Amanda Seales' HBO Special 'I Be Knowin': A Guide To Being 'Smart, Funny & Black' [REVIEW]

January 30th 2019

Amanda Seales has been telling us for years that she's Smart, Funny & Black. Her touring comedic game show of the same name—which mixes African American history and social justice with games and jokes—has sold out across the country. On the heels of her third season as Tiffany Dubois on Issa Rae's hit HBO comedy series Insecure, Seales has debuted her comedy special on the premium channel: I Be Knowin'. And just like her famous Instagram stories, it's hilarious.

From skewering "fu*k boys" and street harassment to tackling workplace microaggressions, I Be Knowin' takes "it's funny because it's true!" to the next level. The intersections of Black progressive womanhood are on full display in her comedy, giving Black women a respite and the rest of the world a valuable lesson on what it means to be both Black and woman in America.

Seales seamlessly transitions from lighter fare—like the audible sigh your breasts make when you remove your bra the second you walk in the house; the struggle of having to hype yourself up to leave the house after 30; and only painting the toenails that are visible through your shoes when you’re in a hurry ("he's got to earn that pinky toe!") —to the heavy. She notes that the perceived confidence of Black gay men comes from a lifetime of battling the intersections of racism and homophobia. She illustrates the horror of being a Black woman walking home late at night and dealing with street harassment.

But beyond offering levity to the serious, she uses her jokes to educate, breaking down the difference between street harassment and a compliment. Fans of her IG stories will recognize her breakdown of the difference between white people and people who happen to be white—the latter being people who reject the socialized superiority of whiteness and instead use their white privilege to elevate the oppressed.

At an Amanda Seales comedy hour, you gon’ get these jokes and these lessons in social justice. And as attendees of her Smart, Funny & Black tour have discovered, you might finally learn all the words to the Negro National Anthem by the end of it, as well.

Of Grenadian and Black American descent, Seales also highlights Diasporic Blackness in her comedy, emphasizing that "No matter what type of Black person you are...every Black experience is a Black experience—unless you are anti-Black."

Because Seales understands the power of jokes, not only to validate Black people’s experiences, but also to help process and heal traumatic experiences. By educating with humor, Seales might help men think twice before approaching a woman on the street and making her feel unsafe; women who happen to be white might reconsider their workplace microaggressions and let Renita do her job in peace. That’s the positive power of her comedy.

Seales also understands that jokes that punch down at the marginalized can shape and bolster the thoughts of others and can lead to horrific actions.

That’s a refreshing change from a few notable Black comedians who have recently decried marginalized groups' "sensitivity" to homophobic and misogynistic “jokes.” Yet, those same comedians were unsurprisingly silent when 'Empire' star Jussie Smollett was the victim of an anti-gay, anti-Black attack by white MAGA supporters this week.

Though Kevin Hart posted support and love for Smollett on Instagram, he has yet to connect how his past “jokes” about beating his son to prevent him from being gay perpetuate and contribute to a homophobic culture that dehumanizes queer folk to the point where violence against them is a non-negotiable inevitability.

I Be Knowin’, on the other hand, is a masterclass in connecting the dots. And there’s nothing subtle about the way Seales does it. In her intro skit, she specifically says her comedy is “not for homophobes or transphobes.”

And she doesn’t end there:

“This is not for racists, rapists, sexists, misogynists…folks calling the cops on Black folks just living our lives,” she says.  Xenophobes aren’t welcomed, either. “You know that wall is some bullsh*t!” As for the “Trump voters” and “coons,” she says: "no laughs for them!"

And by saying so, Seales introduces a long-overdue cultural standard: it’s not the oppressed who should feel uncomfortable in comedy, it’s the oppressors.

Through her special, Seales reinforces what people in our community have always known: We can be smart, funny and Black —in community with each other, throughout the Diaspora — without being anti-gay, without being misogynistic, without being transphobic. We can be hilarious while elevating consciousness and advocating for progressive ideals. And if you can’t? Well, maybe you’re just not funny, and comedy is not for you.

"It's for my sistas," Seales says, answering the question of who her special is for.

We see you, sis; and we appreciate you.

READ MORE:

'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett Reportedly Hospitalized After Racist And Homophobic Attack By White MAGA Supporters

Kevin Hart Steps Down As Oscars Host After Refusing To Apologize For Anti-Gay Statements

SNL's False Update: Michael Che Claims No Black Comic Is Clean Enough To Host The Oscars In His Defense Of Kevin Hart

by Brooke Obie on January 30th 2019

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