If there was such a thing as “too much TV” in Dulce Sloan’s home growing up, she can now be sure that her hours watching were well spent.
Last month, the comedian, actor, and Daily Show correspondent debuted “That Blackass Show,” a Starburns Audio podcast dedicated to celebrating and analyzing Black film and television with the comedians, actors, and creators who love it as much as she does. The idea was presented to Sloan as she started to develop ideas for podcasts, and this one struck her as the most fun, but also the most necessary.
“The thing I really loved about it was, I was talking to Black creators about Black TV shows, when I feel like a lot of the time our stuff gets reviewed by people [looking at it through] a different lens, you know?” she shared a few weeks after the show debuted. “You’re not a part of the community, you’re not a part of the culture, but you’re offering up an opinion?” By choosing those for whom the shows felt familiar, she honors the idea that it matters to talk to folks for whom these pieces are made.
The folks she’s talked to have included her co-worker and mentor Roy Wood, Jr. (about the era of Black programming on UPN), Jamar Neighbors (who picked Friday), and Derek Gaines, who picked Martin. And what Gaines shared on his episode highlighted the type of impact she knew these shows and movies could have:
On the Martin episode, Derek talked about how that TV show was the hardest he’d ever seen his mother laugh. And he’s like, “I wanna be able to make my mother laugh that hard, I wanna be able to make people laugh like that.” That show influenced what his career was going to be.
While talking to peers has made up the lion’s share of the episodes recorded to date, she was maybe the most excited – and that excitement by me as she talked about it – by getting to talk to comedian and onetime star of Thea, Thea Vidale. It was one of her dream “gets” for the show, and it doesn’t disappoint. In it, Vidale talks not just about the achievement of getting to topline a sitcom, but also the struggles that she had to get it made in her vision, to get Black writers in the room, and to keep it going (which it didn’t; sadly, the show was cancelled after one season). Even though Vidale’s bow on network television happened nearly thirty years ago, it’s not lost on Sloan just how familiar some of those struggles sounded. Even though the TV landscape is offering new variety for Black creators, writers, and performers, their success stories are sprinkled with anecdotes not unlike the ones that Vidale shared from the nineties. “How has this not changed? How are we still having this fight?” Sloan wondered.
As a creator and performer, Sloan goes about her work – including the work on her podcast – with the mindset that the fight is worth having. The topics of conversation have largely been guided by guest favorites, so she knew that high-profile shows like Martin, Living Single, and The Jeffersons were all going to come up (and in case you’re wondering, Sloan confirmed that no one has yet picked The Cosby Show). But as she talks to her guests, the conversations have taken two parallel paths: how the show fits into their personal history and what it’s given to culture at large. With The Jeffersons in particular, Sloan was able to talk about how it’s not only a hilarious show that still stands near the top of the list of longest-running sitcoms, but it also gave much of America their first look at a prosperous Black man and Black family. (She also shouted out show creator Norman Lear, who “gave us Good Times and gave us The Jeffersons. He gave us a full scope.” It’s a full scope like that that Sloan hopes the podcast will introduce listeners to as they listen. Classic shows like Lear’s will be covered alongside nineties favorites, and even with contemporary shows like Insecure, Atlanta, and Dear White People.
When asked what show she’d pick were the interview tables turned, she shone a light on eighties sitcom Gimme a Break, starring Nell Carter. As “a chubby kid, now chubby adult,” seeing a fellow woman of size Carter in a starring role was the first time she saw herself on TV. It gave her precisely the kind of hope and drive one needs to get to the type of career she’s currently having. “I can be the start of a show. It’s happened before, it can happen again.” Sloan has shown that potential on screen and in voice acting; “That Blackass Show” is one more step inching her closer to that much deserved spotlight.
That Blackass Show is released weekly on all podcast apps. Subscribe to the show (and rate and review it if you love it), and follow Dulce on Twitter and Instagram @dulcesloan.