Mamoudou N’Diaye (aka America’s Black Friend) is a Brooklyn-based Mauritanian standup comic, writer, improviser, former teacher, and DJ. He’s written and performed on Deada$$ and Ryan Live, contributed to Funny or Die, and performs standup and improv around New York City. Currently, Mamoudou is in pre-production of a film about the recent murders of black men in the United States entitled “#.” You can donate to the film’s budget on its GoFundMe page and find Mamadou on Twitter and Instagram. This week, N’Diaye talked to me about three of his favorite tweets, plus balancing comedy and activism, joking about race, and enjoying the band Plain White Tees.
N’Diaye: Gun control is a serious issue that isn’t going anywhere in the political landscape. I honestly think if we design guns to be harder to shoot, idiots wouldn’t be able to kill people. Come at me with a gun, I think you’re a coward. Come at me with a bow and arrow that you spent weeks and weeks trying to master, you have my attention and a certain modicum of respect for mastering a craft. On the other hand, if guns were shaped like vaginas, then the government would be controlling another representation of a woman’s body, so maybe I disagree with me?
Do you get very many nasty @-replies when you tweet about topics like guns or #BLM, and if so does that change the way you tweet about them?
I do get some trolls but not very often, which I feel is a testament to things getting better or just not enough visibility. It will never change the way that I tweet. If I personally feel like I’ve wronged someone, I will apologize and adjust because I do care about people. But if it’s my opinion, and it’s rooted in well known facts or even facts from my personal experience, then nothing will change my tweets. There are harsh realities in this world that I feel need to be brought to light; I want to do it right and with my voice if possible.
Do you ever struggle to find a balance between tweeting serious stuff vs jokes about serious stuff?
YES. I play this game of “Am I a comedian or an activist?” with almost every tweet. I want to be known for my comedy much like every comedian, but there are realities to being a person of color in the United States that I can’t let go unsaid. I feel like I have this dual identity like Batman and Bruce Wayne, except my parents are alive. Also, I’m black. Also, if Batman was black, he would be probably killed by the police. See!?!? It’s inescapable.
I’ve been black for quite a while now and this is the best response I’ve ever been able to conjure up to an upstart, young, white man trying to give me the business about how my race jokes make him uncomfortable while I’m onstage. I must say he did not laugh as much as everyone else did at this. Still don’t care, probably never will!
Has Twitter changed the way you joke/talk about race at all?
Not really. It’s made me more succinct in my joke writing but the fuel and the topic material is still there. I tend to take the ugly parts of the world and place them into other fictional worlds because the Twitterverse (as well as myself) loves nostalgia and fictional books and movies. It makes what I write more fun because I get to feel like I’m adding to an already established universe while still saying what I want to say.
Who would you say is the ideal audience for your tweets, and is that the same as your audience for standup/performance?
I’d say the ideal audience for me are politically motivated college kids, woke people of all races and ages, and people who like Space Jam. And if you like that, then you’ll definitely enjoy my standup. And you know I’ll get a Maroon 5 reference in if I can.
I love “Hey There Delilah.” I also am a huge fan of Maroon 5, Paramore, the song “The Kill (Bury Me)” by 30 Seconds to Mars, and I have been to rehab to get over my love for the Black Eyed Peas. Don’t tell the NAACP or black twitter. Actually, just don’t tell black twitter; they scare me more.
Do you use the same material for tweets/standup? Do you have any rules for yourself about that?
Sometimes, I’ll do a joke onstage and it won’t land but in my head, I’ll be like “that joke was str8 fire, idgaf, it’ll be better as a tweet.” Then, I’ll post it. A lot of the jokes on Facebook and Twitter that I have I couldn’t find a way to perform onstage, but I have some “web exclusives.” As of right now, I only have two jokes that started as tweets and then became full bits.
What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about Twitter?
I love how many people have a voice on Twitter! It allows me to look up other people that I admire and see what they’re about on the internet. There’s so many pockets of the internet to explore and enjoy.
I hate how many people have a voice on Twitter. It forces me to look up other people that I admire and see what they’re about on the internet, so we don’t have the same jokes. There’s so many pockets of the internet to explore and hate myself in.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.