Comic duo pushes limits

Finishing each other’s sentences, the comedy duo Frangela did not let political correctness get in the way of cracking jokes and making social commentary at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea Thursday.

“People think we’re not black enough or too black,” said one half of the twosome, Frances Callier. “So we start asking in auditions, ‘Well how black do you want it?’ ”

Comedy pair Frangela jokes around at a Master’s Tea on Thursday.
Emilie Foyer
Comedy pair Frangela jokes around at a Master’s Tea on Thursday.

Throughout their comedy career, the two said, people have often tried to pigeonhole them and have found it disturbing when they do and do not fit certain stereotypes. Still, they said they try to remain honest and communicate through humor. Callier and her fellow comedian, Angela V. Shelton, use their Los Angeles radio show “The Week According to Frangela” as a venue to talk about everything from pop culture to the French revolution.

“We’re always us. And we’re honest, so we tried to communicate our viewpoint and our philosophy through our comedy and through our work, the kind of people we are and what we believe in,” Shelton said. “We have a strong opinion about everything, and we’re not afraid to say it.”

At the tea, organized by Saybrook and the Yale chapter of the NAACP, the Frangela duo discussed their efforts to blend pop culture and politics in their comedy careers. In addition to their radio show, the pair has appeared on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and in the 2009 movie “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Callier and Shelton met in Chicago, where they lived in the same apartment complex, and after an “awkward first friend date” they became inseparable.

“I wasn’t complete until I met my best friend,” Callier said.

After Shelton auditioned to play the role of Callier’s character’s best friend on the Oxygen TV show “Hey Monie,” Frangela was born. The two joined a number of comedy groups before deciding to strike out on their own.

“Angela names every group we’re in,” Callier said. “I’ve been a part of a group called Black Uterus.”

“Well you didn’t like Triblacka!” Shelton shot back. “Everybody’s a critic.”

The duo said they are frustrated by the entertainment industry’s fear of addressing racial issues and use of politically correct terms. Executives have called them “urban sassy funny,” which the two said they think is overly politically correct. Instead, they said, they prefer to be called “Afro-Saxon,” a term they said combines spunk and politeness.

The duo moved on to talk about the media.

“Reality TV exalting people for simply existing is confusing,” Shelton said.

Frangela had their own experience with reality TV, they said, journeying to the jungles of Costa Rica with the NBC show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” which they joked caused them post-traumatic stress disorder. Though Callier slept well, Shelton said, Callier “was always covered in mud because she was always falling down the mountain, and the ninjas [cameramen] would come out and pull her by her bra strap.”

“You have neither lived nor been shamed until a man has pulled you by your bra strap,” Callier said.

Frangela also satirized the contracts they must sign within the entertainment industry, which they said are overly specific. One contract, for example, forces them to continue with the show, regardless of what galaxy they live in.

“They’re worried we’re going to find another galaxy and have to pay … across the time-space continuum. What, do they have string theory in our contracts?” Angela said.

Following the tea, Frangela joined student comedy group Red Hot Poker in a performance at the Afro-American Cultural Center. Red Hot Poker opened for Frangela with its own version of “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Frangela followed up with an improvised mix of sexual innuendo, cultural cracks and philosophical tidbits such a “The worst kind of lie is the lie you tell yourself.”

Frangela’s tea Thursday elicited constant laughter, and the show received a standing ovation.

“It was the best Master’s Tea I’ve ever seen at Yale,” said Maria Yagoda ’12. “I was constantly laughing but constantly thinking about pop culture in news ways and ways of communicating to people and ways of expressing your opinions.”

All six students interviewed said they enjoyed the show. Four said they had encountered Frangela’s work before.

“I’m a big fan of Frangela,” said Kevin Beckford ’11, president of Yale chapter of the NAACP. The NAACP collected donations at the show, and Beckford said the group intended the event to raise awareness about minority issues.

The duo’s radio show airs on KTLK 1150 in Los Angeles on Sundays between 5 and 7 p.m.

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