Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) is a divorced mother of two attending Greendale Community College on "Community." During the first season she is bitter about her ex husband's affair and projects her feelings onto others in an attempt to hide her problems. When Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) begins dating a teacher, Shirley assumes that Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) must feel hurt and betrayed by this and attempts to vandalize the teacher's property. During the second season, Shirley reunites with her husband and believes he can change and they can be a family again.
Shirley is very proud of her two boys. At Greendale's Family Day, they meet Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi)'s cousin, who wears a burqa for religious reasons. When Abed's father refuses to let her play in the bouncy castle, Shirley's boys hide in her burqa while she goes to play. Afterward, Abed tells Shirley that it was their idea to help his cousin, and that they are good boys.
Shirley is also a very religious Christian. She is surprised to find out that there are many different religious beliefs in the study group, including Judaism, Islam, Jehova's Witness, and even a "Buddhist" cult. While she attempts to remain tolerant, she is still somewhat oblivious, putting a Menorah on the Christmas tree for a decoration and attempting to secretly baptize Jewish student Annie Edison (Alison Brie).
Shirley once had a problem with alcohol and is furious when the rest of the study group finds out, despite the fact that they like her more because of it. She also wears ambiguous costumes to Halloween parties and bonds with Señor Chang (Ken Jeong) when he recognizes her as Glenda the Good Witch, not Miss Piggy, and she recognizes him as Peggy Fleming, not Michelle Kwan. The two have a one night stand shortly before Shirley gets back together with her ex-husband. She later discovers that she is pregnant, unsure of whether the baby is Chang's or her husband's.
"Did you just scripture me, Muslim?"
"I believe that fusing brownies with the Internet is going to create the next Napster for brownies."