Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Cool Interview of Yours Truly by Jesse As Is

From Jesse As Is

W. Kamau Bell was recently crowned “Best Comedian in San Francisco” in SF Weekly Magazine. In this clip you’ll understand why as he addresses the term “people of color” and how it sounds like a “hug that goes on too long.” Recently W. Kamau took the time to talk about everything from his parents high fiving after his show to his brief role in the Matrix 2. Special thanks to W. Kamau for making this happen. Hit the jump for the interview.

Jesse as is.: Please describe the chain of events that lead you to choose a career in comedy?

W. Kamau Bell : When I was a kid being a comedian was the only thing that I wanted to be other than a superhero. When the X-Men never showed up on my door to recruit me, and I never got the good fortune to be bitten by a radioactive spider or to be hit by gamma rays in an explosion, I decided to try the comedy thing.

I have very clear memories of seeing Jerry Seinfeld on The Tonight Show and thinking, “I want to do that, but too bad my life isn’t as interesting as his.” One of the first videotapes my mom ever rented for me from the video store was Bill Cosby: Himself. It changed my life. It was equally smart and funny. Then later I saw Eddie Murphy: Raw in the movie theater the day it came out. I remember people in the theater laughing so loud that you couldn’t hear many of the punchlines. The energy in the place was amazing, and we weren’t even seeing it live. That also changed my life.

Eventually after dropping out of college I let my best friend Jason know that I wanted to do stand-up, and he, on his own, found an open mic in his neighborhood, and called me up and we started going together… just to watch at first. A month later I went up, and then a couple days ago you asked if you could interview me. I think that just about catches us up.

Jesse as is.: What are some of your most memorable shows? What makes these shows stand out?

W. Kamau Bell : My first memorable show was a show I did about a year into doing comedy. I was performing on a benefit for the homeless that some local comics organized. My mom and dad were there. They were looooooooong separated so this was a BIG deal. It was the first time my dad had ever seen me perform. And after my set my parents high fived, which is kind of like John McCain high fiving a Muslim.

Another show that I’ll never forget was one afternoon I got a call that Dave Chappelle was doing a gig that night and needed an opener. I had opened for Dave before but only in small clubs. The show was in a college basketball arena and it held like 6000 people. This was right after he had gotten back from Africa so this was a biiiiiiiiiig deal. It was pretty intense. Right before I was to go on, I was waiting backstage, the lights went down, people cheered, I was waiting to be introduced and the stage manager looked at me confusedly and said, “Go!” As if, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” There was no introduction. Nothing. I grabbed the mic and ran out onstage, the crowd had no idea who I was, I introduced myself and it was one of the best sets I have ever had. Dave watched from the wings and later said the most complimentary things that anyone has ever said about me. I’ll keep those to myself.

Jesse as is.: What are the most important issues to you in the upcoming election?
W. Kamau Bell : The most important issues in the election to me are getting white men out of the office of president for AT LEAST the next four years and getting gay marriage made permanently legal in the state of California. It’s not that long ago that interracial marriage was illegal in many states. I think about that often, especially as me and my white fiancee prepare to get married next year. Everybody — no mater what their sexual preference — should have the right to go through the same ridiculously stressful wedding planning that we are currently going through.

Jesse as is.: What projects do you have in the works? What should we be on the look out for?

W. Kamau Bell : Currently, I am performing my own one person show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour. If you bring a friend of a different race it’s two for one. Seriously! I’ve been doing it for about a year and the response has been awesome. I get to do everything that I have ever wanted on stage… stand-up, drama, showing pictures, playing video clips, making THE MAN sweat, EVERYTHING. The SF Weekly named me the best comedian of 2008. November 7th we are opening three days a week at the Climate Theatre in San Francisco. Check out more info at www. WKamauBell. com.

Jesse as is.: How did your role in the Matrix come about?
W. Kamau Bell : Ummm… if you ever watch the Matrix 2 (which most people rightfully did not), you’ll quickly see (and I mean quickly, because if you blink you’ll miss it.) that my role is in the horribly nonsensical rave/dance party scene at the center of the Earth. At one point they scan the crowd and I jump up and give the black power fist. I had short dreadlocks at the time. It filmed during seven days of the hottest Bay Area summer in memory, and I was basically wearing a parka, just what you would wear if you lived at the center of the Earth. Don’t blame me that The Matrix 2 sucked. I was an innocent bystander.

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