Martha S. Jones On Voter Suppression, Robin Thede On 'A Black Lady Sketch Show' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Everyone's talking about obstacles to voting this year, from the post office to the pandemic. Sam talks with NPR's Miles Parks about how everything's supposed to work with the election in November. Then, Sam calls up historian Martha S. Jones, author of the forthcoming book Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. They talk about why voting looks the way it does even in a normal cycle, and what the U.S. Constitution actually says about voting. Plus, Sam talks with comedian Robin Thede, creator and showrunner of A Black Lady Sketch Show, which is nominated for three Emmys this year. They talk about her long career in comedy, which includes her time as head writer for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and as host of The Rundown with Robin Thede, and play the game Who Said That.

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Another Wrench In The (Voting) Works, Plus Robin Thede On 'A Black Lady Sketch Show'

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Another Wrench In The (Voting) Works, Plus Robin Thede On 'A Black Lady Sketch Show'

Another Wrench In The (Voting) Works, Plus Robin Thede On 'A Black Lady Sketch Show'

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Are you unwrapping something?

AUNT BETTY: I was, but I put it down.

SANDERS: OK, what was it?


AUNT BETTY: Actually, I was just folding the receipts - a friend of mine, just out of the blue, sent me a card for $30 in gift cards to Amazon, and I was just fiddling with that, so.

SANDERS: Look at you getting stuff in the mail, I see.

AUNT BETTY: And in cash, no less.

SANDERS: (Laughter) So I'm calling you up to actually talk about the mail, Betty.


SANDERS: You know, part of what we're going to talk about in the show this episode is just how so many people got so offended when it seemed like the USPS was going to be messed with. It's - strangely enough, the Postal Service is the federal agency with the highest approval rating across the country. Ninety-one percent of Americans say that they like or love USPS.

AUNT BETTY: Well, I depend on them a lot because I live so far from my family. So it's a lot easier for me to send a package just by running to the post office. So I'm still very comfortable with the Postal Service.

SANDERS: Yeah. You know, it's funny to hear you say that you love to send stuff to your family. You're really burying the lead here. Aunt Betty has been known, dear listeners, to mail her signature pound cakes across the country to members of her family.


SANDERS: You remember when you mailed me one?

AUNT BETTY: I do. I mailed Donna (ph) a hummingbird cake for her birthday in May. So yeah.

SANDERS: OK, OK. I mean - and now that I think about it, you have not mailed me a cake in a few years.

AUNT BETTY: Say the word. Tell me when you want it.

SANDERS: This is the word. This is the word.


AUNT BETTY: It's on the way.

SANDERS: All right. Well, we're going to get to the show.


SANDERS: Aunt Betty, do that thing that you love - tell folks it's time to start the show.

AUNT BETTY: All right, it's time to - I'm sorry.


SANDERS: Sorry. I messed you up. Sorry. That was my fault. Go ahead.

AUNT BETTY: OK, here we go. All right, let's start the show (laughter).

SANDERS: Wonderful.


SANDERS: Hey, y'all. From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders - IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. You just heard from my Aunt Betty, sweetest human alive. And she was setting up the theme for today's show, which we are calling You've Got Mail - or do you? This week, we're talking about the whole debacle with the U.S. Postal Service. They say that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can stop the mail, but could this year's election, in the midst of a pandemic, make the mail - particularly voting by mail - a lot more difficult?

Lately, we have seen a true political fight brewing over the USPS and its involvement in this year's election, mainly concerns about the ability for every American voter to, you know, actually get to vote, especially if they do it by mail. And these big questions we're facing now, whether voting is fair for all and secure for all, they've been with us for a long time. There has been a history of voter suppression in this country. And as we'll discuss later in the show, the right to vote for president - it's actually never been guaranteed by the Constitution. More on what that means in a bit.

But, first, back to the future - or present. This Friday, at a Senate hearing, in the midst of all this USPS drama, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy assured both the committee and the public that everything, in fact, is fine and that America's election mail would be delivered securely and on time.


LOUIS DEJOY: This sacred duty is my No. 1 priority between now and Election Day.

SANDERS: Of course, a lot of people still have questions about how everything's going to work come November. And, dear listener, I have those same questions as well. So for answers, I called up an old friend of the show.

Miles, hello. How are you?

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi, Sam. Good to talk to you.

SANDERS: Did you expect that when you took the voting security job at NPR that it would be, like, the hottest story of 2020? (Laughter).

PARKS: I definitely had done not nearly enough research on, like, the business plan of the post office. That was not the thing that I had been researching when I...

SANDERS: That is NPR reporter Miles Parks. He covers voting and elections. And we called Miles up to ask him about how worried we actually should be.

There are questions about how coronavirus might affect people's ability to vote. There are questions about how the nation might deal with an influx and an outsized growth in the number of absentee or mail-in ballots. Right now, from where you stand as someone who covers this stuff for a living, how much of a mess is November going to be?

PARKS: To be completely honest, I actually feel like I have more confidence...


PARKS: ...In this system than a lot of normal voters do, honestly, because, I think, the nice thing that you have to remember is - all of these controversies that we've been talking about, those are federal controversies. This is President Trump's language. You've got DeJoy going to Congress - all of this stuff. But elections are run at the local level, Sam.


PARKS: So we see more administrators just working to get ballots out there and ballots returned, as opposed to all this kind of political rhetoric, which to me makes me feel a lot more confident in my vote. And I think the biggest thing, honestly, if you're worried about it, is - on all this stuff - be early.

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, with that, I want to just ask you some, like, November 2020, maybe vote by mail, FAQs, 101, like, (laughter) basic questions...

PARKS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...To help our listeners out. Is that cool?

PARKS: Sure. Yeah, absolutely.

SANDERS: OK. For the average American, voting absentee or by mail, how assured should they be really when they mail those ballots off?

PARKS: Well, so what's interesting about this is most of the time when people are mailing back their ballot and there is an issue, it's actually not the government's fault in a lot of these cases. You know, we had 1% of mail ballots in 2016 rejected, but those were for reasons like messing up your signature, not signing the envelope...

SANDERS: Not signing the envelope? Come on, folks.

PARKS: Yeah. This happens all - like, almost a fourth of the rejected ballots were because people either messed up their signature or just forgot to sign it. And to be fair to voters, sometimes it is a little tough. And that would be one tip for me is, the signature is on a different - you know, it's on the outside envelope. It's not actually on the ballot. So a lot of voters sometimes may just miss where they have to sign it.

SANDERS: Yeah. If the ballot gets to where it's going after Election Day, it still counts, right?

PARKS: Depends on the state. So in some states, you just have to have it postmarked by Election Day. But you can have, you know, a few - some states, you have up to three days after the election. Some states are a week after the election. But that is not the case everywhere. There are a lot of states out there that you do need to have that ballot in the hands of the election official by Election Day for it to count. Again, going back to the initial point, Sam, turn the ballot in early. Turn it in two or three weeks early, and you don't have to run into that problem.

SANDERS: You sound like every English teacher I had in high school...

PARKS: I'm sorry.

SANDERS: ...Who was like, the final paper is due the last day of the semester, but feel free to turn it in early.

PARKS: (Laughter).

SANDERS: You're the feel free to turn it in early teacher.

PARKS: I mean, but you're talking to like - I'm like the procrastinator-in-chief here. So this is not as hard as schoolwork. Let me just put it that way.

SANDERS: Yeah. Let's say you are trying to do a mail-in vote, but you send it in close to the deadline and you're worried it might not get there in time, or you think you might have messed up. You can't also, like, go vote in person day of. You can't do both.

PARKS: It depends on the jurisdiction.


PARKS: So if you - it's a lot easier if you have not sent in your mail ballot, which I think is most of the cases are, maybe it's, like, five days before the election and somebody has their mail ballot, but they're a little worried about it getting there on time. And so they're thinking, well, maybe I should just go vote in person and make sure this actually counts. Most places that is OK.

SANDERS: Really?

PARKS: A lot of places, you have to bring your absentee ballot to the polling place and show them, turn it back in. Or sometimes they'll just tell you to vote the absentee ballot right there, and then they'll take it from you. Or in some cases, they'll make you vote what's called a provisional ballot, which is basically you fill out this ballot, and your election official on the back end will just go and check. They're like, oh, we know this person requested an absentee ballot. Let me check and make sure they didn't turn that in as well. They check, and then once they realize that you didn't turn in your absentee ballot, then your day-of election ballot will count.

SANDERS: Gotcha. So what does that make the Election Day and night look like? I'm guessing that could mean it would take a longer to count all these votes.

PARKS: Yeah. And part of that - like, if there was infinite money and resources, every county would just be like, oh, I'm just going to go buy a bunch of high-speed scanners, and it would be beautiful. But even then, there's actually a lot of cases where election laws haven't caught up. So there's, like, states where they can't even start opening the absentee ballots until after Election Day. You know, you think about how long that takes, and then it also just takes a while.

SANDERS: This is a Bush v. Gore flashback for me. Oh, my God.

PARKS: Well...

SANDERS: Trigger warning, please.

PARKS: But the difference is this is good stuff. Like, a lot of the stuff that's taking time in this case, it's, like, safeguards against the fraud that people are worried about. So it's net positive, but it does mean that voters have got to expect that we might not know the result of the presidential election and a lot of other, you know, more state-level elections until maybe days or even potentially a week later. You know. I wrote a story this summer that was called, like, goodbye, election night. Hello, election week. So I think that's...

SANDERS: No, no, no, no.

PARKS: I know. I know. I know. But if voters expect it, it's not as big of a problem because there won't be such a collective freakout.

SANDERS: Wow. Well, on that note, Miles, I want you to go back and tell all the election officials you're working with and talking to for your beat, tell them Sam Sanders wants American elections to be as easy as voting for "American Idol." It should not be easier to vote for Justin Guarini than for the president of the United States. Tell them to fix it.

PARKS: You got to remember, Sam, a year ago, we were talking about - or two years ago, we were talking about Russians hacking - potentially hacking elections. So I don't think you want it as easy as voting for "American Idol" for a lot of other reasons.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Justin Guarini was robbed, also, listeners.

PARKS: (Laughter) I have no comment on that. I don't even know who that is.

SANDERS: Next time you come on the show we'll have a big debrief.

PARKS: I'll Spotify - is he on Spotify?

SANDERS: Oh, my God. Yes, he's on Spotify, and he's in a movie with Kelly Clarkson called "From Justin To Kelly." It's a classic camp feature.

PARKS: Oh, God. That sounds horrible.


SANDERS: Thanks again to NPR reporter Miles Parks. He covers voting and elections.

So speaking of voting, there was an important milestone this week - the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote based on sex. Basically, it gave women the right to vote, but not all women, especially not Black women. And this is really the story of voting here in America. It's rarely ever been for everyone.

So thinking about that fight for women's suffrage, thinking about where we are today with voting, I called up Martha S. Jones. She is a legal and cultural historian, and she has a book coming out next month called "Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won The Vote, And Insisted On Equality For All." And the thing I wanted to ask her about, one of the things that I've been questioning recently, is the basic nuts and bolts of how we vote.


SANDERS: Like, when I think about, you know, you have to register this far in advance and you've got to make sure you're in your right precinct and your signature must match your name and if you want to vote the day of, you can't take that time off of work and you've got to have an ID - I used to kind of think that those were just, like, parts of the way you had to do it. But now I'm saying, well, are some of those things that we thought were just the fundamentals of voting, are they actually these secret obstacles meant to keep a lot of us from doing it?

MARTHA S JONES: Absolutely. I mean, I think what you're pointing to - right? - is a deep ambivalence in the American tradition about what it means to cede power to everyday Americans by virtue of their capacity to cast a vote. The nation is founded out of a culture that is deeply conflicted about whether that's the sort of democracy we want to become. Voter suppression, certainly since the Civil War, has rarely announced itself as such, right? Rarely has it proclaimed itself to be targeting black Americans or to be targeting women after the 19th Amendment. Voter suppression has always come dressed up as procedure, as process, as neutral. My husband happens to not be American, and he's flabbergasted to learn that how you vote, if you can vote, wholly depends in this country in part on where you live, you know...

SANDERS: And it could change from year to year.

JONES: And season to season. He's flabbergasted by this approach to democracy, and seeing it from his perspective, I am, too.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

JONES: It has the effect cumulatively and oftentimes deliberately of keeping people from ever casting their ballots at all.

SANDERS: A thing that I discovered in getting ready for this interview with you, a thing that I never really thought about, is that the right to vote is not actually guaranteed to all Americans. The Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore found that no individual citizen has a federal constitutional right to vote for elections for the president, and the right to vote isn't really clearly enshrined in the Constitution. How would our voting look different if it were?

JONES: I'm somebody who has advocated for a constitutional amendment that would indeed use the word guarantee, right? - every citizen of the United States guaranteed the right to vote. What would that look like? Well, that would mean, for example, Sam, that we wouldn't be in this dust up about voting by mail, that the state would be obliged, have an affirmative obligation to make sure that one way or another, every one of us got a ballot and that we also got to cast that ballot. Right now, the burden is on the citizen - right? - to overcome hurdles - right? - to learn new systems, to maneuver and hopefully get to the polls and cast a ballot. What if the burden was on the state?

SANDERS: Yeah. You know, it is - I find a specific irony in talking about voting on my show this week in the week that we mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. But, you know, you peel back the top layer to that story and you realize it was just for white women. So, you know, we celebrate this milestone while forgetting, in many ways, that it wasn't for everybody. You know, I guess if there is a lesson for that anniversary for Americans as we go to vote this November, what is that lesson?

JONES: 1920 - August of 1920 for me marks the start of a new voting rights movement, one led by Black Americans including Black women. And it is a long and dangerous and never promised struggle that takes Black Americans to 1965, the modern civil rights era and the adoption of the Voting Rights Act. The lesson of that story - right? - is that we have to take our political futures in our own hands, that this is not a nation that metes out political power easily or benevolently at all. You know, there's oftentimes invoked word or term which is persistence when talking about the road to the 19th Amendment. For me, the most persistent women, the women I write about in "Vanguard," they are the persistent ones because even in the face of being rebuffed in 1920, they continue the quest for voting rights.


SANDERS: Thanks again to Martha S. Jones. Her book, "Vanguard," it comes out in September. Listeners, stay with us. After the break, I talk with Robin Thede. She is the creator and star of HBO's "A Black Lady Sketch Show," a show that's up for three Emmys this year. BRB.


SANDERS: We are back. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. All right, my next guest - this year, she is up for not one, not two, but three Emmy awards.

ROBIN THEDE: Yeah, one for best variety sketch series...

SANDERS: Look at you.

THEDE: ...For our director, Dime Davis, for variety sketch directing and for Angela Bassett. Ever heard of her? For...

SANDERS: Yes. Oh, yes I have.

THEDE: For guest star for - yeah, for...

SANDERS: That is Robin Thede. She's a comedian and actress and creator and star of "A Black Lady Sketch Show." That is a show that's up for all those Emmys we're talking about. And those sketches in that show, "A Black Lady Sketch Show," they are sketches only Black women could pull off. Like this one, where Angela Bassett leads a support group for other Black women who are growing tired of their intricate, time-consuming beauty regiments.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Every morning, I wake up one hour early to put on my Fenty highlighter before my man wakes up. I'm exhausted. But I can't let bae see me with my bare face, you know?

ANGELA BASSETT: (As character) Is a partner who doesn't appreciate the cheek work deserving of the cheek twerk?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Never thought of that there. That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Oh. See?

SANDERS: "A Black Lady Sketch Show" may be putting Robin on the map, but she has been in the business way before the show. She was a head writer for "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore," and she also hosted her own late-night talk show, "The Rundown With Robin Thede." That was on BET till 2018. Robin told me that experience made it easier for her to pitch her latest show.

THEDE: It wasn't hard to convince HBO because they believed...


THEDE: ...In me, and they believed in my partnership with Issa Rae, who also executive produces alongside me. And when I talked to them, I talked to Amy Gravitt, the head of comedy at HBO. And I said, look - I want to make a narrative sketch series where Black women can live grounded experiences in a magical reality. Here are the people I want to be on the show. Here's what I'm going to do. Here are the themes I'm going to explore. Here's how we're going to tell the stories. Here's what it's going to look like. And she was just on board from Day 1. She - I mean, she said to me, I can't believe this hasn't been done before.

SANDERS: Really?

THEDE: And so I think it was a combination. The reason why it wasn't hard to convince HBO was because I come with a certain pedigree in the sketch world - this is my seventh sketch show - in addition to, you know, have proven myself as a show creator, showrunner and comedian.


THEDE: And at the end of the day, it was - you know, they supported it fully from Day 1.


THEDE: And, you know, gave us all the tools we needed to make the show as great as it is.

SANDERS: Yeah, it also feels like they didn't get in the way of your editorial vision. Every part of the show that I watched, I was like, oh, that seems like that's exactly what they wanted to do.

THEDE: Yeah.

SANDERS: That's exactly what the Black ladies wanted to do.

THEDE: Correct. That's true. Well, and the Black ladies are doing all the editing, right? So...

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.

THEDE: So we had Black creatives at every level, from the studio to the PAs...


THEDE: ...Which I think is such a testament to what happens when you give Black creatives the real, you know, autonomy and power to do what they want to do. And that's why HBO has "Insecure," "I May Destroy You," "Watchmen," "A Black Lady Sketch Show," "Two Dope Queens" - like, it's why...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

THEDE: ...There are so many Black women on HBO flourishing because they believe in...


THEDE: Look - I've definitely worked with other Black people at other networks. I mean, hello - I had a show on BET.


THEDE: I'm really proud of the work I did on "The Rundown."


THEDE: I was very much supported creatively at BET.


THEDE: And it was just that, you know, we had to hit a ratings mark we couldn't hit. There's no love lost there.


THEDE: But then at HBO, you have that support of the marketing engine as well and the prestige of HBO. And I think that, for us, is - I know a lot of what I'm saying is inside baseball. But at the end of the day, like...


THEDE: Yeah, I think we were just able to use all of those resources to the fullest.

SANDERS: Yeah. And it worked. Are you - have you been surprised by just the outpouring of love for the show since it's come out? You know, it's up for three Emmys. It's been renewed for a Season 2. Some of these, you know, parts of the show have just really gone viral online. Like, there was a good two or three weeks where I was seeing the - it was, like, the Bob the Drag Queen one with the very sad, like, runway situation.

THEDE: The basic ball. Mmm hmm.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) The basic ball - a ball for the rest of the LGBT cuties. And tonight, we all serve ferocity. Whether you're Mother Exhausted from the House of Tired or one of the eternal children of the House of Forever 21.

SANDERS: The basic ball - that was, like, one of the biggest parts of my Internet, you know, a few months ago.

THEDE: Oh, good.

SANDERS: Like, have you been surprised by how well this thing has been doing?

THEDE: No, it's a great show.


THEDE: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Yes. Yes (laughter). I love it. I love it.

THEDE: No. Like, surprised - maybe?


THEDE: But not unexpected. I mean, that's what you plan for. That's what you hope for. And anybody who's like, oh, my God, I'm just so surprised, I thought nobody was going to watch it - it's like, well, why are you making a TV show? Like, I made...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

THEDE: ...This specifically for Black women but also for the world to see what we can do. I want more eyes on it. Two million viewers a week isn't enough. I want 10, you know? Like...


THEDE: But that's just how I am. Like, I want everyone to enjoy this because I think there's so much joy in this show, and there's so much anti-stereotype in this show that I think it's really crucial that people watch to broaden what they think Black women can do. Even other Black women, you know, may have set their own kind of boundaries on what they could do, and I hope this show breaks those and shows them that they can really do anything.

SANDERS: Hell yeah.

THEDE: Thank you.

SANDERS: What can we expect in Season 2? You know, one of the big plotlines in Season 1 was this group of Black women friends who were, like, surviving as the rest of the world kind of, like, ended. Like, they were surviving the apocalypse in this funny kind of way.

THEDE: Quarantining in a house and eating all their snacks. Sound familiar?

SANDERS: Exactly.

THEDE: (Laughter).

SANDERS: It does. And it makes me wonder, like, will that storyline continue in Season 2? Will we see and feel hues of the pandemic in the midst of Season 2? Like, how does that play into it?

THEDE: Well, I think you felt hues of that in Season 1.

SANDERS: Yes, that's true.

THEDE: It's just you didn't know. So...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

THEDE: I literally thought, well, Trump's going to kill us, so we might as well have the interstitials be a narrative storyline with four Black women surviving the end of the world.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) We have to look out for each other. We have to have each other's backs.

THEDE: We were right. At the end of Season 1, there's a ring at the doorbell.


THEDE: And the women all turn around, and we end on a cliffhanger. Who's at the door? So you will find out more about...


THEDE: ...Who, if anyone, is at the door. But I'm excited to provide more information to the viewers...


THEDE: ...In Season 2 (laughter).

SANDERS: I'm ready to watch. I'm ready to watch. Yeah. In the meantime, while folks wait for Season 2 of your show, what funny stuff are you watching right now that you could recommend to folks?

THEDE: "90 Day Fiance," every iteration - every iteration of that show.

SANDERS: Oh, I keep hearing about this. OK.

THEDE: It's so great. I mean, honestly if you really just want to mindlessly watch something - you should start at the beginning of all the seasons.


THEDE: I mean, that'll give you three months' worth of watching right there.

SANDERS: (Laughter)

THEDE: But "Happily Ever After?" and "Before The 90 Days" and "90 Day: The Other Way" - because there's, like, seven iterations...

SANDERS: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

THEDE: ...Are spin-offs of the regular "90 Day Fiance" that I highly recommend.


THEDE: It is a comedy. Don't let anyone tell you it's a reality show.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

THEDE: It is an absolute scripted comedy, and I love it so much.


THEDE: So yeah, that's what I've been watching. But...


THEDE: Yeah.


SANDERS: Robin Thede, we're going to take a break right now. But when we come back, can we play a game together? It's called Who Said That.

THEDE: Sure.

SANDERS: OK. We'll be right back.

We are back. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE FROM NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, here with Robin Thede. She is the three-time Emmy Award nominee this year for her show on HBO, "A Black Lady Sketch Show." Congrats.

THEDE: Thank you. Yeah, somebody wrote multiple Emmys nominee, which I thought sounded clunky. And then I was like, oh, I guess you have to do it that way. That's pretty wild (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah, multiple, multiple, multiple.

THEDE: I'll take credit for all of them. I don't care.

SANDERS: Do it. Do it. Well, I want you to win those three Emmys, and I also want you to win this game that we're about to play. It is called Who Said That.


KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: The game is pretty simple. I share three quotes from the week of news, and you got to guess who said it.

THEDE: Great.

SANDERS: OK. Let's get to it. The first quote is, can people volunteer at post office? No, I'm kidding. Could I volunteer at my post office? Is no one going to help me with post office? OK, called two post offices in Malibu. They were polite. I said, hi. This is blank. I would like to know if you ever take volunteers. Lady said she didn't know and gave me number of supervisor. I called and said hi.

Who said that?

THEDE: (Laughter) Oh, my God. I'm assuming a celebrity that lives out in Malibu...

SANDERS: Yes. (Laughter) Yes.

THEDE: ...Which could be - or near it. Calabasas is near it. Was it a Kardashian?


SANDERS: No. It was a legendary diva and singer with long hair.

THEDE: Oh, Mariah Carey?


THEDE: No. With long hair - Cher.


SANDERS: Yes. Yes.

THEDE: All right. I got it.

SANDERS: Cher literally pulled a reverse Karen this week and asked to speak to the supervisor of the post office...

THEDE: Of course she did.

SANDERS: ...To see if she could volunteer.

THEDE: Of course she did.

SANDERS: I love how angry she is. She always wants to speak to someone's manager, but it seems like for the right reasons. I don't know. She has my heart.

THEDE: Yeah. I think so. I like Cher. Cher and Bette Midler crack me up, like, just two bawdy, like, older ladies, you know, who don't give a crap about their iconery (ph) and they just still do things that - you know, just, like, a reverse Karen. That's a very funny phrase.

SANDERS: (Laughter) All right. You got that one. Next quote, tell me what company said this. Quote, "the purpose of the test is to make it easier for members to find something to watch." This was a company announcing this week that they're going to start a shuffle play button on their homepage to make you watch even more.

THEDE: Oh, Netflix?


SANDERS: Yeah. It's getting bad. So now they're going to have a button you can hit on the home screen to just let Netflix show you anything based on what you've watched before just to keep you watching, I guess, even longer. I mean, when will they stop?

THEDE: I don't need to be convinced.

SANDERS: Yeah. How much Netflix do you think you watch a week?

THEDE: Oh, God. Well, between all the streaming services because now I've been obsessed with Disney Plus and HBO Max.

SANDERS: Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

THEDE: So between that, Hulu, Netflix...

SANDERS: I'm probably doing 20 or 30 hours a week, if I'm being honest.

THEDE: Between the four, oh, at least because I have insomnia, so I'll watch four hours a night while I'm wide awake. I'm clocking about full-time hours probably (laughter).

SANDERS: You've got a full-time job watching these shows.

THEDE: Yeah.

SANDERS: All right, last quote, and this is from a famous musician. The quote is "everybody on the shoot had to get tested for coronavirus. We had a tiger and a leopard there, but we didn't film with them in there because of safety and because of the pandemic. We spliced those scenes together." Who said that?

THEDE: It was either Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion about the "WAP" music video.


SANDERS: It was Cardi B.

THEDE: There we go.

SANDERS: It was Cardi B about the "WAP" music video, the music video that will not die.

THEDE: Yeah.


AI T MCLARAN: (Rapping) There's some [expletive] in this house. There's some [expletive] in this house.

SANDERS: It has been a headline every day since its release. I just love to think of Cardi B taking pandemic precautions for the tiger and the leopard.

THEDE: Yeah, of course. Listen...

SANDERS: She's the sweetest.

THEDE: Cardi B had a really good conversation with Joe Biden recently that was fascinating. Like, Cardi B has my vote. I could absolutely see older Cardi B running for office.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. And I also love that she's doing all of these things without even at all compromising who she is. Like, in the midst of that Joe Biden interview, she was wearing, like, a '90s Lil' Kim throwback red wig. I loved it.

THEDE: This is what I'm saying - and a collar out over her lapel. I was like, uh-oh, she doesn't know how to wear a suit, but that's OK because she's killing it.

SANDERS: It looks cute. Now I'm imagining Cardi B making an appearance in "A Black Lady Sketch Show" Season 2.

THEDE: That's a really fun thing to imagine.


SANDERS: One day. The game is complete. You won, Robin.

THEDE: Yay. I'm so excited. I - truly my friend Ziwe (ph) won the game and I just couldn't go down in shame to her, you know?

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yes. Yes.

THEDE: I couldn't do it, so thank you for these bragging rights.


CARDI B: (Rapping) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah you tell him...

SANDERS: Thanks again to Robin Thede. Her show, "A Black Lady Sketch Show," it is up for three Emmys this year.

AUNT BETTY: Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of those submissions.

ARVIND: Hey, Sam, this is Arvind (ph).

MAE: And this is Mae (ph).

ARVIND: And we're calling in from Maiden Rock, Wis.

MAE: And this week, we told all of our friends and family that we're going to get married. And we're really, really excited.

KELLY: Hey, Sam. This is Kelly (ph). The best thing that happened to me this week - I reconnected with an acquaintance from the past, and there were sparks. I don't know if anything will come of it. I'm simply happy to feel excited about a person who's excited to see me.

DEBBIE: Hi, Sam. This is Debbie (ph). The best thing that happened to me this week was my night-blooming cereus bloomed and smelled wonderful.

KIT: Hi, Sam. This is Kit (ph) from Kansas City, Mo. And the best part of my week was my voice teacher telling me I had almost nailed the song "Legal Assassin" from "Repo! The Genetic Opera."

STEPHANIE GARY: Hey, Sam and Aunt Betty. This is Stephanie Gary (ph) in California. The best part of my week was getting to see my new students.

LORENZ: Hi, Sam. It's Lorenz from New Orleans, La. And the best thing that happened to me this week is that I get to start law school, which has been a dream of mine since I was 4 years old. And it connects me to my first real father figure, my Uncle Phil, who I lost when I was young. So I know that he's looking down on me smiling and he's proud of me. Thank you. Bye, Sam.

GARY: Thanks.

MAE: We love listening to your show and can't wait for the next one. Thanks.

SANDERS: Thanks to all those listeners you heard there - Lorenz, Stephanie, Kit, Debbie, Kelly and Mae and Arvind. Listeners, don't forget, you can be a part of this segment any week. Just record yourself on your phone sharing the best part of your week. Send those voice memos to -


SANDERS: All right. This week, the show was produced by Janae West, Anjuli Sastry and Andrea Gutierrez. Our fearless editor is Jordana Hochman. Our director of programming is Steve Nelson. He's taking the whole next week off. I'm so happy for him. You deserve the break, Steve. Enjoy it. And our big boss is NPR senior VP of programming Anya Grundmann. Listeners, till next time. Stay safe. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

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