Men have historically dominated comedy, so when women make inroads, people pay attention. Such is the case with Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler who have gone from commanding the stand-up comedy circuit to empowering millions of viewers each week as co-hosts of The Talk. “People always ask, ‘How do y’all get along?’” says Underwood. “What kind of question is that? People always want to create that dynamic among Black women. We’re confident with ourselves. When people see us on the show and we have a debate or rebuttal, they think it’s bad. But it’s really an energy. That is culturally how our people do it. It sounds like an argument, but that’s passion.”
The zeal between Underwood and Tyler, who co-host the Emmy-nominated CBS daytime talk show alongside Sharon Osbourne, Julie Chen and Sara Gilbert, comes from a long-standing mutual admiration that began more than 15 years ago when they met doing stand-up comedy in Montreal. Underwood is noted for hitting a stage with her purse on her shoulder and exiting it by giving a shout out to her sisters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
“You would see 10 people do the same jokes on a comedy jam,” recalls Tyler. “But Sheryl got out there and was herself. She would come out and talk about her conservatism. She was aggressive and could destroy a room! That’s one of the things I’ve always respected about Sheryl, who tours almost every weekend.”
Tyler, who enjoys “smart plus filthy=smilthy” comedy, describes her own style as “honest, personal, edgy, unapologetic and very guy friendly.” Her diverse background includes being a Celebrity Jeopardy! champion and making history as the first African-American to have had a recurring role on the Emmy-winning sitcom Friends. “The one thing I love about Aisha is that people would always say female comedians, especially African-American ones, had to be unattractive to be funny,” says Underwood. “It’s a stereotype. Aisha proved there’s no look to us. To see her on Friends let us all know that one of us could do it and to see her doing something such as hosting Talk Soup showed us that not only White boys did that.”
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Senior Editor, EBONY Magazine