by Joneka Percentie
YouTube has become a treasure chest of funny and smart web series starring Black women, and among the jewels is Pursuit of Sexiness by UCBComedy and Deverge. Pursuit of Sexiness follows friends Nicky and Sheer, and their adventures in New York, including dating, thrift shopping, and dancing on the subway. Nicole Byer, who can be recognized from MTV’s Girl Code, plays the hilarious role of Nicky. My favorite episode from the web series is definitely Episode 5, Nicky Can’t Have it All–Nicky finally hooks up with a seemingly nice guy, but the gifts that he leaves her may be a dealbreaker.
I was more than thrilled with the opportunity to hear Byer’s experience as an actress and how she responds to criticisms of Black women in comedy. “So many women of color have found a platform through YouTube and just the internet in general,” Byer said. “The best part of the Internet is it doesn’t give you notes like if you were working for someone, so you can put exactly what you want out there and the world tells you if you if they like it.”
Pursuit of Sexiness was created and produced by UCBComedy, the virtual branch of Upright Citizens Brigade, and Deverge, a New York City production company. Byer started taking classes at UCB in 2008, and went on to join improvisation groups and find “Doppelganger, my 3 lady group with Sasheer Zamata and Keisha Zollar,” said Byer.
The greatest part of Pursuit of Sexiness is, naturally, how candidly and funnily Nicky and Sheer talk about sex. The pair makes everyday conversations absolutely hilarious with casual mentions of their latest hook-ups. “I hope with our show they don’t think ‘wow those two black girls are looking for sex,’” Beyer told me. “I hope it’s just: those two girls are DTF! I don’t think anyone wants to be defined by their race… diversity is such a complex thing.”
I think a lot about the complexity of diversity. Positive representation of Black women is a great thing, but it’s also important to realize that Black women are complex human beings and shouldn’t be defined solely by our race. While it’s obvious to me that Byer has natural talent in comedy, I can’t get over the criticisms of Black female comedians and how it must affect navigating an industry that is already so alienating. Byer expressed similar sentiments: “My response [to criticisms of Black female comedians] shouldn’t even have to exist. Black women are funny. I don’t think the conversation should be about if we are funny or not, it should be why aren’t we thought of.”
Nicky and Sheer’s friendship is gold, Nicole Byer is absolutely hilarious, and while the conversation continues to grow around Black women in comedy, I will definitely continue to follow Pursuit of Sexiness and Byer’s future projects.