Although she’s best known as one of five co-hosts on ABC’s wildly popular daytime chat fest The View, Sherri Shepherd has, is and – if she has her way – will always be a working stand-up comedian. Comedy nerds also know her as Angie, Tracy Morgan’s wife on 30 Rock (RIP). And still others have embraced her as an author; her book, Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (Even If You Don’t Have It) recently landed on The New York Times bestseller list. Add to that her gig at the Game Show Network as host of The Newlywed Game and you’ve got yourself a mini media empire packed inside the frame of a 5’1” girl from the rough streets of Chicago.
And after 22 years in the game, Shepherd, 46, will debut her first ever comedy special tonight on Epix at 10 pm ET. Dubbed It’s My Time to Talk (a reference to her role on The View, obviously) the comedian dishes on her time on Dancing with the Stars, her just-married status, parenting her 8-year-old son, her encounters with everyone from Barack Obama to Prince to Oprah Winfrey, the pitfalls of aging and so much more. I got the chance to chat with Shepherd this week ahead of the premiere tonight. Check it out below!
So, you’ve been a stand-up comedian for more than 20 years. But this is your first special. Why did it take so long?
I started doing stand-up in Los Angeles back in 1991. I started out with Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx and Sheryl Underwood but my acting kind of took a front seat to the comedy and my acting is what paid the bills. I started going to the clubs out here. Gotham Comedy Club with comedians like Amy Schumer and Tom Papa. And Chris Rock was actually like, ‘It’s such a voice for women, you gotta do it.’ He saw me do it. So with a lot of encouragement I said ok, I’m doing it. And I was approached to do an hour special and I said, ‘What the hell! Let me go do it.’ It was a lot of fun and it was exciting to be back onstage and do what I started out doing.
It’s amazing how encouragement from people you respect can really motive you, right?
Yeah, and I never really did stand-up in New York. My scene was in LA. And I didn’t go out on the road because I was acting. So when I got to some of these clubs in New York like Gotham and Carolines and the Comedy Cellar it was very interesting– because the comics, are very clique-y. And at the Cellar, they sit at a certain table all together.
And they call my name to go onstage. I went up and I friggin’ destroyed and I could see all the comics back there looking. So Amy Schumer came up to me and she goes, ‘Everybody loves you. They think you’re so funny. You’re like a New York comic without all the bitterness.’ And I was like, ‘Thank you! You don’t know how much that means to me.’ And Chris Rock saw me. I was waiting to go on and I was hearing whispers of, ‘Chris Rock is here.’ And I said, ‘Oh great, now I’m going to be here until three in the morning. He’s going to do two hours, he’s probably working on a special.’ But I heard him tell them, ‘Sherri Shepherd? Put her up.’ And so they put me up and he came up to me afterwards an he’s like, ‘Oh my gosh you were so fucking funny. I never seen you before. I thought you just did The View.’ It was really very cool to start getting the respect of the New York comics.
Can you tell me about the movie you’re working on with Chris Rock?
Right now it’s the untitled Chris Rock movie. He doesn’t have a title yet. But it’s directed by Scott Rudin and it stars Rosario Dawson and the woman who just won a Tony for Pippa. That black girl. (ed note it’s Patina Miller). And Adam Sandler and Whoopi Goldberg and Jerry Seinfeld are all making cameos. I play Chris’ ex girlfriend who he almost married. And Tom Papa is in it as well. It’s in pre-production. It starts shooting in about three weeks. And we’re doing it in the city so that means I don’t have to take off work. I think we’re going to do it in Brooklyn.
So, what’s going on at The View these days? Joy Behar announced she’ll be leaving in August, right?
We’re going through a lot of changes over here. We’re having different people sit in. Amy Schumer sat in twice. She’s lovely but she has her own show, darn it. And Margaret Cho was on. She was amazing. We had a comic named Debi Gutierrez from LA, so we’ve been having a lot of comics come in. Everybody’s trying to figure out how they’re going to fill Joy’s chair. Are we going to have a comedian? Are we going to have a serious person? So I don’t know who is going to be the person. I’m just as in the dark as you are. And Barbara’s leaving in May of next year so that’ll be kind of weird. She’ll be here for the next year and this will be like a master class at a university. I think people would pay to learn the ropes from Barbara Walters. I’m just going to get as much as I can from the time she’s here.
Yep, just suck up all of her knowledge.
Right, because eventually I’d like to do my own talk show. I’d like to have an Ellen type show, but chocolate.
I was actually going to ask you that. So you would want to break off and do your own show?
Yes, I would love that. That would be a dream to do. I’m very curious about people. That’s one thing Barbara’s always taught me is to be curious. And I love people. I used to be on Ellen’s show all the time and I love that format. So eventually yeah, I would love to have a talk show called Sherri. I think it would be a lot of fun.
Do you have a list of people you’d love to interview if you had your own show?
I love actors and I love to know what makes them tick, but I love comics. I went to see Russell Brand last year and I just loved to his mind at work. I love seeing a comic take a risk, like they don’t have a filter and I’m just going to take this risk and put it out there for you. You could accept me, and if you don’t I’m laying it out there on the line.
Did you happen to see his recent appearance on MSNBC on Morning Joe?
I watched that clip and Russell Brand turned all of them over on their asses. He dominated them. And first of all, [co-host] Mika [Brzezinski] ain’t never had a man make her feel like that in her damn life. Mika went home and laid in her bed all night thinking about Russell Brand. You can see it. Every time he did a subtle wink… I don’t care how far you moved in that chair of yours, he made you hot and heavy. She ain’t never had that feeling before.
For The View, would you rather a comedian or a serious person to take over Joy’s seat?
Well with three comics sitting at the table sometimes we have a joke to put out and sometimes it’s a little hard because someone’s got a joke and you want to do your joke. But when comics come, we’re all such different people. Margaret Cho was so good and Amy Schumer was so good, so I don’t know. I can really appreciate it when a comic comes because they give such a different perspective. Chuck Nice was on the show and he was hysterical. It was great having him on. And any funny line he said, you could appreciate it. Having another comic wouldn’t bother me at all. I think it would bring a different perspective to the show. I’m all for it.
Because comedy is in such good place right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if ABC signs on yet another comedian.
I think people are really starting to realize what comedians bring and I think they’re realizing that everyone can’t do what we do. There’s something to be said for a comic. You have to be good on the fly— and that’s what we do. And I think people are starting to really appreciate that. When you need someone in a pinch, a comic will come through for you each and every time. Because that’s what we get paid to do.
And I love it that people are seeing that this is not like getting onstage on The Voice or American Idol and just singing a song by Whitney Houston, like “I’ll Always Love You.” You can make anybody cry doing that. But getting on that stage and getting your point of view across and taking people on a journey is so magnificent. And I think people are really starting to appreciate that.