by Tom Keller
April 23, 2010
“I don’t mind the crowd dividing up,” W. Kamau Bell says after a collective should-we-laugh? moment early on his debut album, Face Full of Flour. “That’s when we’re getting to shit.”
Bell gets to a lot of shit in a hurry here, proving himself one of our country’s most adept racial commentators with a blistering wit and a willingness to say what you quickly realize you’ve always thought. He is relentlessly intelligent, fusing references to create a rich expression of incredulity in a post-Obama world.
He bemoans the fact that the first black president isn’t more of a dick; and his title track implores Obama to shield himself from criticism by making it look like he’s working harder than he really is, a la the mother in the old Rice Krispies Treats commercial who throws flour in her face, “even though,” Bell says, “we all know there’s no fucking flour in Rice Krispies Treats.”
Some weighty issues get handled with ease here, and Bell rightly credits himself after one joke for getting a 10 from the Russian judge for technical difficulty. He compares the recent town hall meetings to Casual Friday at a KKK rally, and in a riff on the Henry Louis Gates story (listen below), he suggests that your home exists precisely so that you can flip out there, which is why we get mad at homeless people for flipping out on the street.
Bell is head-shakingly clever when he hopes aloud the economy gets so bad that Native Americans use their casino money to buy the country back. And his vision of apocalyptic America has nothing to do with mushroom clouds, but with a mass liberal exodus to Canada had McCain and Palin won the election, and the cries of the left-behind conservatives: “Hello? I don’t know how to make a latte!”
This is a thinking man’s album for the common man’s problems, an applause-worthy effort from a comedian with plenty of important things to say about the world.
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