By LAPACAZO SANDOVAL
Special to the AmNews
Hang on. Take a deep breath. Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service with over 148 million paid memberships in over 190 countries, has ordered a new sketch comedy made by and about Black culture. That new project is “Astronomy” Club from Khalabo Ink Society and Irony Point.
The idea that the variety sketch series— “ Astronomy Club”—will land on Netflix is cause to celebrate and a reason to ponder a possible, new direction for the streaming giant.
The six-episode half-hour series will star the New York-based improv and sketch comedy group Astronomy Club. As the group has done successfully with its improv and sketch performances, the series will use comedy to discuss complex and nuanced real-world topics.
Combining honesty with levity, sketches will explore an array of topics ranging from pop culture and social issues to the Black experience. Astronomy Club was formed in 2013, performing in venues all over New York City. The team soon became the first all-Black house team at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Astronomy Club members are Shawtane Bowen, Jonathan Braylock, Ray Cordova, James III, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses and Keisha Zollar.
The series is executive produced by Kenya Barris (“black-ish,” “Girls’ Trip”) through his transmedia company Khalabo Ink Society and Daniel Powell (“Inside Amy Schumer,” “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson”) for Irony Point. These type of partnerships are reflective of Barris’ approach to mentorship and have become a pillar of Khalabo Ink Society’s creative process. With a focus on socially conscious storytelling that reflects our culture and tackles contemporary issues and themes, Barris has grown the transmedia company to establish it as a creative collective, where collaboration is fostered and new talent can thrive.
Khalabo Ink Society is a full-service creative collective that produces poignant, powerful television, film and digital properties. Founded by award-winning writer, producer and director Kenya Barris (founder & CEO), the company launched with ABC’s Emmy-nominated hit series “black-ish” and has since established itself as a creative force that produces socially conscious content which reflects our culture and tackles contemporary issues. With mentorship as a pillar of the company’s creative process, Khalabo Ink Society fosters collaboration and allows new talent to thrive. In addition to “black-ish” on the television side, the company produces the Freeform spin-off “grown-ish,” which was the network’s biggest comedy series launch in six years when it debuted in 2018. Along with its current series, Khalabo Ink Society is producing a remake of the popular 1960s sitcom “Bewitched” for ABC, a second “black-ish” spin-off titled “mixed-ish” and “Black Excellence,” the first series under Barris’ overall deal at Netflix, which he will also star in. Along with a booming television arm, Khalabo Ink Society continues to build its film slate with the upcoming feature projects “Coming 2 America,” an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” a reboot of the family comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen,” Lionsgate’s “The French Quarter Will Not Be Spared,” Sony’s “The Last Dragon,” “The Guysmaids” for 20th Century Fox and an animated feature based on the songs of Bob Marley. Previous Khalabo Ink Society projects include the films “Little,” “Shaft,” “Girls Trip,” “Barbershop 3: The Next Cut” and the television show “America’s Next Top Model,” which Barris co-created with Tyra Banks and has since been syndicated in 49 countries with 21 internationally formatted offshoots.
Astronomy Club is a veteran NYC-based improv and sketch comedy group that was formed in 2013 and soon became the first all-Black house team at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The team was named NYCF/Comedy Central Sketch Comics to Watch 2016, and on Vulture’s “Comedians You Should and Will Know” 2018. Members of Astronomy Club have written, directed, and been featured in projects on Showtime, NBC, HBO, TBS, SyFy, IFC, TruTV, MTV, VH1, TVLand, Funny Or Die and Above Average, as well as major motion pictures.
PASTE magazine has said the group recalls “the best of The State and The Kids in the Hall.” Their self-titled digital series premiered in 2018 and was called “Comedy Central’s best new digital series” by Vulture.
Astronomy Club is Shawtane Bowen, Jonathan Braylock, Ray Cordova, James III, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses and Keisha Zollar.
Irony Point is a NY-based Production Company run by Daniel Powell, who oversees development and Alex Bach, who oversees production. The company’s TV and streaming credits include the Emmy and Peabody-winning “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central), “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” (Netflix), “The Break with Michelle Wolf” (Netflix), and “Ugly Americans” (Comedy Central). Its feature film credits include “Becks,” which won Best U.S. Fiction Film at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival, and “Clara’s Ghost,” which was an official Sundance selection in 2018. They are in post on the upcoming feature film “Scare Me,” starring Aya Cash and Chris Redd.