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An Interview with Comedian W. Kamau Bell


 

Photo of Comedian W. Kamau Bell.Critic's Choice

A longtime regular in the San Francisco comedy scene, W. Kamau Bell has been voted “San Francisco's best comedian” by the SF Weekly, the SF Bay Guardian and 7x7 Magazine. Now covering issues like politics, race and culture as the host of FX's late night talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, Kamau's sharp-edged socio-political comedy style is known across the country. Kamau has released two comedy albums, One Nig Only and Face Full of Flour, and his one-man show "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism In About An Hour" received rave reviews and was featured in the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the 2010 NY Comedy Festival, and the 2009 NY International Fringe Festival.

You can follow Kamau on Twitter or learn more on his website.

Q&A with W. Kamau Bell

How long have you been performing stand-up comedy?
Just over 15 years.

Was it always one of your goals to be on television?
I think every stand up comic’s goal is to be on tv because that's where you can gain the most fans in the shortest amount of time. That is, unless you can figure out how to make a viral video.

How did ‘Totally Biased” come about?
In 2005 I began my solo comedy show “The W Kamau Bell Curve, Ending Racism In About An Hour.” I started in San Francisco and ended up taking it all over the country. Even to Scotland. In 2010, Chris Rock saw me perform at the UCB Theatre in New York, and after the show he came backstage and told me I was funny. A couple months later he called me and asked me if I wanted his help in getting a TV show. Of course I said yes. We shot a pilot. Chris took it to FX and FX, as they are known for, took a chance on us. The rest is cable late night history.

What are some of the things you hope ‘Totally Biased’ will achieve as it continues?
I hope Totally Biased continues to give voice to issues, people, and comedians who might not otherwise have a home. And I hope it stays on the air long enough for me to be accused of being a sell out.

Who are some of your comedy influences?
Too many to list but here are a few. Bill Hicks, Bill Cosby, Robert Hawkins, Dwayne Kennedy, Marc Maron, Dave Chapelle, and, oh yeah, Chris Rock.

What are your favorite comedy shows on television now?
Modern Family, House of Lies, The Daily Show, and I’m super excited about the return of Arrested Development.

What advice do you have for aspiring performers of all kinds?
Get out and do it as often as you can. You only have a chance of really getting good through repetition.

What was the last book you read?
Drift by Rachel Maddow.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Malcolm Gladwell, Dr. Seuss, Dave Zirin, Janet Cheatham Bell (my mom!), Sandra Boynton (I have a daughter).

What do you think the role of public libraries is (or should be) in a community?
I think the role of public libraries is to get the word out about how awesome public libraries are. Whenever I’m in a really good public library I’m like, “How come I don’t do this more often?”

 

Author Bio:

Brighid Gonzales is a Brisbane Library intern and library student.


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