Sheryl Underwood has been kicking ass and taking names during her 20-plus years in comedy. She hosted BET’s Comic View and executive produced Holla. She also went on to star in the films I Got the Hook-Up and Beauty Shop. This weekend, the University of Illinois at Chicago graduate, U.S. military veteran, and now co-host of the popular CBS talk show The Talk, will be rocking the mic at The Improv.
LEO: You’ve been to Louisville before …
Sheryl Underwood: I love the Louisville Improv … before the first time I played there, I had been coming for years for horse racing, and the Kentucky Derby — wearing the hat and everything. But on 4th Street, you all have the best wig stores in the world, both sides of the street! I will be going back there, I promise you that.
LEO: How does your live show compare to The Talk?
SU: Oh, dear … I hope the little old ladies that have been watching me come out, but they need to know there will be a lot of dirty language, and frank sex talk. But we sing and have a good time in my show.
LEO: Having served in the military, do you feel that influences your comedy in anyway?
SU: Absolutely! And I hope anyone in the military reading this comes out. But I was in the Air Force reserves for two years; I wanted that sort of discipline in my life, and I wanted to serve my country. Really, that’s how I got into comedy. We had down time when we were playing war games, and one of the commanders said, “Someone needs to entertain us.”
LEO: Do you remember the first joke you wrote?
SU: The first joke that got me the strongest laughs was: “I’m having sex with a white man … but he’s the landlord, and now I own the building.”
LEO: Was it nerve-racking the first time you went from performing for your fellow troops to performing in a comedy club?
SU: No, it was exciting, I was in my element: the smell of the liquor, the assertiveness of the crowd, that “You better make us laugh” challenge, it was it for me. I like the feeling, I’m in my element in nightclubs performing, because I get to be free. My brand of humor, the things that I do onstage, shouldn’t exist outside of a nightclub.
LEO: Is it safe to say of everything you do — movies, television, and so on — that live performance is where your heart is?
SU: It is absolutely where my heart is. I like the performance and I like the restriction of reading the audience so fast that I know whether I’ve offended them or not. So, as fast I have offended you, I have to find that joke in my arsenal that will win you back to me.
LEO: Would you say the formula “Tragedy + Time = Comedy” is true*?
SU: Yes, I would say that I have had what most people would see on paper as a tragic life. But I believe it’s uplifting, it’s fantastic — because they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; it’s so true. Eric Braden from “The Young and the Restless” was telling me how important it is for kids to be in sports now days, because it teaches you failure, it teaches you how to lose. And you learn how to handle adversity. If I hadn’t had adversity in my life, I don’t think I could take comedy to the place that I need to bring it … but I love it.
Sheryl Underwood with Kyle Erby
Sept. 28th – 29th
441 S. 4th St.
$25; Times vary