In Living Color 2010: A Dream Cast
The groundbreaking comedy sketch show debuted 20 years ago. What would it look like if it aired today?
Network television execs, and black folks in general, should get with the (online) program. Where are all the funny black folks who should have a television show? They're on the Web, starting up trouble on Twitter, posting their diary-style videos on YouTube, or impersonating America's first black president.
Here's my proposal: Fox, TV One, or any other interested network should launch a sketch-comedy Web series, a la In Living Color 2.0. Hire some young, funny, and most importantly, smart writers; put together a motley crew of actors and comedians; tape short segments as often as possible; and post them online. Promote and tweet, tweet, tweet. This model has proved to be successful with Funny or Die, which began as a comedy video series in 2007 and made its way to HBO this year.
It has to be smart, edgy and witty. If it comes in short clips to watch while you're BAW (bored at work), then it gets bonus Internet points. It must be as much political/cultural commentary as it is laugh-out-loud shenanigans. Let's call it progressive comedy with a bit of "ignant" sprinkled in between.
The multicultural dream cast of characters: Iman Crosson, Lil Duval, GloZell Green, Andy Milonakis, Anjelah Johnson and Nicole Randall Johnson. (Bonus points for snagging Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari and Community's Donald Glover.)
Now, many of these names you've probably never heard of. A quick rundown: Iman Crosson made a name for himself in the 2008 presidential campaign with his spot-on impressions of President Barack Obama, and now he's taken on Tiger Woods. He's essential to bridging the funny with the political. Lil Duval is one of the funniest, albeit Twitter-controversial, young comedians out today. Maybe you've seen him in a T.I. video or have stumbled upon one of instant trending topics on Twitter. GloZell Green, well, she's a burgeoning YouTube sensation. Watch her sad, Saturday night attempt to have "fun" in her apartment. Andy Milonakis, the teenage-looking 34-year-old, once had his own short-lived comedy show on MTV. Anjelah Johnson channels the stereotypical nail technician, but she also does a quickly agitated burger-joint cashier who will "cuuuut you." (You may have seen her in Our Family Wedding.) And Nicole Randall Johnson? Well, if Wanda and Sheneneh perfected the black man as a woman, then Ms. Johnson as Darrell ("spelled like Darrell, but it's pronounced Duh-rellll") is the consummate woman as a young black man tryna holla'. Mix some young writers with a few veterans, perhaps Fax Bahr and Alex Small, former In Living Color and MadTV writers, and there's my recipe for success.
Straight-to-the-Web series are increasingly popular. Granted, BET's Buppies didn't fare well, but the number of Web series continues to rise. There's Malik Yoba's Shop Talk, where young men talk about love, manhood and Obama. Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector (both of The Wire fame) will star in Lenox Avenue, a story of three friends seeking love and relationships in Harlem. Monica Calhoun stars in Robert Townsend's Diary of a Single Mom, which will soon begin its second season.
To be sure, the rise in Web series shouldn't let television networks off the hook for having so few black writers, actors and directors. We want to be accurately portrayed on the traditional small screen, too. But, as much as I miss the days of the Dog Pound, Khadijah and 'em and WZUP, they are long gone. But here's to hoping that the future of blacks in television--be it on the Web or on the boob tube--is live and in living color.
Erin Evans is writer and copy editor for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.