I didn’t know what I was in for when Kerry Coddett and Krystal Coddett pitched me for coverage, but discovered that I was on to something important when after watching their skits. Collectively, the Brooklyn-based sisters are known as the Coddett Project and they are engaging in a do-it-yourself assault on the mainstream comedy world’s non-inclusion (or ill inclusion) of Black women.
Their self-funded videos on YouTube features skits like “Blackertone,” a fictional product that makes you look and feel blacker with a slogan that says, “Say no to White guilt and get affirmative on that action.” There’s a skit featuring an obnoxious loud talker, disturbing patrons at a New York City Starbucks, who gets checked about her behavior in the form of an epic dance battle—in which she engages—and there’s also Moronika, the singer/rapper whose hit single and corresponding video, “Make it Ash,” could actually fit in with general pop culture—and that’s part of the point.
“Moronika, the dance pop icon is probably my favorite skit because a lot of times in music today artists seem like a joke,” said Krystal. “They’re so over-the-top but the funniest part is that they’re serious and you can’t tell a joke from the real thing and that’s part of why Moronika is so funny.”
Kerry and Krystal draw on their respective experiences in life and from observing “crazy uncles” to make their vision come to fruition. Kerry, the actress, comedienne, writer, choreographer and sometimes rapper, has been performing since childhood. The multi-hyphenate prodigy began writing songs, stories and poems at about age nine and eventually secured a gig dancing at New Jersey Nets games, making her one of the youngest professional dancers to hold the honor. At 19, she graduated cum laude from CUNY Baruch College with a B.A. in English and psychology. Since graduating, Kerry has danced back up for Machel Montano, and Mr. Vegas, trained at Broadway Dance Center and honed her comedic craft at the People’s Improv Theater and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. She also started her own clothing company that has created and customized wardrobe for Jay-Z.
Krystal, who has developed a reputation as being an expert problem solver, pre-Olivia Pope, of course, used her skill set to distribute Kerry’s clothing line—hence how it got to Jay-Z—and now serves as the Coddett Project’s executive producer and marketer.
“I don’t like to be in front of the camera unless Kerry forces me and then I’ll just go ahead and do it [as an extra],” says Krystal. It has been that way for the sisters since childhood.
“I was twerking at three-years-old at West Indian events like, heeey just going in and anything I’ve ever done she’s always been my coach, my manager and my mentor,” says Kerry about their Guyanese and Trinidadian-American upbringing where they were encouraged to pursue their dreams. “I have this picture where I had to have been three-years-old and she was probably about eight, and I’m doing this little Michael Jackson impersonation where I’m on my tippy toes and you see her in the back posing just supporting me.”
The sisters began releasing their videos after nearly three years of planning the material but the execution isn’t always seamless. Most of the time, bystanding New Yorkers are blindsided by their often guerilla style approach to filming pranks and skits.
“None of the people knew what was about to happen beforehand. We just went up in Starbukcs and did it,” says Kerry explaining their oft-ballsy decisions to arbitrarily shoot in various locations from cafes to the subway. “We didn’t have any permits, we didn’t ask permission because we didn’t want anybody to tell us no, so we got kicked out immediately after that.”
Kerry, who sites Eddy Murphy, Richard Prior, Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Carry as comedic influences, is on track to professionally emulating the icons before her. She is currently one of three finalists in the running for Saturday Night Live’s new Black female ensemble member following auditions held in light of backlash the show’s producers received (Kerry wrote about that for the Huffington Post) about its lack of diversity, triggered by by Keenan Thompson telling TV Guide that the powers that be couldn’t find Black women who were ready for the show (Note: He basically plays all the Black female characters).
If selected, Kerry begins taping with SNL at the top of the year. However, production companies have approached the Coddett Project too, so if Kerry isn’t chosen for that role of a lifetime, there are other open doors leading to the land of opportunity, and just in time.
“I don’t ever forget that I’m a woman or that I’m Black, so that is the lens in which I view the world but I’ve never really seen my sensibilities reflected. Often times we’re expected to look a certain way and act a certain way but I have a cartoon where I play a Jewish woman,” she says. “I like being able to push the boundaries and give people an idea that it’s not what Black women can look like or what women can look like. I’m just a funny, real person and it’s really about me being all the different characters that live in my head and all the different quirks that make me, me. All of that is just fun.”
Visit The Coddett Project for more information about Kerry and Krystal.