Amanda Seales Be Knowin’ Comedy
By Allie Waxman
The vocal comedian opens up about her unique tone, her connection to her Instagram audience, and driving social change.
HBO: Why start the special with the Instagram monologue?
Amanda Seales: It came to me in my sleep, to be honest. I knew that I wanted to do an introduction. I knew that I wanted it to be quick but effective. And I knew I wanted it to connect to my Instagram Story. It was trying to figure out what I could say that would also feel authentic to what I already do on my Instagram. People know me as being very honest and direct on my Instagram, so I literally woke up out of my sleep and was like, “Eureka!”
Because I know what kind of comedian I am, I know people will be like, “I can’t believe what she’s saying.” So I wanted to be like, “Before you even say that, this isn’t for you.”
HBO: How did you choose the topics you covered in the special? How much did you want to represent the larger conversation?
Amanda Seales: As a comic, first and foremost, you’re just like, “What’s the funniest sh*t I can say?” And then it becomes, “What is also smart and equally funny?” There are certain black colloquialisms that really pinpoint the time. You’ll be like, “Oh when she went ‘skirt-skirt,’ in ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ that was a Migos reference.” I don’t outwardly address 45 because I didn’t want him to taint my special, but I spoke to it by thinking back to [President] Obama. I give people points of reference, but don’t eliminate the special’s ability to be listened to at a later time.
HBO: How would you describe your stand-up to people who might be unfamiliar?
Amanda Seales: My stand-up approach is to make them learn while they’re laughing. That’s pretty much the goal. Even if I’m doing a story about dating it’s like, “Here’s a lesson I learned.” That lesson may not come until the last two lines, but I don’t want to waste my time on stage, and sometimes I feel that if I’m just being silly or if I’m just doing material about sex, it feels like a waste. I try to make a lesson out of everything, but do it in a way that is clandestine.
The biggest trick that they’ll tell you is that you need to appeal to multiple audiences. I’m like, no, you need to appeal to authenticity. Multiple audiences respect authenticity. Whether people watch to hate watch or to love watch, there are more people who appreciate a real presentation than there are that appreciate a presentation about them.
HBO: How can women in the entertainment continue to drive social change? Should the burden be on them?
Amanda Seales: It should definitely be on white women. There are a lot of white women who confuse diversity and inclusion. They mistake gender bias and the shortcomings they have to suffer with being discriminated against [based on] culture, ethnicity, etc. That’s where intersectionality comes in. You may have gender bias, but you’re still benefiting from white privilege. It’s an important distinction and I think the way it gets challenged is by white women understanding their role in not supporting problematic voices, and giving platforms to other ones.
In I Be Knowin’, Amanda explains the difference between Beckys and Hannahs.
Becky: A white woman; problematic.
Hannah: A woman who happens to be white; an ally.