Race + Comedy: W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell stands out. Tall, broad, and Black, with a coife au naturale, his physicality doesn’t exactly lend itself to anonymity; equipped with a booming base for a voice, he really doesn’t have a hope in hell of ever going unnoticed in an American crowd. But come this autumn, the impulses behind the diffident stares and sideways glances on the street will be a little bit more difficult for Bell to decipher, hoodie up or otherwise.
That’s because Bell, a comedian who could do a stand-up routine featuring nothing but heckler retorts at this point in his career, just inked a six-episode deal with the FX network (the “coolest of all the Fox’s,” as he calls them) executive-produced by Chris Rock.
In case that last part didn’t make your eyebrows shoot up, for Bell to garner Rock’s participation amounts to an endorsement from a comedy doyen: having established himself in the game as a headliner who can perform in any comedy club, anywhere, on his own terms, praise and a partnership from Rock is synonymous to a weighty nod of approval from Yoda (albeit, Bell says, a foul-mouthed, microphone-wielding version).
Bell officially announced last Thursday that his show would be called Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, debuting Aug. 9th at 11 pm. With the show set to follow Louie, created by and starring biracial comedian Louis C. K., the two programs together constitute a rarity in network television–a progressive comedy block not led by white people.