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Tired of 'explaining blackness,' comedian Amanda Seales gives us 'I Be Knowin' '

The "Insecure" actress makes her HBO stand-up debut Saturday. 

Amanda Seales' debut stand-up special airs on HBO

Amanda Seales' debut stand-up special airs on HBO on Saturday.  Photo Credit: HBO / Craig Blankenhorn

Amanda Seales says her first-ever HBO comedy show isn’t for the Trump supporters, the racists, homophobes, xenophobes or people who take their shoes and socks off on planes. “No laughs for them,” the comedian quips at the start of her special, “I Be Knowin’.”

“This is a special for black women. Anyone else who enjoys it is more than welcome to, but I made this distinctly from a place of wanting to have a voice for black women,” the comedian says at HBO’s offices Tuesday as she finishes a yogurt.

Seales, donning a flower-printed Gucci jogger, is known best for her role opposite Issa Rae in “Insecure.” But that’s all about to change. 

With her debut solo special, the comedian says she’s culminated material 37 years in the making about growing up a black woman in America surrounded by people who question her culture. “There are people watching this that just found out there’s a Negro National Anthem,” she says during her set taped at Edison Ballroom on 47th Street.

In “I Be Knowin’,” she captivates her audience as she jumps from topics heavy and light, like the New York City dating experience. But the most important angle here remains African American history.

With a master's degree from Columbia University in African American studies, Seales is using her comedy platform to empower young women who’ve grown up having to “explain their blackness.”

“I mean, you cannot imagine how irritating it is to constantly have to explain blackness to folks who’ve never had to consider it,” she says. “If you’re a black person that’s been trying to access any level of ascension, you’ve had to learn how to operate within white supremacist spaces, corporate spaces that even if now we’re allowed to be a part of, they were founded by predominantly straight white men.”

Hoping her stand-up platform helps combat negative images she says have been projected by the media, Seales stresses it’s no one’s responsibility to explain their culture: “It’s your choice.”

Throughout the 60-minute set, she welcomes rolling laughs at her take on the “levels of blackness” and art of complimenting others without saying a word. She engages with fans who jump up in confirmation at her punchlines and join in on a singalong to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“I was like, oh, we’re in church?” she jokes. “The audience was here in ways I just didn’t anticipate.”

Seales, who lived in Sugar Hill for 12 years, searches for words to express how she feels seeing her name headlining a stand-up special for a network that’s hosted the likes of Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer. “I can’t deal. Like, I can’t deal,” she says.

“New York City is like my abusive ex-boyfriend, so it’s basically like coming back and him being my butler. It feels very receptive,” she adds. The comedian spent a little over a decade in the city trying to kick-start her career after graduating from SUNY Purchase before moving to Los Angeles in 2015.

“It really is true; if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. And I didn’t make it here,” she says.

Considering herself a New Yorker for life, Seales says she chose to return to Manhattan for her first live, pretaped stand-up special because it’s where she experienced that "grind." “This is where I found my legs, my sea legs. This is where I grew up and so much of my stories and experiences are from here.

“To be honest, I feel like I’m going to do another stand-up special here because I haven’t even touched on my New York stories. I could do New York stories all day long,” she says. 

ON TV: "I Be Knowin'" airs Saturday at 10 p.m. on HBO Go and HBO Now.

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