Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Check this out. WOW! All props due to Kimberly Chun

See it online HERE!

Oops! They did it again

W. Kamau Bell takes his swing at racism

The best comedians always shear close to the bone with their truths, but believe it or not, few are necessarily a gut bust in conversation. Why is this a surprise? After all, the comic is on the interviewer's mic, not on the clock and on script. Yet W. Kamau Bell plays against type and comes with not only the insights you wish you had spewed first but also the wit, centered on the issues of race that he's been grappling with since childhood.

The rising incidence of racist cracks that reveal the persistent fissures in a country seemingly disinterested in identity politics — and those emerging from the 34-year-old San Franciscan's own milieu, the alternative comedy scene — has led Bell to sharpen his attack with The W. Kamau Bell Curve, which focuses on the ugly slurs spilling from Sarah Silverman, Michael Richards, and Rosie O'Donnell, as well as other, unexpected quarters. And the nastiness keeps coming — cue Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman's recent remark that young players who want to defeat Tiger Woods would need to "lynch him in a back alley" — and spurring Bell to continue updating the show he first performed in October 2007.

According to Bell, racism is on the comeback trail with a crucial difference: "This time it's coming from liberals and creeping in through pop culture in some weird way. I call it political correctness acid reflux. People are just burping out racism." The comic rose to the occasion to make Bell Curve after reading a story about Southern blackface comic Shirley Q. Liquor in Rolling Stone. He was outraged by the fact that the article even questioned whether the Liquor act was racist, much as he was troubled by the things coming from his own field. "It's, like, wait a minute — this is my industry, and again, it's not coming from redneck comics or blue-collar comics. It's coming from alternative comics who are supposed to be liberal comics.

"It's, like, 'Look, you know I like black people, so it's allegedly OK for me to use a joke with the word nigger in it' — even though there's no black people in the audience and you don't have any black friends!" he continues. "Like I say in the show, the most racist things that have ever happened to me have come from people who were friends of mine. I had a friend who once said to me, 'Kamau, I like you. You're black, but you're not black black.' What does that mean? I'm black but you still have your wallet?"

The only child of author Janet Cheatham Bell, Bell is all too familiar with that kind of chum, having moved from private to public to private school throughout his life. "A lot of times I would be the only black person in school," recalls Bell, who now teaches solo performance at the Shelton Theater and frequently opens for Dave Chappelle. "And when you're that person, either they forget you're black, so things happen and you're, like, [in a meek squeak] 'Wait a minute — don't forget I'm black, everybody,' or because you're black they unburden their, you know, 'Kamau, lemme tell you something about black people I've never been able to tell any other black person.' Oooh, please don't!"

Be glad, however, that Bell is telling us about it all.


Alex said...

I don't know man...I'd say you're about an eight on the toaster of life. That makes you "black black" to me.

Nice article. Bring that show to Sacramento...

mermaidintherudder said...

I think you are High Black, or Majestic Black.
Maybe Royal Black... or was that a wiz in Harry Potter? SF Guardian knows a cover man when they see one.

I can't wait to see the issue.

Today at lunch 3 twenty-somethings sat next to me. The male started reciting parts of an Ice-Cube movie. He kept saying "fo'" for four. Then started saying, "niggah."

I was calm and ignored it for the first 5 minuted but lost it.

Got up and looked the boy in the eye and told him I was leaving. Told him I couldn't eat next to THEM (think italics, not bold,)

mayn, they almost ruined a great meal.
btw ~ I was the only obvious ethnic* in the cafe.

*permission to use?

Ayo said...

People are just burping out racism. It's like so... disgusting and rude.

But is it good to burp it out better than to leave it in and get all bloated? I think political correctness is like being bloated.

There must be something to do. Like, what is the social equivalent of learning how not to drink soda because it is bad for you?

kyra said...

i wish i could see the show!

Ayo said...

I am running for President. Vote for me!