That Awkward Moment When... 'Awkward Black Girl' Blows Up

Filmmaker Issa Rae has built a cult following, with an Internet show that’s not just for colored girls. But it might be too hot for TV

Words: Clover Hope | Photo: Trevor Traynor

School yard rumbles are like boxing events for kids. Everyone gathers in a circle, eggs on the fighters and then walks away giddy to spread the gossip. In sixth grade, Issa Rae—the creator and star of the 1-year-old Web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl—spotted two boys arguing in the hallway of L.A.’s Palms Middle School. She’d never seen a fight before. Alone, and sensing an impending beat down, she did what any obnoxiously awkward kid would—walked up to them and stood there in silence. “They stopped and looked at me, like, ‘What are you doing…?’” Rae recalls. Tina Fey has competition. And she’s clearly just as socially inept.

Record-halting moments like this are the running theme on Awkward Black Girl, which stars Issa Rae as J, a deadpan employee at a weight-loss-pill company who’s somewhere between antisocialist and social assassin. With wide eyes and a mini-’fro, J looks nothing like the leads we see on whitewashed TV, another point of comfort for the show’s average 380,000 YouTube viewers. She’s prone to imagining absurd scenarios and coping with stress by penning ratchet rap lyrics (“I will slice you and dice you”), an exaggeration of 27-year-old Issa’s own quirks. “Even though J is Black, the things she goes through are universal. I can relate to Jerry Seinfeld’s pet peeves or Liz Lemon’s insecurities, but it bothers me that there aren’t people of color in those roles,” says Rae, who grew up in middle-class Windsor Hills, Los Angeles. “The awkward white girl is nothing new. It’s time for a change.”

While network TV struggles with just how much of its content to post online and still profit, dot-com shows have experienced an Adele-esque ascension. Internet TV hub hulu.com draws in 1.5 million subscribers, Google and YouTube are collaborating on quality programming meant to rival cable TV and parody-skit site Funny or Die is producing its first feature film. “One of our style technicians said, ‘Internet isn’t afraid of TV, but TV is afraid of Internet,’” says Issa. “Because they don’t know what to do with it. There are so many possibilities. And I don’t think it’s temporary.”

After sitting on the idea for two years, Issa started filming the voice-over-heavy Awkward Black Girl last year—along with production partner Tracy Oliver and a team of four writers—in the wake of odd gigs like being a tour guide for an African-American museum exhibit (“I was in the slave ship every day,” says Issa). “I was into film. And in that environment, you always have to go to networking events. I would end up not speaking to anyone. So I started thinking about how uncomfortable it is to interact with people,” says the Stanford alum. “I read an article in Clutch that asked where the Black Liz Lemon was. And I was like, I need to do this now before it’s too late.”


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Stream: Hulu's 'FYRE Fraud' Doc Examines The Festival That Scammed Thousands

In 2017, rumors of an exclusive festival taking place in the Bahamas took over social media. Organized by Billy McFarland and promoted by Ja Rule, the FYRE Festival was the new, cool kid on the festival block and quickly put other more seasoned festivals to shame.

But all that glitters isn't gold.

FYRE FRAUD, the new documentary streaming on Hulu, takes an intimate look at the scam that left thousands stranded on the island. Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, the dark-comedy interviews whistleblowers, victims, and the convicted con-man himself, McFarland.

In a press release, Fraust and Nason said the goal isn't to make light of those who were scammed.

"Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

"We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor - but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant - to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole."

FYRE FRAUD is now streaming on Hulu.



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Dave Chappelle Isn't Sure His R. Kelly 'Chappelle Show' Skits Were Insensitive

The Surviving R. Kelly series may be over, but the fallout from it has seemingly just begun.

Director dream hampton took to Twitter during the airing of the Lifetime documentary and spoke honestly about the several celebrity men she contacted in hopes they'd speak on camera about R. Kelly and the years of sexual allegations that have shadowed him. Among them was Dave Chappelle.

The beloved comic famously made a music video entitled "Piss On You" mocking the real-life video of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. During the Chappelle Show heyday, he used R.Kelly's legal woes as material for years.

TMZ caught with Chappelle in West Hollywood and asked him if he regretted not being featured in hampton's series and instead he dodged the question.

"Jesus Christ, I just had dinner," Chappelle said in between taking a drag of his cigarette. "I just ate. Strop bringing that motherf**ker up."

When pressed about whether or not he thinks his old skits were insensitive, the 45-year-old said "I don't know. I'd have to watch it again."

D.L. Hughley joined Chappelle for dinner and commented on R.Kelly and the forthcoming Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, which outlines sexual assault allegations against the late singer.

"If you can be mad at R. Kelly, you should be mad at Michael Jackson," Hughley said.


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Andre 3000 Stars In New Space Thriller 'High Life'

A new space thriller is coming to theaters this year. Andre 3000 will star in the new film alongside Twilight's Robert Pattinson in High Life, and the first trailer looks pretty intense.

The feature focuses on a group of criminals who are coerced into a mission to travel towards a black hole to find an alternate energy source. They are also forced to undergo sexual experiments while in outer space. The 2-minute preview features Pattinson and Andre 3000 as they struggle to survive on the spaceship.

High Life originally premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Sept. 2018. It received positive reviews from numerous film critics.

"High Life is as visually arresting as it is challenging, confounding, and ultimately rewarding - which is to say it's everything film fans expect from director Claire Denis," Rotten Tomatoes said of the film.

The film is written and directed by Claire Denis. High Life will hit theaters on Apr. 12. Watch the new trailer in the video above.

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