The Power Women Summit is the essential gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media, and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides two virtual days of education, mentorship, workshops, and networking to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.”
During the summit’s “Bringing The Funny: Comedy Roundtable” panel, standout comedic actresses like Lolo Spencer, Sex Lives of College Girls, and Skye Townsend, A Black Lady Sketch Show,” doled out words of wisdom about standing in your truth by sharing your whole self and living in your authenticity.
“I’ve always been obsessed with sketch comedy. I didn’t know doing it wasn’t normal. I would always speak in different voices, and then I saw the Wayans brothers and Eddie Murphy, and I thought, ‘why aren’t more Black women that do this, and why aren’t there more weird Black women?’ I challenged myself to create characters. A Black Lady Sketch Show has allowed me to show how unique and strange Black women can be in comedy, which is exciting because I don’t just want to be the stereotypical [Black] friend,” Townsend shared with the crowd.
Robin Thede’s Emmy-winning HBO comedy series A Black Lady Sketch Show started production in its fourth season and is currently in production in Los Angeles. Although only certain core members are returning, Thede, Townsend, and Gabrielle Dennis, season four will provide an opportunity for more funny, awkward, and weird Black women, like, DaMya Gurley, Tamara Jade, and Angel Laketa Moore, to take center stage.
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We caught up with starlet Townsend after her “Bringing The Funny: Comedy Roundtable” panel to speak exclusively about what’s in store for A Black Lady Sketch Show, mental health, and how she’s carrying on her family’s legacy.
One thing Townsend is looking forward to during season four is amping up the kooky in her characters. “I feel like in season three, [the writers] started hinting that I could be strange. This season, I have gotten to soar in a way creatively that I’ve just dreamed up. So I can’t wait for people to see how far we went with the characters this season,” she says.
When it comes to gelling with her new castmates, she isn’t worried. She believes the chemistry will be exciting because of their unique perspectives and outlook. She credits creativity and uniqueness on set to each actress’s creative freedom on the show. “We get the creative control and freedom to pitch ideas for most of our episodes. On many shows, they’ll tell you, ‘This is the wig. This is the suit we put on.’ But on our show, our producers ask how we envision each character. And if you can back it up with the logic, they’ll grant it. Having creative control that I wouldn’t have on any other show is the best element,” she says.
Townsend gets her comedic inspiration from many people, including her father, Robert Townsend, an actor, director, and producer fondly known for his performance in the movie, The Five Heartbeats. “He just wants me to push it further,” Townsend said when asked about her dad’s thoughts on the show.
She continued, “‘He’s like, I love it. I love what you guys are going; push it further.’ So I think, you know, I look at him and the sketches he used to do when he was younger with the Wayans family and John Witherspoon. I’m trying to pull from that classic space, but he’s excited. I just look at his work. And I’m in awe. I think it encourages me to set the bar high to want to create classic pieces and to speak up for myself. You know, I decide what hills I will die on when we start a season of the show. What jokes I’m not comfortable with? As a comedian, if you don’t have a strong gut and instinct, you’re in danger,” she says.
Townsend also wants her work to affect and heal people positively. Coming off the heels of the passing of Stephen “Twitch,” Boss, DJ, and executive producer of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, we delved into the darker side of comedy and how she views herself as a vessel of light for the masses. “It’s deep. When I saw that news, I froze in my tracks. Earlier this year lost a comedian friend to suicide. I think comedians are the most selfless human beings on earth. [Comedians] make things look light and fluffy because that’s our job. But everything is intentional. You know, every moment that we make somebody smile, every joke we make, we are thinking through, ‘How can I make this moment a little lighter?’ Just as bright as we are. We are dark. When I think of comedians, the most selfless job on Earth, we make people smile for a living,” she says.
We look forward to Townsend’s performance in season 4 of A Black Lady Sketch Show.
All three seasons of A Black Lady Sketch Show are available to stream on HBO Max.