Screenwriter And Producer Amy Aniobi On Why Comedy And Relatability Are Powerful Storytelling Tools

Amy Aniobi fell in love with writing in college, but she never imagined she’d someday be writing for television. “I was an American studies major, and I was, like, ‘This will never be worth anything in the real world.’ Now it’s literally my job.”

Aniobi, who has written for and executive produced shows including Insecure and 2 Dope Queens, constantly has her finger on the pulse of American culture. “It all comes back to telling an emotionally resonant story,” says Aniobi. 

“I don’t really ascribe to this theory that to inform or to connect people or to talk about serious topics, we have to be serious all the time,” she adds. “I think that comedy helps bridge the gap between informing and actually feeling. Laughing is our ability to have catharsis around emotional events, whether they’re big or small.”

Her storytelling career shows no signs of slowing down: Aniobi is signed by HBO and Universal to produce original content. Part of this deal includes an HBO Max workplace comedy series inspired by the alleged toxic, racist behavior of leadership at the food publication Bon Appétit

Forbes spoke to Aniobi about comedy’s role in telling impactful stories, where she finds inspiration and the importance of having Black and Brown professionals in writers’ rooms. 

Amy Aniobi: I was a child of immigrants, Nigerian immigrants, raised in north Texas. And I was, like, the one Black kid in my school, besides my brother. So literally, when people said, “Oh, I know a Black person—do you know them?” The answer was, “Yes—that’s my brother.” So it’s just a funny origin. And it’s uncomfortable and weird. I obviously encountered racism as a child and had no name for it, because I just didn’t know what to call it. I just feel like the dynamic that I was raised in was something that sort of lended itself to me becoming a comedy writer, not only coming from a Nigerian culture, which is steeped in storytelling, but I’ve always been an observer of people.

And I think that’s what comedy does, it looks at our society and our culture and our relationships, the way we relate to each other, and pokes fun at it. And I think as someone who was constantly observing as a child, and also watching sitcoms with my parents, and explaining all the jokes to them, and, like, why things are funny, it almost naturally made sense.

And I think that’s what comedy does, it looks at our society and our culture and our relationships, the way we relate to each other, and pokes fun at it. And I think as someone who was constantly observing as a child, and also watching sitcoms with my parents, and explaining all the jokes to them, and, like, why things are funny, it almost naturally made sense.

It’s so funny that there are people who think that that [messages] can’t come through humor. I get a lot of my news from John Oliver and SNL Weekend Update. I’m hearing the news and also laughing and also being amused or feeling like some sort of cathartic amusement from the satire. I think they go hand in hand as human experience. I love dramas, too. I like dramatic storytelling, but I don’t think that it’s one or the other. We can talk about culture in both platforms. And both are valid.

Forbes: It seems like there’s been a wave of shows inspired by real-life events, the forthcoming Bon Appétit-inspired series included. What do you think is behind this trend? 

Aniobi: As a culture, we love reality TV. And [shows inspired by real-life events] feel like fictionalized reality. But even for things that are based on real-life events, for me, it’s always about real-life emotion. Eventually, you have to take license. 

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