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Hoffman Estates' Sherri Shepherd has gotten good at juggling careers
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff

Hoffman Estates native Sherri Shepherd stars as a divorced woman re-entering the dating scene in her new Lifetime sitcom.

 

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Published: 10/4/2009 12:06 AM

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Sherri Shepherd has come a long way from her days working behind the catalog returns desk at Sears in Woodfield Mall.

The Chicago native, who lived in Hoffman Estates for most of her childhood, now spends her mornings chiming in on "Hot Topics" as co-host of ABC's daytime talk show, "The View." But it's really only a small part of what this 42-year-old supermom has been doing these days.

Among the bigger projects, Shepherd has a new sitcom, "Sherri," which she says is 85 percent based on her life as a divorced mom re-entering the dating scene. It debuts at 7 p.m. Monday on Lifetime.

Her life is also the focus of a new comedy book, "Permission Slip: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break," due out the same day. And she co-stars in the movie "Precious," which isn't being released until November but is already getting Oscar buzz.

Besides all that, Shepherd's doing stand-up comedy shows around the country, working out at the gym like crazy (she's lost more than 30 pounds and strutted around in a bathing suit on "The View"), and raising her 4-year-old son as a single mother.

We talked to Shepherd about her working mother guilt, her memories of Hoffman Estates and the good advice she got from her "View" co-host, Joy Behar. Below is an edited version of the interview:

Q. What do you remember about your life in Hoffman Estates?

A. I remember moving boxes and trying to watch "Roots." I moved there in sixth grade, in the middle of the semester. At the time (in 1977), there were not many black people in Hoffman Estates. I think there were three black kids in my whole school, Churchill Elementary. It's where I encountered racism for the first time. But it's different now. When I come back to Hoffman Estates to visit girlfriends, it's just like Chicago. And when I go back for my high school reunions (at Hoffman Estates High School), I go back to being dorky Sherri.

Q. Did you hold any jobs while you lived here?

A. I was a candy striper at Northwestern Hospital, because that's where my dad worked. I loved people, I loved making the older people laugh. And I worked at Sears at Woodfield Mall in the catalog return department. My friend worked at Merry-Go-Round. I was so jealous.

Q. So, let me get this straight. "The View." A sitcom. A book. A stand-up comedy DVD. A movie. A young son. And you lost a lot of weight recently. How do you juggle it all?

A. It's like a dream come true. And if it's a dream, it's not really work. I keep thinking someone's going to pinch me and wake me up.

Q. What's the hardest part about being a single working mom?

A. The guilt. My son complained about his ear. He had an ear infection. And he called me and said, "Mommy, my ear hurts!" and I'm in the middle of doing a photo shoot for the show. I had to push that sad feeling down and keep smiling. I hope he'll look back and say mommy did the best she could to take care of me. I'm trying to do all of this and be there for my son. My dream is to provide for him and be there for him. To show him what a strong woman is. "The View," that's great hours for being a mom. That's what Elisabeth Hasselbeck told me. I drop (my son) off at preschool and make it to the table in time for "Hot Topics." And I'm done by 12, so I can go to my other jobs.

Q. Working at "The View," you must get a lot of fan mail and hate mail.

A. When I first started, I said (on the air) that I didn't know if the earth was round or flat. It was because I was nervous. And everyone criticized me. I love Joy (Behar), because she said, "As soon as you open your mouth, you lose half your audience. But that's OK. You have to be yourself." So I've learned to give myself permission to make a mistake. To not beat myself up.

Q. What do you like best about "Sherri" (the sitcom)? What do you think makes it unique?

A. It's a topic that happens a lot. Women will be able to relate to a lot of what I'm going through. They're single moms, single women and trying to navigate life. It's just plain funny. We need our friends to help us from doing crazy stuff.

Q. You're very funny, so I bet your son's funny, too.

A. My son is a ham. He'll have temper tantrums straight out in the middle of the floor. Once, he stopped the tantrum, had a grilled cheese, and then went back to the floor and finished his tantrum. His dad is a stand-up comic, too, so he's got silly from both of us. He likes to make the girls laugh, too. My son's a little player.

Q. Who do you think is funny?

A. My idol is Whoopi Goldberg. And I love Ellen DeGeneres. I went to see Russell Brand the other night and he was very funny, his social commentary.

Q. What's on the horizon for you?

A. I have a romantic comedy I'm pitching to the studios. A movie. It's based on the fact that there's a big epidemic of these older women and these younger men that are coming to us. I'd love to explore it a little bit further.