by Ryan Meehan
Amanda Seales, a comedian, screenwriter, producer/director, host, DJ, singer, and more, is a multifaceted unicorn that brings the intellectualism to talkin’ sh%#! Full of energy and wit she revels in finding the funny in social commentary, pop culture and current events, and sharing the hilarious stories that seem to happen only to her! Along with performing stand-up across the country, this funny girl has been featured on VH1’s “Best Week Ever”, is a former MTV VJ, is a regular contributor to Huffpost Live, Al-Jazeera America, HLN and an appearance on CNN went viral when armed with intelligence, wit, and now famous facial expressions, she deftly took down a sexist defender of catcalling. Her interactive one woman show It’s Complicated: Hilarical Answers to Serious Questions on Love featured in the NY Comedy Festival ’14, she has been trained in sketch writing at UCB Theater, was a semi-finalist in the NBC Stand Up Diversity and alongside pundit Marc Lamont Hill created and hosts the monthly comedy show Smart Funny and Black at The Stand. She also created, writes, and hosts the weekly web series’ “Things I Learned this Week” (TILthisweek.com) & “Funny Style” (Bet.com)and several one woman shows including the musical/comedy Mo Betta Wu: Jazz from the 36 Chambers and Death of the Diva. She is dangerously on the fringe of becoming a crazy cat lady, and she’s my guest today in today’s edition of 10 questions.
RM: Who was the first comedic personality that you took an extreme liking to, and what was it about their comedy that allowed you to envision yourself engaging in the same practice of humor?
AS: I would say, Seinfeld. I was OBSESSED with Seinfeld growing up. Carried around his book, Seinlanguage like a bible. I think my attraction was that he was able to make the everyday things that I would notice, into actually interesting hilarious observations and that was really smart and genius to me.
RM: What was the most satisfying compliment that you received after your appearance on CNN? What was it about that particular item of praise that made you feel so good about what your appearance meant to that individual?
AS: The most satisfying compliment was just how many women from all walks of life felt inspired and empowered by my reactions and responses. It’s one thing when you really think something out, and you prepare it and you give it to the world and you get praise. But when you’re just being yourself on a Saturday morning and that inspires people, it is really moving and gratifying and encouraging to just keep on doing you.
RM: What would you say is probably the biggest difference between being a feminist now as opposed to being a feminist thirty years ago during the Reagan era?
AS: I’m honestly not as versed as I would like to be on that topic, because as a black woman I never really felt a part of the mainstream feminist movement. I will say I think now there is a lot more attention paid to sexual freedom and how we represent ourselves and our bodies, more than just the pursuance of rights and equal opportunity in the workplace per se.
RM: You are a pretty avid Twitter user, and from what I’ve gathered it seems as if you primarily use that website as a means to interact with other users…Do you ever use that medium to tweet out jokes that you may later use on stage; and if so do you ever gauge which jokes to use based on the amount of retweets and favorite that a certain joke has received?
AS: Rarely do I intend to use it at as that medium, but ever so often it ends up that way and I’m like “Oh shit! Use it!”
RM: How do you go about making “Things I Learned This Week” different from all of the other weekly web news wrap-ups floating around on YouTube these days?
AS: 1. We are speaking specifically to a black audience between 18-36. Anyone of course can watch and laugh and learn, but that is our target audience which is an audience few use intellect and humor to speak to. People think they are only interested in loud and silly shit. 2. We combine sketch comedy and commentary and also combine hard news and pop culture, which I haven’t seen done on the web. 3. We have a unique point of view that is not only smart and hilarious it is genuine, informed, and objective.
RM: What is the biggest difference between writing material for a one woman show as opposed to writing jokes for your stand-up act? Do you find one to be easier than the other?
AS: Writing for a one woman show is easier because for me I have a clear framework to write in and the thesis is there to always go back to as a guide. Writing jokes is like the wild wild west. (laughs) It’s a free for all and the skimming process on what works usually involves failing in front of an audience, which is a lot more difficult than just plugging something into the established framework of a show where you can quickly see “Oh, OK this doesn’t work”.
RM: How would you best describe the show “Mo Betta Wu: Jazz from the 36 Chambers”? Have you ever had the good fortune of meeting any of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan?
AS: I’ve interviewed all of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan at least twice and have always been a Wu-Tang fan of not only their music but the sub culture they created around their brand. “Mo Betta Wu” came about just sitting on my couch one night and I started singing C.R.E.A.M. as a jazz tune. I put it on Instagram and folks we like, Yoooooo do that!! I linked up with piano virtuoso Kris Bowers and everything musically fell into place. I perform the songs on stage with a 4 piece jazz band, in character, as a 61 year old woman named Killandra Bee. It s hella funny, but the music is no laughing matter which creates a perfect balance.
RM: When you see yourself on television or watch a video clip of yourself performing, what is the first thing that you look for with regards to critiquing yourself? Is how you respond to that self-critique something that has changed since you first started doing stand-up?
AS: Let me just point out that these are FANTASTIC questions. Literally, top 3 best interviews I’ve ever done. (laughs) But to answer your question, I think the first thing I look for is the rhythm of the joke. Is it flowing naturally, or are certain parts throwing it off or dampening its dynamics? I’m still new to stand up so that’s been the same for a while but at first I wasn’t critiquing as much I was just excited to see proof that I was actually doing it AND WELL!
RM: What is the most bizarre thing that has happened to you in all of your years doing stand-up comedy? In retrospect, do you think that if it you could do it all over again you would have handled that situation in a different manner? If so, why?
AS: I wouldn’t say anything particularly bizarre has happened, but one time a dude literally answered his phone and was having a conversation at regular volume while a comic was on stage at a show I was hosting. When I got on stage I asked him to take the call outside and he went BAT SHIT crazy saying, “I paid my money I can do what I want!” and other nonsense. Hecklers always crack me up though because they never seem to grasp two realities that ensure their defeat: 1) I’m wittier than you, that’s why I’m on this stage, and 2) I’M LOUDER THAN YOU! I HAVE THE MIC!
RM: Which aspect of the writing process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which part of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
AS: I’m not good at writing punch lines. However, I am good at coming up with them on the fly. That’s why stage time and conversation is so important. To me the jokes should feel effortless and like they’re being said for the first time, so it’s only natural that I come up with them when I’m in organic conversation. The energy of an audience whether one or 100 people makes my brain move rapidly and creatively in a way that writing in solitude doesn’t. I’d consider my specialty being able to make take something serious and find the funny. Conversely, I get bored talking about the mundane and still work to get my Seinfeld on and give the basic, hilarious complexity, as I don’t want my sets to always just be about race, sexism, and my wack ass relationships! (laughs)
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AS: I’m working on an Amanda Seales Theater Festival for Labor Day weekend, Sept 4,5, & 6 at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in NYC. 3 Days, 3 Shows, one woman: It’s Complicated, Mo Betta Wu, and Death of the Diva. It’s gonna be a challenge, but creatively it’s so exciting to be able to showcase my work, that I’m so proud of, all in one place! I also am in my second year of doing, “Smart, Funny, & Black” my monthly show with partner Marc Lamont Hill at The Stand lastly I also continue to write and host my web series’ “Funny Style” on BET.com and TIL This Week on Kollide.com and host and contribute on various networks.
Official Website: http://amandaseales.com/
Amanda on Youtube: http://youtube/amandaseales
Amanda on Twitter: http://twitter.com/amandaseales
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.