Issa Rae may have hit the big time with an HBO deal to co-write (with Larry Wilmore) and star in her own series, but she hasn’t completely abandoned her roots on the Web. The talented multi-hyphenate known for creating and starring in The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl has stayed busy producing other online projects, including Roomieloverfriends and Let Leslie Tell It. Her latest producing venture is The Choir, a comedy Web series about a church choir and its waning congregation.
The first episode, “Genesis,” directed by Rae, dropped yesterday, and the series shows promise. The opening scene, in which the choir performs an incredibly inappropriate rendition of Janet Jackson’s seductive “Any Time, Any Place” meant for Jesus, is hilariously subversive and (yes) awkward. The cast of choir members—including a feisty young woman who thinks the choir needs to “sex it up,” an older lady turned off by said young woman, and an interim minister struggling to get more people to join the congregation—leaves plenty of room for the series to explore the nuances of a black church.
Which is why I’m willing to keep tuning in even though the rest of the episode isn’t as laugh-inducing as much of Rae’s other work. The search for humor in the black church is a road frequently taken, and the results are hit and miss. But if that opening scene and Rae’s involvement are any indication, The Choir may put a new spin on that familiar formula.