Last night was my second Smart, Funny, and Black show at the legendary Apollo Theater. My first time attending the variety/comedy game show created and hosted by comedian/actress/author Amanda Seales (I Be Knowin’ and Insecure) was back in 2019, with Blacksperts Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down and Charles M. Blow op-ed columnist, journalist, and author of Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which was recently made into an opera at The Metropolitan Opera. I tried to get tickets to the first-ever all-Black opera cast, but I was better off making a payment on my credit card rather than charging more to it.
The 2019 show is when I bought my SFB hoodie. I rep Woke Fam, of course. We Read! Not to say that I wouldn’t also fit in with Rebel Fam (We fight!), Fly Fam (We Rep!), or Cultcha Fam (We Vibe!), but Woke Fam is definitely my tribe. It’s represented by an Egyptian holding a stack of books. This year, I was prepared. I rocked my SFB hoodie, even though a lot of people were happy to be out in these covid streets on a Friday night and were dressed to the nines. Not me. My camo leggings with double red tuxedo stripes, SFB hoodie, and red chucks would have to suffice.
Smart, Funny, and Black returned to the Apollo as part of the weeklong New York Comedy Festival. Last night’s Blacksperts were the hilarious Tituss Burgess (he can sang!) and Michelle Buteau. They both came onstage decked out in yellow. They said it was unplanned. Amanda Seales was backed by her band, The Clapbacks.
There were several rounds, and this year’s Blebate (Black debate) was as mind-bending as the one in 2019. Then, the Blacksperts had to defend whether Marvin Gaye or Whitney Houston’s versions of the Star-Spangled Banner was better. Both versions are iconic. If you’re unfamiliar, head over to YouTube and hold on to your edges. This year Tituss and Michelle had to debate whether collard greens or mac & cheese is the better staple at a Black dinner, specifically Thanksgiving. Michelle made a fair point that while you’ll at least try anybody’s mac & cheese, you won’t do the same with collard greens, and at least greens are a vegetable. That is the truth, Ruth!
In all my decades on this earth, nobody and I mean, nobody’s collard greens can match my uncle’s. His is so good that when he cooks, he splits with his sisters for their families. Everyone knows their strengths and stays in their lane. Tituss argued that collard greens aren’t worth a damn if they’re not made with some type of fatty meat. Also true, but in this day in age when most people are trying to go healthy, and Black people are the largest growing segment of vegans, I’m not sure that flew over too well.
In the end, even though Tituss made us cackle the most, Michelle Buteau was literally crowned the Master Blackspert with a crown and cape. Before that, interspersed throughout the show were singing and dance breaks including Tevin Campbell’s Can We Talk, SWV’s Weak, Maze and Frankie Beverly’s Before I Let Go–you know, the staples. I think this year’s show was funnier because there were two funny contestants. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself in 2019. Had I not, I would not have returned.
On a personal note, the two major differences and disappointments for me are that for this show Ticketmaster didn’t give the option for a printed ticket. Ever since the 90s, I’ve saved and collected my ticket stubs from live events as souvenirs. Upon checkout, I was sent an e-ticket. A screenshot is not as exciting as a paper ticket. Also, last time I attended with my now-ex. He was skeptical, but he had fun. We both got to see looser, funner sides to each other that only that type of environment could have provided. With him then and solo last night, I sang, I danced, I laughed. ‘Twas a good night, even though it ended with some disappointing garlic parmesan and lemon pepper wings from Wingstop. I’ve never attempted garlic parmesan, but my lemon pepper is far better. I’ve had time to perfect it during this quarantine. Getting out and laughing, though masked, was a welcome change from this quarantine.