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“I’m a lot of firsts,” Robin Thede, one of the funniest people in show business, acknowledges with a chuckle as we sit down to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Awards Chatter podcast and begin recapping her career. Indeed, the 40-year-old, who is biracial, has shattered numerous TV glass ceilings since emerging from Second City and breaking into Hollywood nearly two decades ago.
Thede became the first female of color to serve as a head writer for a late-night talk show when she went to work for Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show in 2015; the first female of color to serve as a head writer for a White House Correspondents Association Dinner when Wilmore hosted it in 2016; only the fourth female of color — after Whoopi Goldberg, Mo’Nique and Wanda Sykes — to host a late-night talk show when she assumed the anchor chair at BET’s The Rundown With Robin Thede in 2017 (she also created and showran the series); and, in 2019, she created and staffed HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, which is the first variety sketch show ever written by, directed by and starring black women — “literally ‘Black Girl Magic’ in sketch form,” in her eyes, and “Monty Python-esque,” in her mentor Larry Wilmore‘s. (Thede is also A Black Lady Sketch Show‘s showrunner, executive producer, one of its writers and one of four stars.)
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LISTEN: You can hear the entire interview below.
Past guests include Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Gal Gadot, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg, Jessica Chastain, Stephen Colbert, Reese Witherspoon, Aaron Sorkin, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Judi Dench, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Justin Timberlake, Elisabeth Moss, RuPaul, Rachel Brosnahan, Jimmy Fallon, Kris Jenner, Michael Moore, Emilia Clarke, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Helen Mirren, Tyler Perry, Sally Field, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, J.J. Abrams, Emma Stone, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Dolly Parton, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Carol Burnett and Norman Lear.
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Over the course of our conversation, Thede discusses the value of her time in Chicago at Northwestern University’s journalism school and at Second City; how she began writing and performing on TV sketch shows while also writing awards-show monologues and viral videos, before becoming the head writer for the syndicated daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show in 2013; how Larry Wilmore championed her on The Nightly Show, which was canceled in 2016, Chris Rock did the same on The Rundown, which was canceled in 2018 and then Issa Rae paved the way for Thede’s “dream show” with A Black Lady Sketch Show; plus much more.
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