AN INTERVIEW WITH W. KAMAU BELL
“W. Kamau Bell is the most important guy doing comedy right now. He’s got the most astute, hilarious and completely righteous material going and he’s going to be a legend in his own lifetime like Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce. Think Bill Hicks but slightly taller.” — Margaret Cho
It’s praise like that has made W. Kamau Bell’s “Face Full of Flour” one of the most anticipated comedy albums of 2010. Recorded live at the San Francisco Punchline and produced by Rooftop Comedy Productions, the album features comedic meditations on Barack Obama, the wrongness of the Right, interracial mating, and why Black + White = Black.
Kamau was nice enough to take a break from his busy schedule to answer a few questions from fellow comedian Hari Kondabolu.
Hari Kondabolu: Why did you name your CD “Face Full of Flour” and how does it and you differ from your last album “One Night Only?”
W. Kamau Bell: First of all, my first CD wasn’t named “One Night Only” It was named ONE NIGht ONLY,” which is very funny joke if you get it. Most people didn’t. And secondly, how come you didn’t listen to my CD before the interview, Hari? I thought we were supposed to be cool. I’m going to go unfollow you on Twitter… There. It’s done.
This CD is called Face Full of Flour because there is a joke on it that was inspired by a Rice Krispies commercial from way back the 80’s. In the commercial a mom throws flour on her face to convince her family that she’s working harder than she actually is. My joke recommends Barack do the same thing.
Dammit. Now the joke is ruined. Nothing is less funny than a joke explained.
HK: Why make this album now?
WKB: I was very much aware that for like two years I was one of the only comics talking about Barack Obama. My first joke about him was in 2005, and I did it that year on Comedy Central, which according to Comedy Centrla is the very first Barack Obama joke. Don’t believe me? Google it. (I’m talking to the “YOU” who is reading this right now. Go ahead and Google it. Hari knows this already.)
Anyway, now that Barack is President there has been a ridiculous media story going around that it is impossible to make jokes about Barack Obama. I know this is ridiculous because I haven’t stopped telling Barack jokes since 2005. I kind of wanted to be on record again as being ahead of this nonexistent curve. Also the country is in such incredible transition it is great to be able to release a CD that addresses the transition while it is still transitioning… transitorially.
HK: You’ve told me that there are things on the last record that you no longer stand by. Did you have any fear when recording this record about making that particular moment permanent?
WKB: First of all, allow me to go very public with the first part of what you said. I had a joke on the first CD about Condoleeza Rice, which I also did on Comedy Central. It was a very funny joke to me when I wrote it… because I was so angry at Condoleeza at the time and at her stature as a such high ranking Bush cabinet member, but very soon after I had done it, it became clear to me (actually it was made clear by many, MANY women in my life) that the joke was not helpful to the struggle of women as a group… no matter how evil I perceived her to be at the time. And as my friend and main co-conspirator Martha Rynberg said so eloquently to me at the time, “You can’t talk about ending racism and then go out and create more sexism.” (KAMAU’S NOTE: This has now beccome OFFICIALLY the most unfunny interview in the history of Rooftop Comedy.) And unfortunately for me, the joke is forever out there on the Internet so occasionally people discover it and GO OFF on me. Recently when a dude on a website went off on me on his blog, I commented on the blog that I agreed with him, which I’m pretty sure shocked him. People don’t realize that us comics spend about 45% of our days Googling oursleves. Read More…