Outspoken, funny and in your face, you can always count on Sheryl Underwood to tell it like it is. Whether she’s holding court as a co-host on the daytime chatfest The Talk, which airs daily on CBS (check your local listings), starring in a standup comedy concert or chatting in an interview with BET.com, the former Comic View host never holds back. So we got Underwood to give her take on Black female comedians, what kinds of films she’d like to produce and what advice she’d give to Kevin Hart.
The Talk is about to enter its fifth season and has forged a successful path in its own right. What do you think is the main difference between your show and The View?
Well, if it wasn’t for Barbara Walters and what she put together none of us would be here. Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd are good friends of mine so I’m appreciative of what God blessed us all with. But I would say the main difference is at The Talk, we are not pundits. We are just a bunch of gals talking about the stories of the day and we don’t take ourselves seriously. But I truly believe there’s a place at the table for everybody. You've got The Real, you’ve got The View and you’ve got The Talk.
Sommore is now the host of BET’s Comic View, where you got your start. Would you like to share anything about your big break in showbiz?
Being at The Talk now affords me opportunities to go back to BET and do something. We had the ladies of The Talk present nominations at the BET Awards. I don’t ever want to forget where I came from and I don’t want to forget who brought me to the dance. If it weren’t for Comic View I wouldn’t be here.
There seems to be more Black men who hit it big in comedy than Black women. Why do you think that is and what could help bring more funny women into the industry?
I love being a sister in comedy, but the fellows don’t understand we have to be funnier than men. So Ice Cube needs to come on and put a sister in the movie with him. Chris Tucker, Mike Epps and Kevin Hart should bring three sisters up because they’re the guys who can do it. Sisters need to be able to get the drama or sitcom.
You’ve recently started your own production company. Tell us about your movie influences and also what kinds of films do you want to produce.
I grew up in the Blaxploitation great cinema era. There were movies coming out every week for us to see. The Learning Tree, Truck Turner’s Revenge, Cotton Comes to Harlem — those were great stories. I want to go back to that. Those are the types of movies I want to make. I don’t want to see a lot of sex or hear a lot of profanity, but I want to entertain in different ways. We have a great history of Black cinema; let’s keep it alive, while we’re young enough to do it.
Despite there being less women in comedy than men, do you think there is a sizeable and diverse pool of Black female talent in comedy?
Yes. This is the best time in the world to be who we are and right now and I thank God for having this opportunity. But I also thanked God that Monique showed that a comic who is Black and female could win an Academy Award. Sommore showed she could produce her own things. Adele Givens showed you can come from the South Side of Chicago and still be yourself. And I hope that Sheryl Underwood shows you can still be yourself, love the Lord no matter what you’re body shape is, no matter what your complexion is and you still have a place in this entertainment business. We just keep going out there and fighting the good fight.
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(Photo: Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET)