It’s not surprising that longtime standup comic Sheryl Underwood jumped at the chance to be a panelist on the CBS daytime chat show “The Talk.”
Because, Lord have mercy, she loves to talk. A planned 15-minute interview with her, for instance, could pass the 30-minute mark before you know it. But unlike some stars, she doesn’t seem to have a publicist sitting by, tapping a watch during an interview. She just lets it fly.
So it’s also no surprise that Underwood – who’s doing four shows at Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh Friday and Saturday – loves going out on the road.
“There are jokes in my act that are 25 years old,” she says. “But I’ve been polishing them.”
The much less-polished Underwood caught a big break in the early ‘90s with “adult comedy” on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” doing potty-mouth material about S-E-X.
She’s still at it – gleefully doing you-hear-me-ladies routines to amp up the crowd. And for someone who came from a devout churchgoing family in Little Rock, Ark., it delights Underwood that “little old ladies” are some of her biggest fans.
“They want to hear the dirtiest jokes,” she says with a loud laugh. “I’m like – ‘no, no!’ ”
Underwood says that traveling the U.S. gives her a chance to find out what makes people laugh from coast-to-coast – and to find out what pushes the envelope too much.
She’s become more concerned with that now, as a panel member of “The Talk,” which is a triumph for her long-held goal to go “mainstream.”
That goal was understood by her family long ago, she says. She recalls a conversation with her born-again father (who died 11 years ago) when she landed the notoriously dirty “Def Comedy Jam.”
“He asked me whether I am good at it,” she recalls, “and I said, ‘I am at least the best female in adult comedy.’ ”
Since then, her career has evolved pretty much according to her template, with roles in films such as “Beauty Shop” and “Bulworth,” as well as numerous TV spots on BET and other networks. She’s been a frequent contributor for urban radio hosts Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey.
And of course, there’s “The Talk,” where she replaced actress Leah Remini in 2011. The motor-mouthed Underwood, who’s given to interrupting herself in her impatience to make her next point, admits she works hard to tone down her hyper personality just enough to be palatable on network daytime TV, alongside Sharon Osbourne, Julie Chen and the gang.
For instance, she admits that she’s lousy at reading a teleprompter (“I talk about that in my show.”)
So Underwood humbly keeps on honing and refining, keeping that big mainstream-America picture in mind.
“I don’t want CBS to regret hiring me,” she says.
Meanwhile, go see her at Goodnights for the dirty jokes. Oh, they’ll happen.