How A Black Lady Sketch Show's Lauren Ashley Smith made history

The head writer of the hilarious HBO series is on CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast to discuss the show and her love of The Masked Singer.

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Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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2 min read
A Black Lady Sketch Show Lauren Ashley Smith

Issa Rae (left) and Robin Thede in the Black Lady Courtroom sketch.

Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO

HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show is hilarious, smart and original. It co-stars and was created by actor, writer and comic Robin Thede, who chose Lauren Ashley Smith to be the head writer. Smith is the first Black woman to be the head writer on a sketch TV show and, in her words, to "kick the door down so there can be lots of others."

A Black Lady Sketch show debuted in 2019 and went on to earn three Emmy Award nominations, including one for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. Smith was my guest on CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast. She discussed some of the show's biggest sketches, like the Bad Bitch Support Group, which guest starred Angela Bassett and Laverne Cox. Smith shares what it was like watching Basset perform.

"I didn't expect how gobsmacked I would be seeing Angela Bassett take such great care and have her 'Angela Bassett incredible iconic actor way' with our words. I just was like, 'Oh, she's like giving this the Angela Bassett treatment,'" said Smith.

Bassett's performance earned her an Emmy nomination. A Black Lady Sketch Show is also the first TV series for which the writers are all Black women. Smith shared how that changes the writers' room.

A Black Lady Sketch Show Lauren Ashley Smith

Lauren Ashley Smith is the head writer and executive producer of the Emmy nominated-series A Black Lady Sketch Show.

Sandy Honig

"A lot of the writers in the room, me included, came from a background of usually being the only woman or Black woman or Black person or queer person or et cetera in a writers' room," said Smith. "There was such freedom and jubilation that occurred when we realized that you got to take off that jacket. Like, here's my 'only woman jacket,' take that off. Here's my 'only Black person jacket,' take that off. And only the 'cool T-shirt of the comedy writer' is underneath."

You can listen to my entire conversation with Smith in the podcast player above or on Apple Podcasts. Smith tells  how she and her sister saw the musical Rent 50 times and describes her obsession with the Masked Singer. I have never heard any other guest on I'm So Obsessed so passionately share their obsession with me.

You can watch A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO and HBO Max with new episodes airing Friday nights. You can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

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