Amanda Seales is a jane-of-all-trades. From her early start as an actress on My Brother and Me to her most recent stints as a VH1 and MTV correspondent, the actress-turned-singer-turned-comedian is leaving her carbon footprint all over the entertainment industry. Seales’ latest venture mixes comedy with something everyone has experienced: relationships.
Seales’ one-woman show, It’s Complicated: Hilarical Answers to Serious Questions About Love, premieres next week at the New York Comedy Festival, and The Root got a chance to discuss the show and Seales’ take on black women in comedy.
The Root: Tell us about It’s Complicated: Hilarical Answers to Serious Questions About Love.
Amanda Seales: The new show is part of a shift that I made in my career a few years ago. A lot of people know me as a host, from the sitcom My Brother and Me and Def Poetry Jam. I’ve been an MTV veejay and hosting on VH1 for years. During that time, a lot of people didn’t know I was a full-on creative. They just saw me reading a prompter. That began to bother me, and I felt that I misrepresented myself as a full artist. I felt that it was time to start creating work to push my agenda.
As black women, we have to create our own avenues for performance because there aren’t a lot of people telling our stories. So I started creating these one-woman shows annually. The first one was Death of a Diva, which was about my frustrations as a black woman in a business where reality TV took the image of a strong black woman and destroyed it. Death of a Diva used characters and narrative to talk about how that change affects women.
For my next show, I decided I wanted to do a show that was a bit more fun, and maybe not as serious. Even though Death of a Diva at its core was a comedy, it also discussed strong social issues. I decided to do something not in a theater but in a comedy club, and something a lot more accessible and more fun. It’s Complicated: Hilarical Answers to Serious Questions About Love is an interactive comedy show about love, finding it and losing it, and not sucking at it. It’s something that a lot of us can relate to. Now, a year later, it’s at the New York Comedy Festival.
TR: Is the show based on your own experiences, or stories from other people?
AS: It’s a bit of both. Listen, I came up in hip-hop in my 20s. I’ve had my share of ridiculous situations. I’ve dated rappers; the stories are endless. There’s a lot of wisdom and anecdotes that happen in the show. There are stories about different people’s experiences.
The show isn’t just me standing there telling jokes; it’s done through different segments. I have some characters, some interactive stuff where we bring people up from the audience. We have questions that are placed in the audience. Someone will have a question and I’ll have a comedic response. Every show is different because there is always a new audience and new questions.
TR: How was the show selected for the New York Comedy Festival?
AS: I did this show at the Stand last year, and it did really well thanks to word of mouth and journalists supporting the show. The Stand is partnered with the comedy festival as a venue, and they suggested it to the festival. You really just have to do what you believe in and build relationships. When you create quality work, it’s never in [a] vacuum.
TR: In the world of comedy, do you think black women are well-represented?
AS: I think there are definitely a bevy of talented black women, but I don’t think we are well-represented. You don’t see us on the big platforms as you see other women, especially men. Comedy at the end of the day is still a male-run business.
When it comes down to it, you don’t see black women comics with their own shows or movies. You don’t see them making the quantum leap from [Saturday Night Live]. It’s important to pay attention to this and to create those spaces. We have to be funny because we’re going through the most. There’s so much space and there’s a void and desire. It’s time for us to write and create our own stuff.
TR: Besides It’s Complicated, what else are you working on?
AS: We are working to take this show on tour and develop it into something even bigger. I also have my Web series, Things I Learned This Week, that you can check out at amandaseales.com. I also currently have a series on BET.com called Funny Style, where we give love to the flyest sisters every week.
In the realm of live shows, last year I did a show called Mo-Betta Wu, where we took Wu-Tang records and turned them into jazz. Many of my projects are viewable on my website, and you can be part of the growth and see it from the beginning. There’s a lot going on because it has to be. We have to create our own stuff.
TR: Where can we catch It’s Complicated?
AS: The show is Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Stand comedy club in New York City on Third Avenue between 20th and 19th streets. Call your girls, come on out. You can get your tickets [here]. Most importantly, we have to support each other’s work. Especially in the black community, we’re always like, “There’s nothing for us, I’m not seeing anything for us,” but we don’t support the stuff when it comes out.
I do a monthly comedy show with Marc Lamont Hill every last Sunday of the month at the Stand at 8 p.m. It’s supposed to be a show where you can come and see funny, smart, black comics. However, so often our front row is filled with white people. They got there on time because they want to see what these black folks are doing.
We have to show people that we make money. We have to show our presence and support that we want this type of work. We can’t just say it to our homegirls. We have to get the word out and share. You have to say it to the person to your left and right.
For more information about Amanda Seales and her upcoming projects, check out her website.