"I think sometimes when people hear about the show," comedian Dulcé Sloan tells the Mercury, "they're like 'no no no!'" She's describing a solo comedic theater piece, called Don't Reach in the Bag, which was written and performed by her fellow stand-up Shalewa Sharpe about working in an adult video store in the late '90s and early '00s. 

Sloan believes in the show; she produced it. And to further support, she'll open its single-night Portland premiere at the Clinton Street Theater and co-headline a stand-up night with Sharpe the night after.

The two comedy-world friends have known each other for nearly fourteen years—both starting out within months of one another in Atlanta, Georgia. Sloan is most familiar to general audiences for her work as a correspondent on the Daily Show, and Sharpe has two comedy albums out: Stay Eating Cookies and So You Just Out Here? They both love to gush about each other, in true friend-love fashion, but Sloan stresses that her admiration for Sharpe's work goes far beyond friendliness: "Shalewa is one of the comics that I would watch and ask myself  'Am I writing jokes? Am I saying words?' It's not just that we're friends. As a comic, I watch her."

Over the course of the following interview, it became apparent the best way to handle two such charismatic and hilarious stand-ups was to get out of the way and let them riff on Sharpe's show, Portland comedy fans, and why people shout "oh god!" at climax.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

MERCURY: Dulcé, just before the writers strike, you hosted an episode of the Daily Show. Did it make you want to be the full time host?

DULCÉ SLOAN: Those weren't auditions. They were pretty clear about it.

Would you want to host the Daily Show?

SLOAN: Why would I want to host the Daily Show?


SLOAN: This is the thing: What would I rather do? Interview people about what they're doing in their career, or be interviewed about what I'm doing in my career? The show has been great. It gave me opportunities to think about myself in a more critical writing space. It gave me the ability to use the name recognition and experience I've gained to support other performers when they have a project I believe in.

Which seems to segue us pretty nicely into Shalewa's solo show. Shalewa, the show is based on your life—and especially your experience as a prudish young woman working in an adult video store. At that time, were you prudish or is that for the character?

SHALEWA SHARPE: Naw, I was prudish. I'm prudish now.

How would you define prudish?

SHARPE: The ish. You gotta hit the ish very hard. There are people who are fine with being freaky-deaky, but it takes a moment to warm up. That's where I fall on the prudish line. Because I absolutely will swing from the chandelier with you, but I also will make sure we have a pretty thick mat down on the floor.

Is the show set, or has it changed over the years?

SHARPE: I have my show, but there's an element of it that's always changing. That's the Q&A session I close with.

What's the weirdest question you've ever gotten?

SHARPE: For the most part, I'm never stumped, but an older woman in LA asked me about the connection between pornography and spirituality—and if I thought there was one. Or if I had any connection. And I said: "That is possibly the most LA question I've ever heard in my life." Then I went with: "It seems that people seem to say 'oh god' a lot, when they are approaching climax, so there must be something there."

SLOAN: I mean there has to be. We keep calling him up.

SHARPE: It just seems like an odd time to call him up.

SLOAN: You're sinning. You're straight-up sinning. And you're calling him to watch you do it.

SHARPE: He's on paper saying he's not a big fan of that.

Calling our heavenly father into the room.

SLOAN: I dunno, I've been hanging out with a couple daddies lately, and there's a couple fathers I wanna see come into the room. Yes.

SHARPE: One at a time.

SLOAN: You just stretch, drink Gatorade. You'll be alright.

Shalewa, you have a couple full comedy albums out there. What's the difference between a solo show and a headliner comedy album set?

SHARPE: It's the difference between telling a joke and telling a story. The solo show is a bit meatier. I wouldn't do these jokes in a 8-10 minute comedy setting. It's too dense; there's a lot going on. There are characters.

SLOAN: I'm a Black southerner. Everything is story. Giving the tea. Telling you what's going on. Girl, sit down. Let me tell you what happened. 

Dulcé, how did you come to produce this show?

SLOAN: I saw her do the show in 2018, and there just weren't enough people there. I was like, y'all need to know. Everyone needs to see this. So, I decided I needed to help everyone see this.

When it comes to Black theater, Black people get told to do one thing. It feels like we're only allowed to do certain things—whether it's due to society or ourselves. I had never heard anyone talk about their experience, especially a Black woman's experience, working at an adult store. Add that it's a person as reserved as Shalewa, and it's very interesting. I saw it at the base of what it was. It has the potential to be so much bigger than what it is. This could be a show. This could be a cartoon. This could be a full-on play.

What went into producing it?

SLOAN: How much money I'm gonna put behind it. Flyers, merch, where do we want to perform it? I went to [Edinburgh Festival Fringe], and saw all these one-person shows. I was like: Man, Shalewa's show is better than this show, and this show is packed. I'm gonna take over these peoples' festival.

The thing about comics is that when we see another comic that are extremely talented, we want everybody to know about it because we're surrounded by plenty of people who aren't. There are plenty of bad comics who want to be seen, and I'm like: Shhhh, no one should ever know who you are.

In addition to Shalewa's show, you're both doing a stand-up double-headliner the following night. Is this part of a tour?

SLOAN: No, I remembered Portland audiences being very supportive. I played Bridgetown Comedy Festival three times, and I've missed performing in a city like Portland that loves comedy and loves seeing all types of performances. They listen, and they don't be yelling, even if they drunk.

Shalewa Sharpe performs Don't Reach in the Bag at Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton, Fri May 26, 7 pm, sliding scale $15-60, tickets here, 18+. Sharpe and Dulcé Sloan co-headline a stand-up night at Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton, Sat May 27, 7 pm, $25-60, tickets here, 18+.