I first experienced Amanda Seales live and in action during the early iteration of her game show, Smart Funny & Black at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. Since then, she has taken the popular game show on a multi-city tour.
Now, Seales is leveling up even higher with more content: HBO’s Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin’. Riffing on topics such as utilizing the pep talk before going out (when you really don’t want to) and reminiscing on Barack Obama’s presidential win as a salve to the dumpster fire administration we’re currently experiencing, Seales brings her observational comedy to formulate an interactive experience, with an aura similar to her game show.
After checking out an advanced screening of her special, I chatted with Seales on the phone about the show’s concept, the process of securing her special and what it means as a black woman in comedy, and the worst pickup line she’s ever heard. Oh, and I found out when her mixtape is coming out.
If you follow Seales on Instagram, you know she is routinely willing and ready to drop some knowledge, whether that’s to white folks who are ignorant about systemic racism or the men who uphold the toxicity of the patriarchy. That willingness inspired the title of her special, but the content comes from simple “life experience.”
Of course, comedians want as many eyes on their project as possible in general, but Seales was frank when it came to who she made her special for: black women.
“Understanding my audience and the fact that we just don’t get a lot of work and content that is specifically for us, specifically black women,” Seales mused, noting she is inspired by “being in a world as an aware black woman.”
Seales also recalled the process of landing this special, noting HBO came to check out a few of her shows.
“You know, anyone who knows me knows I’m just super direct,” she remarked. “And I can kind of play the game to a certain extent, but once I feel like we’re just kind of doing a dance, then I really just get to the bottom line, so eventually it just turned into me saying, ‘Are we doing this or no? Because I’ll just do it myself.’ And I really felt confident with the support I have with my audience to know that if I did it myself, it still would have been a milestone.”
That very show of confidence is when HBO got the message, and per Seales, they have been “very supportive” since hopping onboard with her. Additionally, Seales had a full circle-of-life moment, getting to shoot I Be Knowin’ in the same venue where she did Def Poetry Jam with legendary director and producer Stan Lathan, who is also involved in this special.
Seales ain’t lying when she said this special is for black women, as she ponders on the frustrating phenomenon known as street harassment. Thus, I asked her to tell us the worst pickup line she received recently.
It all began with a text.
“’Googly-eye’ emoji and ‘the man with the hand out’ emoji,” she said. “That was their way of picking me up. This was an actual football player in the National Football League, which is not surprising.”
Once you watch the special, you’ll quickly find the blackest moment that’ll have you feeling like you were in the audience, experiencing it all, live. Just remember these two things: Lift Every Voice and Sing and double-clap.
“All of the time, I really don’t give a damn about what people think,” Seales noted. “But with this work, it really does matter to me that it speaks to and on behalf of black women, in particular. And I hope that we as a community love it as much as I loved making it for us.”
So, with viral hits such as “You Got The Wrong One, Bitch,” I had to ask, “When is that mixtape coming out?”
Seales told me she actually does have a track listing she sent to her homeboy. “Mark my words, it will happen!” she exclaimed.
Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin’ debuts Saturday, January 26 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on HBO.