'A Black Lady Sketch Show’ Star Robin Thede Dishes on Her Celeb Encounters, Season 4 (Exclusive)

ET sat down with the creator of HBO's award-winning variety series and she dished on her amazing celeb encounters, season 4.

A new season of HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show means new sketches, major guest stars and lots of laughs behind the camera. When asked what fans can expect from season 4, creator and star Robin Thede shared her excitement for viewers to see the "bigger" installment. 

"It is broader -- not that we're comfortable, because you can never be comfortable, right? It's a blessing to be four seasons of anything, right? But I think for us, we're just like, let's just go there with everything," she told ET's Nischelle Turner. "It's raunchier, it's sillier, it's broader. The characters are bigger, even characters we've seen before are doing bigger and crazier things."

"We're only in competition with our last season, that's how I always think," Thede added, sharing that she always approaches a new season by asking herself how they can transcend the previous chapter. "I think for us, it's joke density, like, we want you to know there's no setup and punchline. Everything's just a punchline at this point, we just want people laughing nonstop. We want you to have to rewatch because there is so many jokes."

It's hard to imagine ABLSS going even bigger than in previous seasons. The series, which debuted in August 2019, concluded its third season on May 2022 and was renewed the next month. It's received 13 Primetime Emmy nominations and three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming. 

The sketches feature a core cast of Black women living relatable, hilarious experiences in a magical reality that subverts traditional expectations. Thede, Gabrielle Dennis and Skye Townsend return as the show's regulars alongside three new featured players -- DaMya Gurley, Tamara Jade, and Angel Laketa Moore -- as well as nearly 30 celebrity guest stars, including Omarion, Bobby Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross, Colman Domingo, Kyla Pratt, Sam Richardson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tank, Jay Ellis and Kel Mitchell. 


Thede gushed over their vast array of guests, especially several returning stars such as Issa Rae, who also serves as one of the show's executive producers. "She's part of the family. She's executive producer and one of my dearest friends," she shared before listing some of the many celebs appearing throughout the season. 

"We've been very lucky. I always say there's pixie dust sprinkled on the show; we get people who call us, we get people who I accost when I see them out [and] we get people who come in through casting," Thede explained, adding that some celebrities have rigid schedules. Still, they manage to figure it out. 

While fundamentally providing a wealth of laughter for Black audiences, ABLSS has also provided Thede with a way to pay tribute to the Black comedians that paved the way for her and her castmates. Season 1 memorably featured a 227: The Reboot sketch that honored the characters and stars behind the iconic comedy series. The original actresses', including Jackée Harry and Marla Gibbs, made special appearances to ice the nostalgic cake.

Thede has been vocal about her love for bringing her comedy heroes to the show's star-studded guest roaster, telling ET she was excited to have Harry revisit this season with a new character. 

"We had her briefly in season 1 playing a hyper-real version of her 227 character, but this year we got to spend more time with her as a different character that was really fun," she revealed. Debra Wilson and Kim Wayans were other favorite appearances for the writer, as well as Angela Bassett and Patti LaBelle, who also appeared in the show's freshman season.

But sometimes, even Emmy-winning creators get the jitters when surrounded by icons they've long admired! During a game of Sip or Spill, Thede admitted that working with Bassett had been incredibly nerve-wracking because "she's like a walking angel."

"She's so kind, she's so stunning in person -- she doesn't look like a real person," Thede lamented, laughing as she reflected on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's guest appearance. "Real people are not built that way, she's more than [a Barbie]! And so, I sat across from her and she says her first line, I have this second and I just freeze. I've never done that, you know me, I've never had a problem talking. The director goes, 'Uh Robin, you wanna say your line?' I was like, 'Sorry, I thought I did!' So that was the most nerve-wracking only because she's such a professional and she's so funny and she's so kind, she's the best."

Then, there are the stars who constantly broke character, which black-ish's Ross was largely guilty of. "The thing is, because she's so fun we were all messing with each other, and it was our last day -- it was a wreck. We [all had] senioritis, it was so funny," Thede shared. "So when she was in her character, she was in it. But when we all broke it was like we were on the floor for sure.. I'll tell you [who] never broke: Coleman Domingo. And I tried. He's so good!"

Although Thede is quickly growing an impressive Rolodex of celebrities that have starred on the show to include in future seasons, there are always more she'd like to add to the roaster's ever-growing list, such as Whoopi Goldberg.

Luckily, Thede has made headway with the star. She recently visited The View, where the writer told a speechless Goldberg that she watched the actress' Broadway show growing up, sharing how much Goldberg inspired her career. 

"I was freaking out, I was bawling -- ugly crying, as Oprah would say," Thede recounted for ET. "I told her, 'I've been waiting my whole life to tell you thank you for showing me that Black woman can play characters and stretch and play men and play little kids; like, I just hadn't seen that.'"

She added, "I know that sounds like a silly thing, but I had never seen that and I was a little kid watching her Broadway show on TV...  I got to tell her that and then she turned it on me and said, 'Well, look what you've created for this generation,' and I was just like OK, I'm gonna take this in and not be humble or whatever. I'm telling you, it's just one of those moments where I was so happy, I got to have that with her."

And, of course, Thede took the time to invite Goldberg to join ABLSS as a guest star, which the 67-year-old was into -- until she learned she'd have to fly to Los Angeles. "She doesn't fly, and so she was like, 'Uhhh,'" Thede recalled, laughing. "She said, 'If I'm out there I'll do it,' but I think we are gonna try to find something to work on together. I mean, look, she's just a genius and I stalk people I love!"

A Black Lady Sketch Show season 4 premieres on HBO April 14 at 11 p.m. ET. Fans can stream episodes on Max.