It’s hard to laugh these days. There is so much frustration, anger and grief in our country right now, and for good reason. But as dark as these days are, the silver lining is that we are all finally showing up. It’s inspiring to see so many people in our country coming together to declare in the streets, on social media and to their family and friends what should be obvious: Black Lives Matter. I even saw a “Karens for BLM” poster at a protest. I never thought I’d say this, but, Good on you, Karen. GOOD ON YOU, GIRL.
For those of us who are white, like myself, there is a call to do a deep dive into educating ourselves about systematic racism and the white privilege that we all undoubtedly have. There are books to read (White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo) and films to watch (13th) and essays to digest (The 1619 Project). In short, there is work to be done.
But one thing I’ve heard many times over the past few days is, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Burnout is real, and we have to be dedicated to this cause long term. So that being said, you might need to add some laughter into the mix while you amplify black voices in your ear. And because the comedians on this list are such astute, talented voices, you don’t have to stop learning while you laugh.
AMANDA SEALES: I BE KNOWIN’ (HBONOW/HBOMAX)
What can’t Amanda Seales do? She’s a comedian, actress (hey, Insecure), recording artist, poet… the list goes on. Basically, she’s a shining star who’s shining bright at the moment, so shield your eyes from her glow and watch her special!
I Be Knowin’ is a fountain of truth that is made bubbly-bright by Seales’ animated and joyful delivery. She brings an unapologetic, feminist perspective to every subject she tackles, race included. This special touches on everything from how Harriet Tubman must not have looked “happy” enough to earn a spot on a twenty to witnessing a group of “woke” white people realize that The Negro National Anthem (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) is a thing. Her impression of a white person trying to sing along without knowing what the hell is happening is perfection. Side note: I’m that bitch who didn’t know this anthem existed. Thanks to Amanda Seales, now I do.
CHRIS ROCK: TAMBORINE (Netflix)
If you want a comedian who’s going to jump headfirst into the subject of police brutality, look no further than Chris Rock’s Tamborine. Rock is clearly at the point in his career where he doesn’t need to do much sugarcoating, and sugarcoat he does not. His opening line is, “You would think the cops would occasionally shoot a white kid, just to make it look good.” And he goes on to say that in an equal world, we’d hear people demanding “Justice for Chad” every once in a while. This is all in the first five minutes.
A clip from this set referring to bad cops as “bad apples” has been circulating social media channels for the last few days, but watch Tamborine in full and you’ll see that Rock has quite a bit of material on this subject and it’s all steeped in truth. He’s a master at generating laughs from painful places, and he continues to do so in the second half, when he candidly addresses his divorce.
MICHAEL CHE: MATTERS (Netflix)
Used to seeing Michael Che on SNL’s Weekend Update, I have to admit that I had never seen his standup until I watched Matters. I knew he was super talented already, so it’s no surprise that his 2016 special was a knockout. I know 2016 wasn’t that long ago, but his observations of societal bullshit are so fresh that I had to double check the year.
Matters gets it’s name from Che’s observation that “Black Lives Matter” is a controversial statement when in reality, “matters” is the most mild expression that could’ve been used. Who argues with “matters?” Also, he has the best analogy for “All Lives Matter” retorts that I’ve heard yet….no, I’m not going to tell you, go watch it!
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: SUSPICIOUSLY LARGE WOMAN (Amazon)
This one is on here for the joy of it all. It’s Ladyspike after all, and if there is a queen to showcase, we shall SHOWCASE HER. Not that Bob needs it, of course. She’s already gone and won RuPaul’s Drag Race (no big deal). But this comedy special is so fun and glorious. I mean, watching this queen get carried to the stage in a golden throne was already enough for me, and that was just the beginning.
In Suspiciously Large Woman, Bob isn’t shy about anything at all. From race and black names, to what bottoms eat on a date, nothing is off limits. However, my favorite parts of the show were Bob’s eye for celebrity shadiness, notably citing Beyonce and Hilary Clinton as examples, and death-dropping when appropriate. Watch this just to celebrate a brilliant black, queer voice who isn’t just a voice, but a creation worth admiring.