Smart, Funny, and Black, the brainchild of multihyphenate Amanda Seales, has such appeal that it makes you wish there was a Black network that would make this into a staple series.
|Venue||The Bell House|
|Venue Address||Brooklyn, NY|
|Genre(s)||Game Show, Edutainment, Cultural|
|Good If You Like||Game Shows
|Total Time||1 Hour and 15 Minutes|
|Contestant (Winner)||Franchesca Ramsey|
The Bell House is, by no means, a large venue. It seemingly is former, small, warehouse converted into an entertainment venue. You will be carded, so bring ID, and know the security people are nice. As for the rest of the venue? There are around 3 bars, at least two bathrooms for men, women, and those who don’t do the binary (Before you enter the stage area and in the back of the stage area), and seating is – basic. The performance area doesn’t have theater seating but metal foldable chairs, with no padding.
As for parking? I personally parked around 3:15 PM-ish, and you’ll find a few spots on 11th, 12th, and north towards the venue, off 2nd avenue. Also, 2nd avenue has quite a bit of parking – all free by the way. There are also paid parking lots but we don’t got the budget for all that.
One of the first dings for any performance is when they say doors open at this time, show starts at this time, and between no communication or delays, you feel lied to. With Smart, Funny, and Black, doors were supposed to open at 4 PM and they opened at 4 PM. The show was supposed to begin at 4:30 and it began at 4:41. Not bad considering most acts take far longer. Whether they have an opening act or not.
Now, first things first, The Clapbacks, Amanda Seales’ band, are such an asset it makes you wonder why more comedians don’t have them. Not for a rimshot, but because Seales, if you follow her Instagram, is the type to break into song. Something that happens often and The Clapbacks are ready for any and all moments, ready to play you the hits.
As for Amanda, she starts off as her own opening act. She does a small set before introducing Michelle Buteau and Franchesca Ramsey. Michelle reps the Fly Fam and as for Franchesca? It was cultcha fam. And once they announced who their people were, the fun began.
- Blashtags (Black Hashtages)
As has become quite clear, Black Twitter is known to take a meme or story, slap a hashtag and make that go viral. In honor of that, Buteau and Ramsey were quests with making hashtags from Solange’s Wedding Photo, when Whitley left Byron at the altar, as well as a photo of when Bill Cosby gave away Phylicia Rashad at her wedding.
Being that Buteau is a stand-up, she was able to quickly take this one.
- Gather Them
Venting about public figures, and those whose 15 minutes of fame is due to infamy, is a social media past time. So, the two contestants were tasked with reading, insulting, and essentially gathering the likes of Omarosa and others. A task which seemed harder than it should be since neither on stage are seemingly about that life. While being a stand up helped greatly for Buteau in round 1, Ramsey’s career in writing for political comedy gave her an edge and also the win.
- Blebate (Black Debates)
Two Black figures are presented and in two rounds, with a final statement, you have to rep your person and defend them from the other. In this game, Ramsey represented How To Get Away With Murder’s Annalise Keating and Buteau had Scandal’s Olivia Pope. The debate was of epic proportions and this was perhaps the moment it became clear this needs to be an actual show. Considering how Wild n’ Out has largely taken urban/ hip-hop culture and made it a 13+ year program, needless to say, Smart, Funny, and Black deserves the same attention and security.
That thought aside, Ramsey continued to make you think she belonged in Woke Fam as she broke down Olivia to her stiletto heels. Not to imply Buteau didn’t fight back, but once more, being part of the political arena gave Ramsey an edge that Buteau couldn’t beat. Even if her jokes distracted you from Ramsey’s facts.
- Black Facts
Perfect transition – The next to last game is simple: Seales provides you with information about a topic, in this game’s case, she hints the name of a specific pop culture icon and you have to guess the person’s. From what it seemed, you were supposed to say their government name but, strangely, Ramsey and Buteau were allowed to give their commercial name. Meanwhile, to setup jokes, Seales provided their government name. Which isn’t the only odd thing about this game. Also, the contestants had to make their own buzzer noises.
Ramsey kept it simple with a “Yow” but Buteau made her’s “Titties.” Yes, Buteau was a mess all throughout the games and I appreciated each and every joke she did. And thanks to this game leaning a bit more to Buteau’s favor, we ended up tied.
Also, someone almost ended up kicked out. For despite the precautions Seales put in place by giving the audience the opportunity to sing, dance, yell out, and even do the electric slide, someone still found the nerve and energy to yell out an answer. Something I should note, Seales specifically told people not to do or, if you just can’t help yourself – whisper! However, someone decided to yell out, got offended when Seales got pissed and addressed them and, let’s just say, everyone was having a good ass time and that one person created the sole blemish of the afternoon.
Yet, once again, our host seemed to know, from her stand up career, how to handle hecklers and the likes. So the situation got shut down without security, or anything like that, getting involved.
- The Final Blackstination
With the show focusing on the past and present of Black culture, this portion is about the future. For this Smart, Funny, and Black, the topic was about three things each Blackspert (Black expert) would send off to Mars. For Buteau, she covered health care for keloids, Oxtails, some kind of oil (bad handwriting can’t decipher) and Black programming. Fran’s choices were Coconut oil, a switch (to beat bad kids and men), and satin pillows.
Despite there being a conversation about how the audience would choose who won, which is how the rounds were handled, this wasn’t done for game 5. Seales chose the winner as Ramsey and there were no qualms. She started off rough but once she got the hang of the game, she challenged Buteau’s standup experience with her late-night TV/ comedy writing experience and won.
“What Ghetto means is innovation.”
— Amanda Seales
“I’ll block a motherfucker in person.”
— Amanda Seales
Our Host – Amanda Seales and The Clapbacks
Knowing your audience is such an important thing. Something which Seales proves she does for she lays out how she planned to make Black culture into something which can be educational and entertaining. She first coordinates things by picking two contestants whose chemistry allows them to play off one another. By having sing-a-longs, having the audience do the electric slide, and participating in who wins a round, she keeps you attentive, all the while The Clapbacks provide the music and enhance jokes. And let me add, with the way these three dudes play, it kind of makes you wonder if they do stuff outside of this.
Refocusing on Seales, there are two main takeaways I got to note. First, she knew when to put herself front and center, when to partner up with a contestant, as well as just sit back and let the people she invited do their thing. I highlight this for it shows, as much as this is her baby, it is one she genuinely wants to share with you and the people invited. This isn’t the Amanda Seales show, it’s not about her finding a lane to further her career or anything like that. It truly feels like filling a niche the community needs and her making everyone feel they are part of the show and has a role to play.
The second takeaway is that, you do not f*** with the vibe. For those who follow Amanda Seales on Instagram (@amandaseales), you know, as Erykah Badu said, she is an artist and she is sensitive about her shit. Also, she is meticulous as hell since she takes anything with her name on it seriously. Hence why she was fairly on time getting to the stage, has everything set up so that you don’t get antsy or bored, and also states very few rules you could break. So how she handled the person who called out, it has to be applauded. Yes, she went in, gathered that person, if you will, which could have turned out bad. However, she didn’t harp or make a running gag out of it. The person was addressed once, twice, and we all moved on. Since, while the people on stage may not have been part of “Rebel Fam,” I’m sure some in the audience were and could/ would have handled that.
Competitive, But Friendly
Like most people, if I’m going to see something live, the main reason is because who is in it. Which, to a certain degree, Seales revealed on Instagram. However, one thing she was not doing was pointing out who is coming to which show and all that. Instead, she asked of her audience to trust her. Which, honestly is trust you should freely give. For while Ramsey and Buteau are an odd pairing, Buteau is someone who shows herself as willing to share the stage. Between her and Seales, they made the clearly anxious and uncomfortable Ramsey break out of her shell. Leading to her eventually victory once she realized, oh I may not be good at some of these games, but these games are made where, if you are adaptable, you can find a lane to win them.
Through Smart, Funny, and Black YouTube Page and the Instagram, you can check out the various games used and let me just say, Seales is a genius. As noted below, while the games appear simple, she has given them meaning and complexity. The kind which makes you think this started as a board game she came up with to entertain herself and expanded on to create a live and interactive format. Each game makes it where, even if this isn’t your lane, like pop culture references, knowing memes, and stuff like that, it doesn’t mean you are SOL. Ramsey made it clear that some of the stuff that popped up she didn’t know was a thing but effort led to winning results.
And speaking on one of the games, how can you not love Black debates? Imagine what could be done with that. For this show, it was Scandal vs. How To Get Away With Murder. Imagine Malcolm X v. Martin Luther King Jr. How about, Michael Jackson v. Prince? If not Kamala Harris v. Cory Booker? As shown, depending who is on stage, this can get dead-ass serious or remain light, fun, and still educational. Which is the point of Smart, Funny, and Black – raising the level of how different facets of Black culture are taken and analyzed in an academic way. By breaking down characters and stories, as seen with this Olivia v. Annalise debate; showing through “Black Facts” how code-switching and adapting begins just by making a catchy name for your career; taking note how hashtags have started movements in a multitude of ways; as well as looking into the future and seriously, and also in a comedic way, thinking what life could be like on Mars, in 2050, or if this event or that event happened.
Overall: Positive (See Live) – Recommended
This is the type of program you can imagine franchised. Smart, Funny, and Latnix; Smart, Funny, and Gay; among many other different alterations. For what Seales presents to us is something which hones in on Black culture, but could easily be a social gathering for any culture. Also, thanks to her experience hosting other events, you can see her handle a crowd which can be rowdy, in a positive and rarely negative way, as well as deal with diversity. For just with her contestants, Buteau was comfortable from the get-go and throughout the whole thing was cracking jokes. Ramsey, on the other hand, unscripted, relied on Seales a bit more to get comfortable. Also, Buteau maybe sensing she was feeling awkward, also made sure to support her. To the point she got so comfortable she beat her.
Leading to why this is being labeled positive, alongside recommended. It is the type of experience you’ll want to repeat. More than likely, Seales doesn’t repeat the games or questions, and as shown by the videos on her YouTube channel, the people don’t repeat either. So, that means a new experience each time with the only constants being the irreplaceable Seales and her Clapbacks. Who, together, create what feels like a family game night. One you would be remiss to not experience.
Head to: https://smartfunnyandblack.com to try to get the few remaining tickets on this nearly sold out tour.