Sherri Shepherd on Her New Hosting Gig & Finding Her Voice on 'The View'
Even with all the bad news in the world, Sherri Shepherd finds reasons to smile. Like when the Emmy winner gets the chance to talk about what’s hot in entertainment on Dish Nation. The former co-host of The View formally joined the popular syndicated show in August after sitting in on a few episodes late last year.
“It was something that I thought would be a fun gig to have,” the star said. “I jumped at the opportunity because we are in a pandemic. It wasn’t like I was going to make a movie with Forest Whitaker right now. It has worked out beautifully. I’m glad I said yes. Sometimes you have to step out and take a chance and do something you haven’t done. It’s kind of like The View, except you laugh all the time. I don’t think they laugh enough over there.”
We caught up with Shepherd to talk about the new gig, learning from Barbara Walters and all the projects she has going on.
What do you think of the Dish Nation experience so far?
Sherri Shepherd: I love it so much because I love pop culture. We get to dish about everybody. And we’re not mean. Nobody is mean. That’s what I love about Dish. I absolutely love my co-hosts [in Los Angeles and Atlanta]. They couldn’t be nicer. It’s always hard coming into a group that has been together for so many years and seasons and allowing someone new to come in. They even let me take the lead on some stories.
I’m so thankful for these guys for their kindness. I’m an actor, so I’ve been in situations where ego has taken over. As an actor you’ll be like, “You know what, I’m going to be in my dressing room with the door closed until you figure this all out.” That is not how it’s like with the co-hosts of Dish. They are so giving. Every day I get to laugh.
With all the different hosts that have come to The View table over the years, it’s kind of like a finishing school in the field. A place where if you can make it through there, you can take that experience and apply what you learned anywhere. How has that time prepared you for what you’ve been working on now?
Let me tell you something. If you can make it past Barbara Walters, there is nothing you can’t do. Barbara Walters was very hard on me. I said before that I’ve cried for the first three years. She expected a lot of me. Thankfully, I was able to rise to the occasion. When she retired, her last words to me as she put her hands on my face were, “I’m the most proud of you here because you did your homework. You were curious. You asked the questions.”
She helped me find my voice. Literally, I owe that to Barbara. I remember when she said that to me I started crying. When the elevator doors were closing she said, “Why are you crying dear?” Even then, she was hard on me. I learned so much sitting between her and Whoopi ‘Goldberg. How to be curious and ask the questions nobody asks. How to give my opinion. Even if there is someone on the side of me going, “No.”
It prepared me for Dish. I’m not shy about giving my opinion...I’m ready to jump in and be opinionated. I got that from Barbara. I’m very thankful because one thing about Dish is it’s seven other people who have opinions. That’s even more than The View. They’re all in my ear talking. You have to really go for your air space. I learned that from The View. It’s like you all better part the Red Sea so I can come on in here. And they’re good at letting me do it.
It really is a great, free-flowing conversation. You’ve certainly adapted well to the format.
In the situation we’re in, things are getting more attention because more people are home. With what we’re going through, people just want to laugh. It’s why I started my podcast Two Funny Mamas with Kym Whitley. People need an escape. I think Dish Nation provides that. People just want to hear what you got to say on pop culture and just want to get away from anything. I think now more than ever we need entertainment and laughter.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of The View since Barbara left?
I think something was missing when Barbara left, because she was at the helm. She was guiding it. Because she is not there, you don’t see it. It’s a lot more serious. We are in a political climate so a lot of that does take up the air time. It is still a great show. I still watch it. I still scream at the TV. I still text Whoopi and Joy [Behar] and Sunny [Hostin] about different issues.
I think it definitely has evolved. When I got on it was the political season with [Barack] Obama. It was then I learned all about politics from being on The View. People definitely need it. To hear from intelligent women and what they have to say. It’s a show no matter what host is sitting in that chair or who is in the middle, people will still tune in to The View.
You talked about your podcast with Kym Whitley. You guys are such a great combination as further evidenced by a recent appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show. How deep does your friendship go? When did you first connect?
She was a bridesmaid at my wedding. I still rip her because she didn’t tell me not to marry my ex-husband even though she knew she didn’t want me to marry him. I tell her, “You know you were in it because you got a free iPad and a trip to Chicago.” She doesn’t deny it. We go back to when we were both struggling comics. We lived across the way from each other. I had an apartment, and she had an apartment. We were both struggling together. We would both talk about our dreams and what we wanted to accomplish.
We stayed friends. I’ve always loved her joy and loudness... For three years she said no to me about a podcast. I guess during the pandemic she had a lot of free time. Now she loves it. She lives for it. We go back more than 20 years.
Along with the podcast, before the pandemic you were regularly on the road with Kym and others for the “Ladies Night Out Comedy Tour.”
We won't be doing it again until mid-2021, but we are all so anxious. We’re so anxious to get back on the road. I was telling Kym the other day. We haven’t been on stage since February. We want to get back on stage and make people laugh. People want to come out to laugh. They want to hear what we have to say. We’re female. We’re women. We’re strong. They want to know how the hell I’m dating during COVID. I’m not. All the COVID tests we got to take to kiss somebody. They want to laugh at that because they’re going through the same things.
Audiences can see you all over beyond Dish Nation like on Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias, which currently has two seasons out. That had to be fun getting back into the sitcom realm. And later this year you’re also stretching your musical muscle with A Week Away. You’ve really been able to diversify yourself.
Gabriel used to give me a ride from the comedy clubs because my car was repossessed. That’s how far back we go. To work with Gabe on a show like this is great because people get to see how funny he is. I love sitcoms.
And when they asked me to be in A Week Away to sing and dance. Dancing with the Stars is a lot different than being in a musical. But they even gave me a solo. I sound like a black Pat Benatar. It was so much fun. I danced and got bruised up. I can’t wait for people to see that side of me.
Then Deadline just announced I’m on a show on ABC recurring with Kyra Sedgwick called Call Your Mother. I play her best friend. I’m blessed to, even during the pandemic, get to go and do what I love. I don’t take any of it for granted.
You’re on yet another game show coming up October 1 in Match Game. Is there any competition/game show you want to be on that you haven’t?
I told the casting director of Dancing with the Stars if you have a fan favorites season and don’t invite me, I’m going to curl up in a fetal position and not come out. That was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had was Dancing with the Stars. I would love to try it again because I didn’t get to do my salsa. I got voted off before I got to do my salsa.
I love game shows because I used to watch game shows with my grandmother. She loved The $20,000 Pyramid. If I can get on [The $100,000 Pyramid] with Michael Strahan I feel like my grandmother would be up in heaven cheering for me.
Who is your pick to win Dancing with the Stars this season?
Skai Jackson. You better watch out for that little one. She almost fell and she grabbed her partner’s hair. Who does that? I wouldn’t let her grab hair because I wouldn't know if it would come off. I think with Carole Baskin, I just wanted to know how many cat songs she was going to go through. Next you're going to tell me is she was going to do WAP. If she did one more kitty song, I’m going to fall out. But Skai Jackson is the one to take that.
With so much work being done at home, how do you stay sane?
I think there are three things I do. One thing I said during this pandemic and quarantine is what do I want to do that has always scared me? I think that this is an opportunity for people to say, “Let me try something that has been gnawing at the edges of my mind and my dreams.” This is the time to do it. For me, it was writing because I've always wanted to write. I’ve never done it because it scared me. I’m writing a movie that I’m going to pitch. That keeps me sane because I'm stepping out of my comfort zone.
The second thing is you have to keep connected with friends, even if it’s something little. For me, I would go social distance walking with Niecy Nash and Kym Whitley.
I go roller skating around the house. It’s all of us. We go roller skating. You have to stay connected to whomever you can because we’re not designed to be in a house by ourselves. So if you got a negative COVID test and your friend got a negative COVID test, hug them!
The other thing is you have to do some form of exercise. I started walking four miles three times a week. I just put my earbuds in and just walk because it just keeps me focused. I did a pushup challenge where we’re supposed to do 50 pushups in 30 days. I got to 81 pushups. Try a challenge you have never tried before, because I don’t think we’re going to get this moment back.
Dish Nation airs in syndication, online and is also available on Hulu.