UCSC theater arts alumna nominated for Emmy Award in television writing

Ashley Nicole Black (Photo by Zev Schmidt)
Ashley Nicole Black graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2007 with a degree in Theater Arts. (Photo by Zev Schmidt)

UC Santa Cruz theater arts alumna Ashley Nicole Black is on a roll. 

The 36-year-old comedian has the distinction of being nominated twice in the same category of television writing for the upcoming 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards.

Black was nominated for “Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series” for both The Amber Ruffin Show and A Black Lady Sketch Show.

She is one of only three people who have been double nominated in this category over the past five years. The other two are actor/comedian John Mulaney and late night host and former Saturday Night Live head writer, Seth Meyers.

On HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, Black not only writes sketches, she also has a starring role as a main cast member. 

The creator of that show, Robin Thede, recently told the New York Times that she sees Black as “a force of nature and of comedy,” adding: “I have been lucky enough to work with her as a writer and performer and know firsthand how ridiculously good she is at both…She’s truly a powerhouse who will leave an indelible mark on this industry.”

From her point of view, Black described herself to the Times as “someone who’s observing what’s going on in the world, and trying to reflect it back to people.” “To me,” she said, “that’s art.”  

Black graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2007 with a degree in theatre arts. She began a Ph.D program in performance studies at Northwestern University, but left early to begin her comedy career at the famed Second City in Chicago.

She performed with a variety of groups at the theater, including its Diversity & Outreach program, and started teaching comedy writing at The Second City Training Center. She also began performing around the city and created a showcase for her fellow up-and-coming writers and performers.

In 2016, Black moved to New York and spent three years as a correspondent on the TBS show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, winning an Emmy in 2017 for her work on the “Not the White House Correspondents Dinner” program. Overall, she has been nominated for an Emmy eight times as a television writer for a variety special or series.

In addition to working on both the The Amber Ruffin Show and A Black Lady Sketch Show, Black also joined the writing team for the second season of the Apple TV+ comedy series, Ted Lasso, which just received 20 Emmy nominations. She recently told the Hollywood news site Gold Derby that the show’s positive spirit helped her through the height of quarantine. 

“It’s cool because you work with people—this is true on all three of these shows—and you watch them pour their heart into something because they want to affect people,” said Black. “It’s really meaningful to see them get that love back with all the great nominations.”

The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will take place on September 19, presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CBS.