Sheryl Underwood Interview: 'The Talk' Star Dabbles in Daytime Drama on 'The Young and the Restless'
Image attributed to Sheryl Underwood
Standup comic Sheryl Underwood became the 1989 Miller Lite Comedy Search’s first female finalist. In 1995, she was named first runner up in the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition, which includes such outstanding alumni as Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Nick Cannon, Sherri Shepherd, and D. L. Hughley.
The Arkansas native holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Masters Degrees in Media Management and Mass Communication from Governor State University. She is a lifetime member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, a member of the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP, and founded the African-American Female Comedian Association.
“I’m strong willed because I’m southern. I’m southern, I can shoot a gun and I can grow my own food. I can do what I need to do without you if I have to, but I’d rather do it with you. So, I think my ideal man is somebody that understands me and wants to go all the way to death and beyond with me because that’s what I believe in.”
Underwood appeared in the 1998 film I Got the Hook Up and Beauty Shop in 2005. She is a contributor to The Steve Harvey Morning Show and on Tuesday nights hosts The Sheryl Underwood Show on Jamie Foxx’s Sirius Satellite Radio channel (The Foxxhole).
In 2011, the comedian joined the popular CBS show The Talk in its second season replacing Leah Remini. She revealed on air that her husband, who may have suffered from clinical depression, committed suicide after three years of marriage. On February 10, 2012, Underwood will make a cameo appearance on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sheryl, thanks for the time today!
Sheryl Underwood: Where are you from, Melissa?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m in Birmingham, Alabama.
Sheryl Underwood: Hey, girl! That’s the most fun place in the world! I work the Stardome in Hoover when I’m there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know, and you’re a southern girl from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sheryl Underwood: Yes I am, born in Little Rock … really born in a place called Cabot. But, it’s really Little Rock. Most of my relatives on one side are from Arkansas and I have relatives in Tennessee, St. Louis and Omaha. But, there are Underwoods in Alabama that we believe we are related to!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There you go! Is being a comic something you’ve wanted to do all of your life?
Sheryl Underwood: I was kind of reserved as a child. My dad was hilarious. He could tell the greatest stories. When we moved to Chicago, my uncle Leonard used to come up from Little Rock, and one time he brought a jug and a barbecued goat.
I watched my dad and his brother tell the greatest stories and have everybody laughing, and that’s what I wanted to do. I’m kind of doing an impersonation of my dad. This is my dad’s personality. You know southern men when they’re just funny and sitting on the porch? That’s it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, you are just hilarious on The Talk.
Sheryl Underwood: Thank you. I’m glad, and I’m glad that it’s something everybody can enjoy. My standup act is very mischievous like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. But, on The Talk, I get to be just as funny and mischievous, but it’s something the entire family can watch.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was it hard for you to fit in on an established show, especially knowing you were replacing someone?
Sheryl Underwood: See, I really didn’t know that I was. I guess I was too dingy to know what was going on. I thought I was just coming to be an addition. I was wondering how big the table was going to be (laughs). You know, while talking to you, it makes my accent come out even thicker! I feel y’all and gal coming out (laughs). But, it really felt like just a really worn shoe … like a good house slipper.
We just kind of all fell into each other, and it felt so good. But, don’t get me wrong; there is a learning curve like reading the teleprompter. But, I do a lot of radio, so I’m always instinctively trying to make sure I’m ready to go into break or not talk over somebody.
These ladies have taught me so much. I knew Aisha (Tyler) from standup. I just love Julie (Chen) because she made me feel so welcome and Sharon (Osbourne) is a hoot. She’s like your eccentric auntie, you know? That’s Sharon. Sara is such a sweet soul. It’s a good job.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Many topics of conversations have sexual innuendoes. Certain profanities are not allowed on television, but you and Sharon have been bleeped a few times. Have you ever gotten in trouble for those slips?
Sheryl Underwood: You know, I think I get blamed for it! Sharon will let a good one rip, and I’ll be like, “Wait a minute! That was not me!” They have a thing called Standards and Practices, and there is a most dashing gray-haired man that comes and tells us.
When I first got here, I had a joke that I used in my act that my girlfriend was trying to outcry me at my husband’s funeral. I cleaned the joke up because I thought, “This is CBS. You can’t be acting all crazy at CBS, right?” They said, “Tell us how the joke really sounds.” I said, “No, you need to being me someone to let me know it’s okay to say this.”
I can tell you they really allow good conversation, but we understand that we’re guests in your home and your mind. So, yeah, we’ve let a couple of them out, but they’re prepared for it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did humor help you get through that difficult time after your husband’s death?
Sheryl Underwood: Absolutely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did his suicide change you as a person?
Sheryl Underwood: It changed me as a person. It made me more cognizant of what I am as a woman, a mate and a wife. I went to one of my sorority sisters (Zeta Phi Beta) who is a family therapist. I said, “I can’t do the traditional therapy because I just can’t grasp it. I’d rather get on my knees and talk to God.” But, I talked to her. What I didn’t know was we were doing sessions on the phone, but it sounded like good girlfriend talk. That’s how she got me through. We were laughing and joking. She told me that when a person is depressed enough to commit suicide, it’s not if they’re going to kill themselves, it’s when they will kill themselves.
I’m not more powerful than God, so if I didn’t have good family, good friends and a good belief in the Lord, I don’t think I would’ve made it. When we had his funeral, I was working a nightclub and doing comedy and still had to get through the funeral. It was the same thing with my father. I had to get through the funeral and get back to work because my dad raised me to honor my commitments. Your word is your bond.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s very fortunate that you had a good support system.
Sheryl Underwood: And I think I became a better companion to a man because I understand certain things that I may think I want as a woman or certain things I want to get across as a woman. That’s what is fun about this show. We get to talk about everything. This show is kind of like you’re just sitting around with your girlfriends, and somebody is pointing a camera at us. All we need is a blender! Girl, we need a blender!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Certainly would make some conversations more entertaining (laughs). What are you talking about when you call yourself “sexually progressive?”
Sheryl Underwood: I know what the Bible says, but I also know we won’t know the truth until the Lord comes back and tells us himself. You know what I mean? I try to be very understanding of people’s lives. That’s what makes this country great. You can be who you are in this country, and you’re going to be respected and have rights. Some of the things I thought I believed … now that I meet different types of people … I’m not trying to judge anybody because I’m not above being judged myself.
I just think you need to love everybody whether you agree with them or not. Sometimes I’m more fascinated with some people. That’s what makes me sexually progressive. The rest of that line is “God-fearing Republican.” I know you can’t put the words “God-fearing” in the article!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): No censorship here, Sheryl!
Sheryl Underwood: Well, go ahead then, girl! But, that’s kind of the glory of this show. We all welcome each other’s opinions and are not arguing with each other. We’re discussing. When we disagree, we have great girlfriend discussions.
When you see me mention something, I’m comfortable to mention it. But, I don’t want to go overboard with it. You know what I mean? That’s what makes it really fun. I also know I want to respect Mrs. O. I know how old she is, so sometimes it’s hard for me to say certain things in front of her even though she is the kooky auntie!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): On January 3, Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin, The Young and the Restless) surprised you on The Talk and announced you would have a cameo in an upcoming episode!
Sheryl Underwood: Girl, let me tell you what happened! We’re sitting there about to toast the New Year … you know, I haven’t had a drink in 17 weeks!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congrats?
Sheryl Underwood: Well, thank you darling, but I just want to get to a certain weight to see how it’s going to go, right? So, I hadn’t had a drink, and I knew we were going to toast. They brought out these glasses that looked beautiful. I thought, “Okay, I know the audience is watching what I do.”
I asked what was in the glass. But, then I kept hearing The Young and the Restless theme song! I was like, “Oh my God, is Victor Newman here?” When Christian walked out, I thought, “Oh my God, oh my God!” He said, “We’ve got a job for you.” I just screamed! Then I thought, “Wait a minute. I can’t act. I’m not an actress. This is going to be bad … but it could be good!”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is The Young and the Restless your favorite daytime drama?
Sheryl Underwood: Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. I have been watching Y&R since David Hasselhoff was Snapper! I like the fact that they got actors from other soaps to keep them working and who are good at their craft. It’s a great show and was a great experience to have been taught the technical side of acting. Everybody was so nice and so welcoming. It was just fantastic!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that you’re performing the wedding between Cane and Lily.
Sheryl Underwood: Can we tell people that?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Spoilers are everywhere.
Sheryl Underwood: Really? Well, I’m not confirming that. I don’t know. All I know is I got to hug Victor Newman and he hugged me back!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is Victor (Eric Braeden) your favorite character?
Sheryl Underwood: In the world! When he was in Titanic and he died, I cried. I was like, “This is not true! Victor Newman would have called for his helicopter or his private jet! He would not have died on the Titanic. He would have bought the Titanic!”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Too funny! In your comedy routine, you discuss sex, relationships and politics. The act is for adults.
Sheryl Underwood: Very much so.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a good rapport with the audience?
Sheryl Underwood: We do have a good rapport. I’ve always been blessed with a very diverse audience. When I come to the Stardome, the black side of the audience lets me play all my good Lynyrd Skynyrd music. We make them sing “Sweet Home Alabama.” We sing a lot of cool songs. Then my white side lets me talk about stuff, too.
I don’t make jokes about the Lord, but I do bring the Lord into what I talk about in terms of what he might be thinking of me. It’s never my intention to hurt anybody’s feelings. As a matter of fact, when I was telling a series of jokes that would hurt a portion of my audience, I asked different audiences how the jokes could be reshaped and rewritten. I asked them to tell me how to save the jokes so that they were not hurt.
It is rather adult and we’ve had people to walk out, but we try to warn them. I have a segment in the beginning where I warn the audience. I also tell them if they have to leave, their money will be refunded. It is adult, but it is playfully adult, too.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m interested to know the attributes of your ideal man, Sheryl.
Sheryl Underwood: I am in a relationship with him right now. He is a figment of my imagination, but he’s a real person. It’s somebody that when we fight, it’s not over. He’s a man’s man who understands that my spiritual belief is that he’s the head of the household as the Lord says, but he’s got to stand up and be just that.
I’m strong willed because I’m southern. I’m southern, I can shoot a gun and I can grow my own food. I can do what I need to do without you if I have to, but I’d rather do it with you. So, I think my ideal man is somebody that understands me and wants to go all the way to death and beyond with me because that’s what I believe in.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Where do you see yourself in five years personally and professionally?
Sheryl Underwood: Professionally, I’d love for The Talk to still be on the air and have won 40 or 50 Emmys. George Clooney is coming on every week. He wouldn’t be a scheduled guest, but would just walk on all the time bringing Brad Pitt and all the cuties! The President and first lady come on the show, the Super Bowl winner comes on the show, and you come on the show!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sounds great! I’d love to be there.
Sheryl Underwood: I’d love to see if people from a local area could win a trip to come and sit in the audience. We’d take photos with them, meet them, and they’d go home. That would be fun! Then they could tell all their friends how much fun they had in Hollywood Studio City when they went home! Oh, and personally, I’d like to be married in five years.
Photo Credits: Front slider photo courtesy of CBS/Cliff Lipson
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