Issa Rae Moves from YouTube to HBO

issa-raeIssa Rae is movin’ on up. After premiering her web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl in February 2011, she has been quickly building a devoted following. And her success hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. This week it was announced that Issa Rae is co-writing a comedy series for HBO with Larry Wilmore of The Daily Show and The Bernie Mac Show fame.

The new series will follow “the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern day African-American woman.” Sounds like Issa Rae is running with her Awkward Black Girl idea and upping the ante. As an ABG watcher myself, I’ve always thought that the show was great and would be that much better with the backing of a network. Given the right amount of time and resources, this new show could be groundbreaking.

Success hasn’t come easily for Rae. She shot the first episode of The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl on her own dime, and after it was a viral success, she funded the rest of the first season entirely from Kickstarter donation. For season 2, Pharrell Williams partnered with her and aired the episodes on his “i am OTHER” YouTube channel.

But now she is a veritable YouTube mogul. She has spun her success into 5 additional web series, ranging from a pop culture redux to her own reviews on ratchet songs. That series, entitled Ratchetpeice Theatre, is one of my favs. Be sure to check out her YouTube page to catch up on all of her content.

The big question, however, is if Rae is ready for the big stage. News surfaced earlier this year that she was working on a show with Shonda Rhimes titled I Hate L.A. Dudes. Though that project seems to have fizzled, I believe that HBO is the perfect home for her.

HBO has received a lot of acclaim for a little show called Girls. I don’t see what the hullabaloo is all about. But in my mind, Issa Rae’s new production has the potential to leapfrog that series in popularity, buzz, and creative output. This could be a critics’ darling.

Furthermore, just this announcement is a big step in the entertainment industry for minorities. How many minority led shows are being put on air right now? How many shows even count minorities as a part of their casts? Issa Rae is like a female Tyler Perry. This show is written, starring, and produced by her. And I know it is going to be big.

Truthfully, the only thing that might work against the show would be blowback from certain sectors of the black community. Issa Rae has done a great job of honing her craft, figuring out her brand of funny. However, her work has heavily utilized the N-word and stereotypes. While she uses these tools as a means for satire, it would also be very easy for someone to dismiss her work by citing that those features exist there at all.

So will Issa Rae be able to bring the eyeballs to HBO? Only time will tell. But somethings telling me we are watching the next big thing take shape right before our eyes.

Looking forward to the new series? Excited for Issa Rae’s breakout success? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.