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“Big Black Women Are So Funny!”: Mo’Nique and Sherri

6 October 2009 One Comment

Big black women are just soooo funny aren’t they? How else can you explain the premiere of TWO shows starring black female comedians whose girth has played major roles in their public personae? Sarcasm aside, I watched both The Mo’Nique Show and Sherri Shepherd’s new sitcom Sherri with an open mind expecting laughs, the chance to identify with women more like me than most, and my usual cautious optimism. Here’s what I found:

The Mo’Nique Show

monique

I respect Mo’Nique and hope she succeeds at everything she chooses to pursue. That said, watching her new talk show on BET feels like going to church at the hair salon while listening to a motivational speaker who used to do stageplays. Everything from the set design, to the bandleader Rodney, to the studio audience, to Mo’Nique’s constantly shrieking voice, was doing too much. Way too much. The late night talk show circuit is overwhelmingly male and white, so The Mo’Nique Show should have something to offer black women no matter what. However, a family cookout-style hootenanny where the host hands out bear hugs to guests while halfway sharing inside jokes with the audience takes matters a bit too far – it literally made me crave potato salad.

Her premiere’s mixed bag of a lineup included Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, singer Monica, comedian Steve Harvey, and a performance by Jeremih of “Birthday Sex” fame. Her show’s version of “The Fly Girls” were all plus-sized dancers, and that nod to the variety of shapes and sizes in which women come was a creative touch well-anchored to the Mo’Nique brand, but her usual in-your-face quick wit was replaced by sloppy schmoozing and oozing with thanks for her fans and The Lord – including an end of show benediction. The comedian has slimmed down quite a bit and looks great, but her makeup teetered on accidental blackface and she was clad in an ill-fitting black dress with a confusing glittery pair of red lips on the derriere. The biggest loser last night was the women’s undergarment industry, and I would have understood the show’s purpose much more clearly had Spanx been a sponsor if you catch my drift. I know you’re thinking “Thembi what is wrong with you? What did you expect? You’re not BET’s key demographic and you know it.” Yeah, I know…but I should be. If the producers of the show could get Mo to use her inside voice, focus her interview questions so that viewers can follow the conversation, and tighten up her interaction with the audience, I look forward to watching the interesting mix of guests she could draw. Otherwise, The Mo’Nique Show is a bit too much for my eardrums so late at night.

The Mo’Nique Show airs nightly at 11 PM on BET.

Sherri

sherri-shepherd

In spite of her label as “the dumb one” on The View, Sherri Shepherd has paid her dues in the entertainment industry and can be side-splittingly funny. Sure she is trapped in a bubble of blind religious faith and poor logic, but I like her when she’s making the joke instead of letting the joke be on her. If you caught any of her appearances on 30 Rock you know just what I’m talking about; her line delivery is well-timed and punchy, and she has a very charming silly streak that translates well in scripted television. The semi-autobiographical Sherri on Lifetime Television almost takes advantage of her talent, but the major difference between her new show and her past television work is the writing. Most of the jokes were stale, except for those obviously drawn from Sherri’s standup, but I do appreciate the treatment of the “woman scorned” as a sensitive human, not just a sass-throwing ball of bitterness. Sherri’s character is a paralegal bravely pursuing her acting/comedy dreams and starting her personal life over after a series of events based on Sherri Shepherd’s own marital problems. Malcolm Jamal Warner plays her ex-husband, a regretful cheater who recently knocked up some random white girl working at the local Quiznos. Tammy Townsend, an actress who never quite hit the way she should have, shines as Sherri’s friend and co-worker, and James Avery (Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) lends solid acting as Sherri’s supportive father. I won’t touch the cutie pie who plays Sherri’s six-year-old son Brandon, only wonder how sitcom television so reliably features black children with bushy heads of biracial hair in starring roles. The premiere ends with an intriguing twist – as Sherri laments the hopelessness of her love life, a cute doctor asks her out on a date and she accepts. I want to see what happens to her character and the show itself as it grows, and since it’s on Lifetime, a network with a handful of mediocre sitcoms already in rotation, I’m confident that we’ll all have time to do so.

Sherri airs this week at 7 PM on Lifetime.

**EDIT: If you’re searching for comments made on the original post, they were lost when the site was hacked. My apologies.**

One Comment »

  • DelphineBlue said:

    My lateness to this post aside, you have a point here. American pop culture likes brownskinned Black actresses/comedians overweight. I often refer to how Debra Wilson from MadTV’s funnier days never got the same recognition as her less talented colleagues of other races/genders-that girl is freakin’ hilarious and I have seen a few intriguing interviews with her. And also 6′ tall gorgeous Aisha Tyler: these are some funny, very smart but alas, ATTRACTIVE black women who would never be considered plus size by any stretch. They are not of the loud, fat mammy template so they are never showcased like the Moniques and Sherrys of the world. And no i am not fat phobic and saying plus size can’t be beautiful. I am a size 14 myself so I’m no skinny mini either. I’m just tired of stereotypes representing us as if this is the norm. I hope Wanda Sykes’ show does well, she’s talented and also doesn’t fit into that lazy visual for Black women in our society.

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