It hit Hollie Harper one night when she was watching YouTube, and came across a clip of David Letterman sticking himself to a wall in a velcro onesie.
“I looked at him and I was like, that’s who I want to be.”
The Clinton Hill comedian had been thinking about pitching a show to Downtown Brooklyn arts and media institution BRIC, and suddenly she knew exactly what she wanted to bring to it.
“I was just like, ‘I’m not pitching a variety show, I’m pitching a late night comedy talk show,” she said. She got together with friends and put together a comprehensive pitch deck, slicker than ones she’d made before.
Harper pitched it to Downtown Brooklyn’s BRIC TV, and they were impressed enough to commission Hella Late! with Hollie Harper as its very first late night talk show series.
“I didn’t know BRIC had never had a late night talk show. I’m proud,” Harper said.
Hella Late! with Hollie Harper is premiering June 8 at 10:00pm on BRIC TV. The show, which is almost completely written by Harper, features sketches, naughty songs, woman-on-the-street interviews done right here in Brooklyn, and celebrity Q&As.
“It’s about Black joy and Black women’s joy,” Harper said. It’s smart but silly, and to be honest, it’s geared towards grown-ups, it really is, and I think it’s a lot of fun.”
Segments include taking to the streets to ask Brooklynites to play ‘Marry, F, Kill’, and features comedians like Marina Franklin, Dara Jemmott and Rhonda Hansome. The showrunner and director is actress, singer, EMMY nominated producer and a writer Okema T. Moore.
For 12 years, Harper has creative directed the sketch comedy show AMERICAN CANDY, which she co-founded in 2009 with Hyperion Theatre Project’s Michael Pauley.
She’s also a stand-up comedian, mom blogger for Medium and co-hosts Blerd Dating, a weekly Twitter storytelling chat about dating.
Only a handful of Black women host late night talk or variety shows. According to Harper’s count there are less than 10. Mo’Nique was the first in 2009, and more recently names like Amber Ruffin and Sam Jay have risen to the fore.
“When you Google late night hosts, there’s like 35 to 40 white men. And I mean, there’s really not that many white woman, either.
“It’s not a field that’s been taken over by Black women, it’s not like tennis, Venus and Serena,” she said.
Plus, the whole production team behind Hella Late! with Hollie Harper are Black creatives. Harper said she’d never worked on a show with an all-Black production team before, but, “honestly this time it’s the way it shook out.”
“The Black creative team was something that just happened, and when we saw it was happening it was like, ‘Wow.’ It was just cool see more Black people in television.”
Harper says the series was filmed entirely in the midst of the pandemic, and a national uprising against racism, but the show focuses on joy and comedy.
“I was joking that the summer of 2020 started out as Contagion then turned into Do the Right Thing,” Harper laughed.
“I’m very pro-Black, very much a feminist, and I’m also a comedian. The show is about joy, it’s not a referendum on racism or commentary on mysoginy, we don’t even really talk about COVID. We want people to sit back and really laugh, it’s escapism.”
Harper has lived in Clinton Hill since 2008, and said she feels like there’s no place in the city in terms of creativity that is like Brooklyn, “especially if your’e Black.”
“Brooklyn is a Mecca of the arts, and it’s becoming a Mecca of comedy,” she said.
Watch the first episode of Hella Late! with Hollie Harper Tuesday, June 8 at 10pm on BRIC TV.
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