans her true intentions. The entire cast is pure brilliance, but Black and Thede walk away with so much of what makes “A Black Lady Sketch Show” so memorable.
And that illustrates the pure fun of “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” that a sketch can be weird or embarrassing and the strength of the performers makes it relatable. Not every sketch lands perfectly — and nothing comes close to “The Basic Ball” from Season 1 — but the good far outweigh the bad.
Season 2 of “A Black Lady Sketch Show” premieres Friday, April 23 at on HBO.