TLO Q&A: W. Kamau Bell


W. Kamau Bell has been pegged as a “political” comic, but that’s probably just because he doesn’t talk about airline food, the difference between cats and dogs, and other trivial topics. Because he pokes fun at the things that interest him, i.e. social issues, pop culture and politics, he has been labeled as a political comic. He’s fine with it, and has made a career with this label, but it should be noted that he is a comedian first. Discussing things that matter to him has landed him some impressive titles. Kamau was recently named an Ambassador of Racial Justice by the ACLU. And he sits on the advisory board of Race Forward, a racial justice think tank and home for media and activism, and Hollaback, a non-profit and movement to end street harassment.

He was also the host of Totally Biased: With W. Kamau Bell, an amazing show that aired on FX for two seasons. I’m super excited to see his show, and was happy to chat with him on his maiden voyage into OKC.


How are you enjoying OKC so far?

So far so good. I ate lunch at an Indian restaurant and am now watching Fox News in my hotel room.

What stereotypes do you have of Oklahomans?

My dad is from Alabama, so I don’t have any negative stereotypes of the south. Is Oklahoma the south? I suppose the regional label is probably more about lifestyle than history. Oklahoma didn’t fight on the side of slavery, haha. But I expect to see more pickups and people wearing cowboy hats un-ironically, like I would in San Francisco.

Did you set out to be a “political” comic?

Not really. I can tell jokes about other things, but I get bored with that material. I’d rather talk about things I really care about with some passion behind it, ya know. And believe me, it’s not the easiest way to make a living being a comic, being political. It’s like bringing sushi to a bbq. It took me a while to find my voice, but now the internet is accelerating everything. People think they should be famous now. Like some kid who is a Vine superstar, what does that look like when your 60? I wanna be like Carlin, just perform in front of crowds until the day I die.

How is your baby doing?

My baby is 2 1/2 weeks old. I scheduled this tour before my wife got pregnant, so I’ve had to scale it back quite a bit. Having a newborn, you practically have to submit to the kid and say, “I’m here to do what you need me to do.” But I also have to make a living to provide for my kid which means leaving a lot. It’s a balancing act I’m trying to figure out, but it’s hard to be away.

What is your writing process like?

It’s a lot about the internet and watching tv. I’m watching FOX News right now just to see them gloat, haha. I just follow my nose into stuff. I should have a premium wikipedia account if that’s a thing. I get sucked into internet wormholes pretty easily.

What can we do to get Totally Biased back on the air?

People think having a show on TV is like a winning lottery ticket, like getting a show on the air will solve all your problems. I worked very hard on that show, and I appreciate when people say they want it back. But a cancelled show is like ex-girl, I can remember the good times, but there are also things I didn’t love. If people say that just because they want to see more of me, I’m happy and trying to make that happen. My buddy, Kevin Avery (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver) and I just started a Podcast (Denzel Washington Is Greatest Actor Of All Time Period) which is just a bit of fun. We go through Denzel’s movie and discuss why he is the greatest actor of all time. It’s something my buddy and I discuss a lot anyway, might as well record it.

Bell will be performing in OKC tonight at the Contemporary Arts Center on the State Fairgrounds and tickets are still available at the door or at Follow Kamau on Twitter – @Wkamaubell. And also me – @SpencerLenox