“There’s no way you two are just getting here, and y’all are in the FRONT ROW!?”
Amanda Seales paused as a couple walked down the aisle towards their seats, and the audience directed their attention to the young man and woman hustling their way to the stage.
As everyone broke out into laughter, Seales stood back while the late guests jokingly explained their tardiness which, no doubt, had something to do with Houston’s never-ending traffic.
“Well, I was going to end the show, but I guess I can do one more joke,” exhaled Seales before turning her attention to the cheering crowd.
Seales, known for her acting in shows like HBO’s Insecure and her 2019 comedy special I Be Knowin, returned to Houston Friday night with The Black Outside Again Tour. Seales has performed in the city before at famous venues like Warehouse Live but, given the many hats that she wears, what’s occurring at her shows can vary. Her acts can range from a straight comedy set to live game nights (Smart Funny & Black) to podcast taping. And no matter the show, Seales makes sure that the audience is heavily involved. The vocal entertainer is able to move back and forth between her stage performance and crowd work with ease. While the show a few years ago at Warehouse Live was her Smart Funny & Black game show, Seales, as the ringleader, came to the Bayou Music Center to joke about everything from the commercialization of Juneteenth to the emotional well-being of drug dealers. The city has left a lasting impression on the Californian native whose show referenced certain areas in a manner that showcased her familiarity with the town.
“I think the thing I love about Houston is it’s black as hell,” she laughed. “It’s not just that black people are there, it’s that it is just culturally black.”
Seales strikes a balance between speaking about serious cultural issues while injecting her own brand of relatable humor. Never one to shy away from certain topics, she hits topics head-on and brings her audience along for the ride. If people are displeased with her focus on the issues affecting her culture, her uplifting of the LGBTQ community, or really any of her opinions, she addressed it on stage with laughter. And while the show takes very heavy topics and treats them in a lighthearted way, her true mission is anything but trivial. At the close of her show, Seales invited two individuals up from the local community to speak about the individual work they do and how more people can be apart. Active engagement is something Seales feels strongly about, making sure that she reaches out to people working in the community at each of her tour stops.
“It’s imperative because when we say it takes a village it means it takes so many aspects of community work to actually build something. The two individuals that we had come on stage tonight do completely different work but both are essential to building community.”
For Christa Stoneham of the Houston Landbank, and Consetta and Q Jones of Free Minds Homeschooling, the chance to use the Seales platform is invaluable. The landbank is a community development corporation focused on low to moderate-income areas in the city of Houston and beyond to help stave off the effects of gentrification while Free Minds Homeschooling focuses on guiding parents through the process of personally educating their children.
“It is an honor and a blessing to be able to publicly share the work that we do, providing solutions for families building generational wealth, and building affordable housing solutions,” described Stoneham as she stepped off the stage after speaking about her organization. “Being able to share that with Houston is very much of an honor and privilege.”
“What she’s doing is just a beautiful thing, “explains Q Jones as he and his wife take a break after explaining their program at a booth set up at the merch table for the show. “She doesn’t have to do anything at this point in her career. She does not have to do it but the fact that she’s been around for so long and she’s using her platform in uplifting the community, that speaks volumes about her personality and her character commitment to the culture. It’s greatly appreciated.”
Seales’ name can sometimes be associated with contention (her Wikipedia page has a section dedicated solely to controversy) but a lot of it comes with the territory of being an outspoken entertainer. And while these moments tend to get a lot of attention given the nature of social media, Seales tends to take a lot of heat. Her stage show showcases her ability to connect with a crowd and highlights her passion for small businesses and building community.
“I don’t think things in this world are balanced but it’s part of my job on stage to find balance for the audience,” she says. “I believe we have to fight the power and fight for our joy with the same fervor. When we look at the complexity of life, the good and the bad are happening at the same time, and the bad wins when you forget the good parts.”