Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Before she jumps to TV, see Issa Rae play an Awkward Black Girl

Illustration for article titled Before she jumps to TV, see Issa Rae play an Awkward Black Girl

In early October, 27-year-old filmmaker and Internet star Issa Rae made headlines when she (with an assist from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes) sold the pilot I Hate LA Dudes to ABC. Yet with all the work that accompanies preparing a network-television pilot, Rae has still had the time to increase her workload on the project that helped her secure that deal: the web series The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl, which begins posting two episodes per month in December. Currently in its second season (and first for Pharrell Williams’ i am OTHER YouTube channel), Awkward Black Girl puts its creator, writer, and star in the role of J, a self-conscious twentysomething with a dead-end job, a rich fantasy life, and a habit of channeling her frustrations through gleefully profane rap verses. Rae’s ever-present narration places viewers squarely inside J’s head, and while those voiceovers can prove distracting, they nonetheless give the series a defined, unique (not to mention under-represented on mainstream TV) perspective, one that’s too direct and genuine to be too far from Rae’s own POV.


Keywords: Discomfort humor, Web TV game Donald Glover, “What if there was a significant black character on Girls?”

Where to start: Skip over the uneven batch of opening episodes—or just watch them all in one sitting, as they’re also the briefest installments in the series—to “The Stapler,” which offers a sharp riff on office annoyances (co-workers borrowing supplies without permission) while introducing the love triangle that powers the first season’s second half. The emotional tug-of-war that places J between coworker Fred (Madison T. Shockley III) and “White Jay” (Lyman Johnson) provides a welcome counterbalance to the series’ occasionally strained workplace comedy; the scenes between Rae and Johnson in the second half of the ambitious Halloween episode “The Unexpected” gives the series’ some of its most bracingly honest and cringe-inducingly hilarious moments. And if you’re looking for the type of talent Rae might end up working with when she’s at a broadcast network, Donald Glover puts in an excellent cameo in the super-sized first-season finale, “The Decision.”

Where to watch: The seventh episode of season two debuts on i am OTHER on December 13.