Sherri Shepherd Crafted a Juggernaut Talk Show in Less Than 2 Years — and She’s Just Getting Started

Less than two years after Sherri Shepherd launched her daytime talk show “Sherri,” she received an unprecedented gift — a blessing from the queen of talk shows herself, Oprah Winfrey.

“From the moment Oprah called me to give me advice, that said, ‘OK, you’re on her radar. She knows you. She’s seeing you,'” Shepherd told TheWrap, adding that the TV legend advised the host on how to level up her show for several hours during their initial call. “Oprah just doesn’t give her time to everyone.”

Flash forward to December 2023, just two months into the show’s sophomore season, when Oprah appeared on the show from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury and told Shepherd she was “passing the baton” to her — a full-circle moment for Shepherd, who sat in the audience of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at age 23.

“She was so gracious,” Shepherd recalled. “She said, ‘You do these monologues — that’s something that I can’t do,’ I was like, ‘You could do everything. You can float on clouds.’ For her to say, you are a master at doing monologues, that’s my greatest strength right there.”

Shepherd’s love for the genre began as a child, when she would watch talk shows with her parents and grandparents and found herself drawn to the real-life stories brought to the screen by the host and their guest stars, who would open up about issues they were going through.

“Doing a talk show, people have to know that they want to hang out with you, but they also want to feel like you want to hang out with them — it’s something that always got me,” Shepherd said.

As Shepherd’s acting career picked up in the early 2000s, she began guest starring on a number of talk shows — including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Sharon Osbourne Show” and “The Wayne Brady Show” — where she aimed to bring the engaging energy she saw other guest stars bringing to the gig. “The biggest favor you could do for the hosts is [when] they don’t have to work,” Shepherd said. “You come up with some great stories, some great fun — it was like doing stand-up sitting on a couch.”

Hosts started relying on Shepherd’s liveliness, earning her a consistent gig on “Ellen” hosting a segment called “The Shepherd Report” as she became a frequent guest on the show.

It wasn’t until 2007 that she became an official cohost on “The View” alongside Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a job Shepherd referred to as her ultimate “training ground” where she learned to harness her relatability — even as a celebrity.

“Once people feel like they cannot relate to you, you become inauthentic, and then they disengage, and that’s death for a talk show host,” Shepherd said, referencing celebrities showing off their cars or large salaries. “Yes, they know you’re a celebrity; yes, they know you make a really great salary, but they still feel like you want to hang out and y’all could do a girls’ trip. They have to feel that genuine portion of it.”

Being on “The View” also taught Shepherd to pay little mind to social media, noting she would read critical comments, change her approach and come to find out “they still hated me.” “If they don’t like you, they’re not gonna like you,” she said, noting that unless comments are constructive, she doesn’t pay much attention to them.

“I learned about getting to the human side of my guests, I learned about having fun and how to bring a little bit of levity to a serious situation,” Shepherd said of her seven-year run on “The View.” “I learned to be curious about people, to really want to know, I learned what it takes to make people feel safe.”

Despite the political anchor of “The View,” “Sherri” veers away from the world of politics and will continue to do so, even amid the upcoming presidential election this fall.

“There are hundreds of channels you can watch to get the news — people need a place to go where they can just escape and relax and laugh,” Shepherd said, adding that she wants to create a “safe space” through her show. “When you come to ‘Sherri,’ you want to get away from that, and you just want to laugh, because laughter is great for the soul. It’s medicine for yourself.”

Likewise, Shepherd added that viewers turn on “Sherri” in a desire to “feel better than when they came.” She’s received touching messages from fans tuning in to the show while going through medical emergencies or tough family situations.

“You’re not going to get politics or salacious stuff from me because you can go anywhere and get it,” she said. “But here, you’ll get laughter, you’ll get inspired, if you cry it’s because it’s a great story that will encourage you to live your best life.”

Leaning into laughter and feel-good stories lends itself to Shepherd’s expertise and experience as a stand-up comic, which distinguishes her from the slew of current daytime talk show hosts.

“How can I give people joy, laughter and fun with pop culture in the way that I do it on stage?” Shepherd recalled. “That’s the strength of a stand-up comic — we get on stage and we have to fill up 90 minutes of time, so 18-21 [minutes] is not a problem for me.”

Shepherd also isn’t afraid of physical comedy, saying, “If it’s gonna make people laugh and feel better … maybe I’ll try doing a pogo stick, I’m game.”

“Sherri” has proved to resonate with audiences, as the syndicated show scored ratings success in its freshman season, and most recently ranked as the No. 2 most-watched talk show among women 25-54 during the first week of March with a 0.31 rating, standing just ahead the 0.30 rating brought in by “The Kelly Clarkson Show” during the same week. The show was off to such a strong start that Fox Televisions Stations renewed “Sherri” in its freshman season for two additional years through the 2024-25 television season.

Since then, “Sherri” has been nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards, five NAACP Image Awards — including one win for outstanding talk series — and one People’s Choice Awards nod. And Shepherd is just getting started.

“As long as people want to be able to escape, and have a place to go, to laugh, and to be inspired and to be challenged, to hold their stomach because they’re just laughing so hard, is how long I will be here,” Shepherd said. “As a stand-up comic, the audience lets you know if you’re funny or not, the audience will let you know if you’re relating to them.”

While Shepherd has maintained her acting chops with roles on Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and Prime Video’s “Harlem,” she reiterated that her focus remains on making “Sherri” the “best talk show it can be,” adding that she doesn’t want to “spread [herself] too thin.”

“Hopefully, in the future, I’ll get to turn my eye again towards my acting, because I do love it, but right now, I don’t want anything to take away [from ‘Sherri,’]” she said. “I’ve dreamed this dream for so long that I’ve even had to pull back on doing my stand-up. You have to live the reality of the dream that has come true … I want it to be fresh and new, and it takes time and commitment.”

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