Man this new year is kicking off fast. Here are the dates and links for tickets for my January events:
1/12 - 'Barry' Screening with Adam Mansbach, Berkeley, CA
7:30 pm PST
Join us for a screening of "Barry," a new biopic portraying a young Obama in his formative years at Columbia University, torn between the world of his white girlfriend and the African-American community.
1/16 - Stand-Up TV Taping for United Shades of America Season 2, Oakland, CA
6:00 pm PST
United Shades of America is a documentary show that takes a humorous look at different cultures in the US. Kamau will be highlighting his unique take on America, its varied cultures-- the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Be part of a very intimate audience and help him launch the second season of his award-winning show. We will be filming all of the standup aspects of the show at the filming so come ready to laugh.
1/17 - Stand-Up TV Taping for United Shades of America Season 2, Oakland, CA
7:00 pm PST
United Shades of America is a documentary show that takes a humorous look at different cultures in the US. Kamau will be highlighting his unique take on America, its varied cultures-- the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Be part of a very intimate audience and help him launch the second season of his award-winning show. We will be filming all of the standup aspects of the show at the filming so come ready to laugh.
On January 19th (inauguration eve), Kamau and friends will take stage at Laney College's Odell Johnson Theater. Helping Kamau examine this very terrifying, but hopefully unifying point in our history will be Professor Ian Haney López, Pastor Michael McBride, and Feminist Muslim, Iranian-American comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh.
Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center. 900 Fallon St, Oakland, CA 94607
1/24 - Sketchfest, 'Hollywood Shuffle' 30th Anniversary: Tribute to Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans', San Francisco, CA
7:30 pm PST
Kamau will moderate a conversation between comedy and filmmaking icons Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans as they reunite to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic film "Hollywood Shuffle," a beloved satirical comedy about the racial stereotypes of African-Americans in film and television
Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission. 2550 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
The audio from my Showtime comedy special, Semi-Prominent Negro, has been released as an album of the same name! The album was released on September 30th by Kill Rock Stars, and you can get it at any of the links below!
She’s the Boss by W. Kamau Bell
DOC MCSTUFFINS is one of the best shows on television. It’s also one of the most important shows in the history of television. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you probably don’t have a child under the age of six living in your home.
Doc McStuffins is a children’s show on Disney Jr. And Disney Jr. is ethering the game right now. (That’s probably not a sentence that’s written that often.) From Doc McStuffins to Sheriff Callie to Octonauts, they are dominating the two-to-five-year-old demographic. And they are doing it with music and good times, while also dropping knowledge on those preschool noggins. These shows are the kids’ show equivalent of Shonda Rimes’s Thursday night three-hour block, and Doc McStuffins is the Olivia Pope of children’s television. My family and I have been down with this show since the beginning. I feel like all those annoying Mad Men fans who’ve been clogging up my Twitter for the last five years. Like those fans, whenever I run into parents with preschoolers who aren’t down with Doc McStuffins, I look at them dismissively, as if to say, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you. Is it that you just don’t like joy?” Think I’m overselling the greatness of Doc McStuffins? Well, the FLOTUS herself, Michelle Obama, was a guest this week, on Monday, October 5th. Take that Don Draper . . . and Dora.
I believe he is the greatest actor of all time period. "Best ever"??? COME ON! And over the last year of the podcast, myself and my co-host Kevin Avery have found that we are not the only ones. While our mission is to review all of Denzel's movies, we find the conversation often turns to diversity (of all kinds) in Hollywood. And often this conversation happens with the people who are trying to make Hollywood a more diverse place.
Well now, we have the immediately legendary, director of Selma, Ava DuVernay. She had some thoughts about Denzel, diversity in Hollywood, Viola Davis's (also immediately legendary) Emmy speech, buying your own milk, and Denzel's sexiest movie, Mo' Better Blues.
Wanna check that out? If not, them we may not be good for each other anymore.
*Or they just came on the show because it sounded fun.
Me and my new best friend Matt Martin, the program director at San Francisco public radio station, KALW, have decided to come together and work on a LIVE RADIO TALK SHOW EVENT. We're calling it "KAMAU RIGHT NOW!" The idea is a radio talk show based around what is going on right now, big and small, personal and political, real and imagined. We want to cut through the noise and sit in the lap pf the cultural zeitgeist and see if we can make sense of it all. Also there will be jokes shared, conversations, respectful disagreements, edutainment, and hugs... lots of hugs. And you can see it all if you get your tickets to the debut event, October 29th at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley or you can listen LIVE at KALW.org. Here's the press release and a shareable image below...
W. Kamau Bell is teaming up with KALW to create KAMAU RIGHT NOW! a live radio and social media event that will transform the political and cultural conversation of the moment into what Kamau calls “a three-ring circus of relevance.”
Tune in for KAMAU RIGHT NOW! at 7pm on Thursday, October 29th – or be part of the live experience at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. Tickets are available at TheFreight.org.
So please tune in and share the news so that we can all come together on October 29th at 7pm (PST) and figure out what is happening right now... then.
So Tuesday my 1st piece debuted on CNN. CNN is the home of my upcoming race and culture travel series, The United Shades of America. And since I'm not Bourdain-level famous, they're going to be sending me out in the field to help build up some steam and momentum for the show. This first piece is on the Iowa State Fair. Check it out...
Now that is one of the softest and fluffiest pieces I've ever done on TV. That ending is positively adorable. But that isn't stopping the Right Wingnuts from filling up my Twitter feed with accusations of me being racist. Most of the tweets coming from an article from Newsbusters who apparently think I'm still on Totally Biased... because apparently their Googlator is broken.
The funny thing is that I was actually worried that people would think that the piece was too soft. If this piece was racist then I can't wait to see how people take the actual show, because it goes way harder than "Ku Klux Lambs". Waaaaaaaaaay harder. On second thought. I can wait.
The Marsh Berkeley Arts Center
2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
So the first 6 shows of my Berkeley stand-up comedy residency, Home By 10, at The Marsh Cabaret are SOLD OUT. So we've added 6 more shows. And as an added benefit, these are all Fridays and Saturdays! So far, the shows have all been really fun and free and easy. It's been great working on the new (hopefully) classics, ripping apart the news, talking about my new life in Berkeley, kidding my kids, and getting to meet the people. But mostly it's been awesome being out of the house.
One of the main reasons that I am happy to live in Berkeley is that is a city that is so legendary for it's inclusiveness and progressiveness that it is the go to punchline for jokes about those ideas. Even San Francisco, in it's liberal heyday of the aughts, could make fun of Berkeley for being too far left. Berkeley even voted against the war in Iraq WHEN IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WAR IN IRAQ! Well, if Berkeley wants to keep that lefty reputation then it had better make sure it protects the rights of all of it's people. And homeless people are also Berkeley's people.
There are many ways to approach homelessness. And reasonable people can have reasonable debates as to how to approach it. But if we take the simple actions of having a blanket, lying down, and holding a sign and turn those into criminal acts then we will lose the right to the reputation that Berkeley lives and thrives on. And it is a major disservice to people who are already in need of our help and support, because we all know that once you enter the criminal justice system --- no matter how minor the initial offense -- it can become nearly impossible to get out. These anti-homeless laws that the city council is proposing tomorrow night, June 30th, send a message about who is and who is not welcome in our public spaces. And if you know me, then you know I think we should all be able to go wherever we want on the streets of Berkeley. We should ALL be able to enjoy the sidewalks, parks, and occasionally even the cafes of our fine city.
Here's what you can do...
1) Email Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates -- firstname.lastname@example.org --- and ask him to reconsider his support of these laws. (He voted for the original version of these, which was milder than the current version). You can do this even if you don't live in Berkeley. I don't have to tell you that it will work better if you are nice and persuasive.
And if we don't do help support all of Berkeley's people, well then we might as well change the name of the city because Berkeley won't be Berkeley anymore. How about Unberkeley... or Notberkeley... or Modesto.*
*Apologies to Modesto. I'm sure it's a lovely town. I just had a bad gig there one time, every time I had a gig there.
Hey all, I'm back in NYC in May. I'm doing WNYC's Death, Sex, & Money show LIVE IN BROOKLYN! And I'll be there with a special guest, my wife, Melissa Hudson Bell Ph.D!!! If you can't be there, there will eb a podcast of the show afterwards. Details below and a link to tickets. Hope to see you there!*
Death, Sex & Money is a show about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Host Anna Sale—dubbed “the Queen of the Awkward Pause” by Fast Company—-talks to people about relationships, money, family and work. This special live staging of Death Sex & Money will feature conversations with comedian and TV host W. Kamau Bell and Melissa Hudson Bell, Ph.D, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, and fashion tastemaker Simon Doonan and home décor guru Jonathan Adler. Luscious Jackson will bring the beats as Death, Sex & Money’s house band for the night.
So many of you have asked me when the public conversation with the owner of the Elmwood Cafe is going to be. Well, I can finally announce that it will be next Friday, March 13th at 7pm at Willard Middle School on 2425 Stuart St, Berkeley, CA. That's the short of it. The long of it is below in the press release. Hope to see you there.
Comedian W. Kamau Bell and The Elmwood Cafe, jointly invite you to a community forum on implicit bias and microaggression experiences in the East Bay
Berkeley residents, W. Kamau Bell and his wife Dr. Melissa Hudson Bell, posted a blog on his website describing an incident that happened to them on January 26th at the Elmwood Cafe. It occurred between them and an employee of the café. Very quickly, the blog spread around the Bay Area and eventually all over the country. It was the kind of story mainstream media couldn’t resist: a local TV personality, accusations of racism, and the backdrop Berkeley reportedly the most liberal place in America. And usually that is where a story like that ends. But not this time. Soon after the incident Michael Pearce, an advocate for social justice and owner of the café reached out to the Bell family and immediately apologized. He said he wanted to know what he could do to make sure that this kind of incident never happened again. Melissa and Kamau said all they wanted was a conversation with him, and they wanted to invite the community to come participate.
March 13th that conversation is happening. And thanks to the Berkeley Unified School District, it will be at Willard Middle School. The Bells and Michael Pearce will participate on a panel that will be facilitated by Berkeley’s own, Pamela Harrison-Small former Executive Director of the Berkeley Alliance. And just so it is clear that this is not just the story of the Bells struggles but how an unfortunate incident can be turned into positive change for the Berkeley community.
The panel will also feature Berkeley High School Senior and President of the Berkeley High Black Student Union, Kadijah Means, ACLU-Northern California Staff Attorney, Novella Coleman, and other panelists TBA. After the panel, the floor will be opened up to members of the community who are in attendance for their comments and questions. The hope is that we will all leave with a broader understanding of the complex racial issues facing our community and have greater practice addressing them through conversation.
Friday, March 13
Willard Middle School
2425 Stuart St, Berkeley, CA 94705
Follow up on Kamau Bell's highly publicized incident at Elmwood Café and to create an educational conversation about ways that implicit bias and microaggressions impact residents of the East Bay and offer concrete solutions and resources for fostering a culture of inclusivity.
*To allow audience members to feel comfortable, news cameras will not be allowed into the community forum but reporters will. We will be recording the event and will kindly offer video clips from the event.
UPDATE: My wife & I just talked to Michael Pearce, the owner of Elmwood Cafe & we've decided to have a public conversation about this. Details soon.
Me & my wife are not calling for anyone to be fired, not asking for a boycott. We are going to have a public conversation. #SoYouCanComeToo
You don’t know me. I know that for sure now. It’s not that I would expect you to know me, although many people in the Bay Area do, because of the work I’ve done as a stand-up comedian locally and on television. I’m known for something that The New Yorker called “intersectional progressivism.” That basically means I use jokes to fight for the people who don’t get a fair shake in the world. For the last several years, I have tried to learn as much as I can about oppression in all forms so that I can help make the world slightly more bearable with a few jokes. But that’s just my career.
In my life, I am a person who loves The Bay Area. LOVE IT! I lived in San Francisco for 13 years and in Oakland for two. And even though I lived in SF mostly, I spent A LOT of time in The East Bay. I have done my own headlining shows at The New Parish, La Pena, The East Bay JCC, and Marga Gomez’s comedy nights at The Marsh. I love these audiences. The Bay Area is a place where all sorts of different people live together, explore new ideas and strive to uphold the idea made famous by children singer Raffi, “The more we get together the happier we’ll be!”
To be honest though, my most fervent love is for Oakland. Which is why I was so excited recently when the people at Oaklandish gave me a hoodie. They just GAVE IT TO ME! I was walking past their pop-up shop at The Oakland Airport and one of their employees saw me, recognized me (I told you that people around here know me), and she awesomely and very generously gave me a hoodie. I love it. I wear it a lot. I was wearing it this past Monday, January 26, when I went to the Elmwood Cafe.
It was my birthday. My wife, Melissa, wanted to take me out for a birthday breakfast after we had dropped our three and a half year old daughter, Sami, at school down the street. Melissa picked the Elmwood Cafe. She loves you. She loved you back when you were the old school soda fountain, Ozzie’s. And she loves you more now that you have been turned into a beautiful all day brunch spot. Melissa is a sucker for runny eggs, scones, and lemon curd. I blame Downton Abbey.
So yes, we had breakfast there. But I know you don’t remember that, Elmwood Cafe. I know you don’t remember that because later that same day my wife went back to eat lunch with some new friends of hers. (I told you that she loves you. TWICE IN ONE DAY!) These are friends because, after two years in New York City, we moved back to the Bay Area last summer. My wife was pregnant and we wanted to have our second daughter back home. Our daughter, Juno, is now 13 weeks old. (I know. It’s crazy that her name is Juno considering that storm back east.) My wife’s new friends are all moms with new babies. When I heard that she had gone back to the Elmwood Cafe, I was happy she would get to have more of your food and ambiance. I was happy that you made her happy.
While she was eating with her new friends, I was down the street at Espresso Roma Cafe working on my Macbook Air. I suppose I could have stayed at the Elmwood Cafe and worked after breakfast, but you are relatively small establishment and I didn’t want to take up a table. When I was done working I walked back down College Avenue to rejoin her and meet her new friends. I was just carrying my laptop with no bag because I knew I wouldn’t be out for long. On my way back I stopped at Mrs. Dalloway’s, the bookstore, and I bought a children’s book about the Lovings, the couple who went to the Supreme Court and successfully argued for the striking down of laws that banned interracial marriage in 17 states. This is relevant to me because I’m black and my wife is white. That part I know that you know. Because of the series of events that followed me buying this book. They are as follows:
1. After buying the book and deciding not to get a bag for the book, I walk to the Elmwood Cafe.
2. I see my wife and her new mom friends all happily chatting and holding their babies while sitting at an outside table. It struck me how well my wife fit in with these new friends. (And not just because they were all white… although I think that may have made a difference to you.)
3. I walk over to them. My wife introduces me to them.
4. One of them asks about the book I am holding.
5. I show her the book.
6. Seconds later there is a loud series of knocks on the window of the Elmwood Cafe. They are coming from the inside of the restaurant.
7. I look up and see one of your employees staring daggers at me.
8. The employee then jerks her head to her left aggressively and I see her mouth say something to the effect of…
Seriously. That is what happened. OK. Maybe it wasn’t exactly, “SCRAM!” Maybe it was, “GIT!” Or maybe it was, “GO!” Whatever it was, it was certainly directed at me. And it was certainly the kind of direction you should only give to a dog… a dog that you, yourself, own.
Or maybe you could yell that at a dog that you don’t own, but a dog that you are afraid is going to attack a group of moms and their babies.
I was stunned. Caught totally flatfooted. My wife saw the look on my face. Later she told me that what I heard was in fact the second round of knocks on the window. My wife apparently thought it was a person who recognized me from my work who was excited to see me. (Look, Elmwood Cafe, I know you don’t know who I am but it does actually happen sometimes that people who know my work are excited to see me.) But when my wife saw the hurt expression on my face, she knew it wasn’t a fan. It was… something really shitty happening to her husband at her (soon to be formerly) favorite breakfast spot.
I told her (which meant I had to awkwardly tell these other women I just met) what just happened. I wanted to run away. I was actually strangely embarrassed, as if I had done something wrong. (Through my reading I have learned that’s one way oppression also works, from the inside.) I felt numb, like I was going to pass out. And then an employee — maybe the same one — walked out of the cafe to once again deliver the “Get out of here!” message. I guess since I was still standing there you figured that I hadn’t heard it the first time. But then your employee hesitated and looked around. And I guess she realized that no one at the table was bothered by my presence. We were in fact only bothered by her presence. We were bothered by the fact that we we currently standing in Berkeley, California, a city so allegedly liberal that even the most progress-y progressives make fun of it, and yet thanks to you, it is where I as a black man was being told to “GIT!” like it was 1963, Selma, Alabama, and I was crashing a meeting of The New Moms of the Confederacy. In that moment, your employee delivered the line that has become an instant classic in our family:
“Oh, we thought you were selling something.”
What the hell was that supposed to mean? You thought I was selling something so you thought you’d tell me to “GIT!” without first walking outside to find what was going on? And is “selling something” enough for you to bark at me through a plate glass window? And is the equivalent of “Oops!” enough to get you off the hook? The answer to the last two questions is, “No.”
At this point Melissa couldn’t take it anymore.
Melissa: “He is my husband.”
Your employee: “I’m sorry.”
Me: “This is my wife. That is my daughter. I just ate here earlier today.”
Your employee, not even looking at me: “I’m sorry.”
Me: “I bet you are.”
Quickly Melissa gathered herself and our daughter and we left. Much sooner than we would have wanted to in a perfect world… or even in just . Melissa talked to your employee. Melissa explained that although we had eaten there twice that day and even though she loved the Elmwood Cafe that we would not be back after the racism that we had just experienced.
That’s when your employee told my wife, “I don’t think it was a race thing.”
Ummm… actually a black man being told to leave a restaurant because the restaurant believes that his presence is harassing four white women and their kids, even though there is literally to support that is TEXT BOOK racism. It is so old school it has a wing in the racism museum, right between the sit-ins at lunch counters and a southern redneck telling a black man on a business trip, “You ain’t from around here, are ya, boy?” My wife told your employee in no uncertain terms that we ABSOLUTELY knew it WAS a race thing, because . Full disclosure, I heard about this exchange after it happened when we were headed home. While my wife was talking to your employee, I was cooing at my daughter in the car, for two reasons. 1) I love my daughter’s fat cheeks and big hazel eyes. And 2) I knew if I stood over my wife with my 6’4”, 250lb frame that it could very easily be spun that I was standing over your employee, and maybe that I was trying to intimidate her, or even worse that I was getting aggressive. I didn’t want to end up a hashtag. Again, we live with this shit everyday.
And look I understand that on College Avenue in “Berserkeley” that you might get some characters coming through your establishment that you might not want to serve. And it is your right to refuse service. For example, when we had breakfast that morning, there was a white guy with dreadlocks sitting directly across from your doorway spare change-ing everyone who went into and out of your restaurant. And I could understand if a business thought he was bothering people and if that business had asked him to leave. But he was there we had breakfast, at least an hour, and I didn't see anyone tell him to, “SCRAM!” But when I stood amicably talking to my wife for a few minutes, it was a different story.
I think me and that white guy were both even wearing hoodies, so it can’t be how I was dressed. Plus mine was a super cool Oaklandish one. I guess in his hoodie he had a more than me.
So Elmwood Cafe, we won’t be back, and that sucks, because my wife really, really liked you. And she’s one of those people who really talks a lot about the things she likes. And I haven’t been impressed with your response to this situation. Your employee’s apology was weak. One of my wife’s new (and hopefully future) friends even tried to talk to someone in the restaurant after we left, and that person apparently still believed . CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? I promise you I’m not selling my Macbook Air to anyone. I love it too much. And since I had just bought that book about the Loving couple, that’s not going anywhere either. That’s for my daughters.
And later that day I posted a picture of myself in the same clothes to your Facebook fanpage. I suggested that you Google me since you clearly didn’t know who I was. I don’t blame you for not knowing me. But I did hope that maybe you would look me up and discover how ridiculous that whole situation was. And how it was so mishandled by you from start to finish. I thought you might reach out to me. But you haven’t.
Despite everything, I do believe in peoples’ ability to learn new things and in a business’ abilities to conduct better practices. It’s a key component to my intersectional progressivism. But that doesn’t mean you get have to have my family’s patronage as you go about your learning curve. And you definitely don’t deserve my silence. Because I believe if you told me to scram then you have probably done that or something equally dehumanizing (or worse) to another innocent person. And I definitely believe it will happen again if I don’t say something. And as much as it would be “easier” to let it go, if I did that I wouldn’t be fulfilling my duties as a member of the advisory Board of Race Forward, a racial justice organization, and I certainly wouldn’t be living up to my responsibilities as The ACLU’s Racial Justice Ambassador. Yup, thankfully I have little bit of a platform to try and prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Anyway, the waffles were still delicious, but I’ll be down the street at Espresso Roma Cafe from now on. And my wife will have to find runny eggs, scones, and lemon curd elsewhere.
W. Kamau Bell (And Dr. Melissa Hudson Bell, Ph.D… She co-wrote and cosigns this.)
Yesterday, I went to two birthday parties for four year olds. Two in one day. Separated by enough time to go home take a deep breath and head back out again. Now, I’m not a creep. I had an a reason to be there. I was with my 3 and a half year old daughter. I’m happy that my daughter’s social schedule is so packed. It helps validate why me and the family returned to the Bay Area. But normally I wouldn’t be at both parties. Me and my wife would have roshambo’ed for who went to which party. Or we would’ve picked out parties based on the activities at the parties. (My wife would’ve loved the second one. It was at a gymnastics school.) We didn’t split the duties this time because our new daughter is two weeks old and my wife is currently embedded in breastfeeding.
Which brings me to why I’m writing. I am canceling some dates on the tour. I have no idea what I was thinking in booking such an aggressive schedule so soon after the birth of my second child. (Oh wait. I remember. I had no idea how hard this would be.) I guess I thought two kids would only be twice as hard. Two kids isn’t twice as hard anymore than getting hit by a second train right after the first train is twice as hard. So sorry, Kansas City, Des Moines, Omaha, Ferndale, and Cincinnati. I’ll be back soon when we have time to figure this all out. And when I’m (hopefully) going on more than five hours of sleep a night. I talked about this recently on the Pete Holmes podcast. I said when you are a comic and a parent, parenting takes up like 80% of your brain whereas before comedy could pretty much get all of it. Well with this second kid so far parenting has taken up 99%. She’s a greedy one, being all newly born and all.
Also — and this doesn’t sound cool or funny I know — but I like my family and this seems like an important time to be there. Going nearly three weeks without being home seems more than crazy. It seems dumb.
So please forgive me Kansas City, Des Moines, Omaha, Ferndale, and Cincinnati. I fucked up and I need to scale back some. I still love you. I just love my family more.
W. KAMAU BELL ANNOUNCES OH, EVERYTHING! TOURFan Presale Starts Thursday Sept 18, 10am PT Time
Tickets Onsale Friday Sept 19, 11am Local Time
W. Kamau Bell announces dates for his Oh, Everything! Stand-up Comedy winter tour, which kicks off in November and runs through the end of January 2015, taking the comedian from coast to coast and everywhere in between. A fanclub presale begins today, Thursday, September 18th at 10am PT time www.wkamaubell.com. General public presale starts tomorrow, Friday September 19th at 11am local time. VIP Packages are also available at $50 to benefit Race Forward. These packages will include a post-show meet and greet with W. Kamau Bell and an autographed, personalized tour poster. Dates below. All tickets are available at www.wkamaubell.com.
Socio-political comedian W. Kamau Bell’s Oh, Everything! promises to be a comedic attack on everything he can’t stop thinking about, including but not limited to homophobia, the ’N” word, gentrification, President Obama, why the borders should be opened, his mixed race kids, your “friends”, your “followers”, why he could never be an atheist, why his God looks like Denzel Washington with dreadlocks, guns, guns, guns, and of course Kamau’s old buddy racism! The title of Kamau’s tour dates back to his days on Totally Biased. Kamau and the writers would often sit back and find gallows humor in the dark subject matter they tackled. At the end of a big laugh about a difficult subject, someone would sit back and say, “Oh, George Zimmerman!” OR “Oh, The GOP’s War on Women!” OR “Oh, Donald Trump!” And eventually these recurring expressions just morphed into, “Oh, Everything!”
Kamau has emerged as the post-modern voice of comedy, hailed by the New York Times as “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years,” and voted San Francisco’s best comedian by the SF Weekly, the SF Bay Guardian, and 7×7 Magazine. Kamau may be most recognizable for his critically acclaimed FX/FXX comedy series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. Kamau was creator, writer and host of the show, which was executive produced by Chris Rock who became a fan of Kamau’s after seeing his one man show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. Totally Biased was nominated for “Best Talk Series” at the 2012 NAACP Image Awards and Salon.com listed Kamau on their “Sexiest Men of 2012” list, calling the series “surreptitiously revolutionary in its effortless diversity and humanism.” The San Francisco Chronicle raved, “it makes The Daily Show seem like something your dad watches.” Kamau’s writing has appeared on Salon.com, Buzzfeed, and colorlines.com. His recent Buzzfeed article on the lack of diversity in mainstream late night talk show hosts was quoted (and misquoted) all over the Internet, including in The Hollywood Reporter. Kamau’s TV, radio and podcast appearances include HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Conan on TBS, WTF with Marc Maron, The View, NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and Comedy Central’ s @midnight and John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show.
Race Forward advocates for racial justice, focusing on issues such as immigration, LGBT liberation, and economic equity. Race Forward accomplishes its impactful work through leadership development, research, and via its award-winning daily news site, Colorlines. For more information visit: www.raceforward.org.
W KAMAU BELL’S “OH, EVERYTHING!” COMEDY TOUR
9/21 – Tempe, AZ @ The Tempe Improv
9/22 – San Diego, CA @ Mad House Comedy Club
9/23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Largo
11/4 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
11/5 – Columbia, MO @ Mojo’s
11/6 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
11/8 – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/9 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
11/11 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s
11/12 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
11/13 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
11/14 – St. Paul, MN @ The Turf Club
11/15 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
11/16 – Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
11/19 – Ferndale, MI @ Magic Bag
11/20 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
11/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Garfield Artworks
11/22 – Washington, DC @ Sixth & I
11/23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
12/3 – Manchester, NH @ Shaskeen Pub
12/4 – Burlington, VT @ Nectars
12/5 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
12/6 – Providence, RI @ Fete Lounge
12/7 – New York, NY @ SubCulture
1/6 – New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina’s
1/7 – Little Rock, AR @ Juanita’s Cantina
1/8 – Jackson, MS @ Duling Hall
1/9 – Memphis, TN @ Minglewood Hall – 1884 Lounge
1/10- Nashville, TN @ Exit In
1/14 – Athens, GA @ The Melting Point
1/15 – Knoxville, TN @ The Pilot Light
1/16 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
1/17 – Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl
1/21 – Portland, OR @ Hollywood Theatre
1/22 – Eugene, OR @ WOW Hall
1/23 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
1/24 – Seattle, WA @ Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
Press requests to Sheila Kenny at Right On! PR
email@example.com // o. 512-487-5005 // c. 917-847-9977
I was having one of those great stand-up comedy nights. And this was about four years ago, when I didn't have that many great stand-up comedy nights. At that point I was a San Francisco comedian whose options were not necessarily running out but they were limited. So I was happy knowing that going in it was gong to be a great night. I was already scheduled that night to feature for Bill Burr at Cobb’s Comedy Club in SF. This was at the point that Bill was really taking off. His audiences were big and knew they were the cool kids for knowing who he was before everybody else. I knew in advance it was going to be good. But before I was scheduled to go on at Cobb’s that night, I had to do a five minute set at a benefit for Glide Memorial Church, a church with a truly progressive social justice agenda. Forget about “What Would Jesus Do?” Glide was about “What Jesus Actually Did.” Helping the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised. The benefit was a huge deal. It was at The Warfield, a 2000 seat theater. It was filled with the movers and shakers of SF. And the show that night featured, singers, musicians, choirs, and a few comedians. Those comedians were me, Johnny Steele, Selene Luna, Steven Pearl, and Robin Williams.
I had met Robin kinda, sorta before. As an SF comedian we were all accustomed those nights he would just show up around town. He had a home here. And he was sort of still looked at as local, just the most famous one. It wasn’t often that he showed up on the scene. It wasn’t regular. But when it happened. It happened in streaks. You’d show up at Cobb’s on a showcase night and on the line-up behind the desk where you’d look to see what time you were on, you’d read the name of a comic that you’d never heard off… AND THAT COMIC WAS HEADLINING??? Eventually somebody would let it slip that the name was just a sneaky way to say, “Robin Williams” without having everybody freakout. Because that’s what people did when even the hint of Robin was around, they freaked out.
When Robin was on these runs around town, it would start at Cobb’s, then maybe the Punch Line, and then suddenly you’d see him at a full on open mic. He showed up often at The Mock Cafe in the Mission. The Mock was so small I think it was shut down in order to turn it into an elevator. (I’m not kidding.) Robin would show up at The Mock and a room that felt full with fifteen people — and packed to the gills with 20 — would have 50 people struggling to see around the pillar that went right down the center of the “room”, blocking the view of Robin Williams on a stage the size of a twin mattress. People would just be walking by the “club” on their way to dinner or to do laundry or on their way to nothing, and they would see — or hear — that Robin was in there, and suddenly all plans were canceled. No one was turning down a chance to see Robin Williams doing exactly what you wanted him to be doing — BEING ROBIN WILLIAMS! Once the owner of The Mock — who also owned The Marsh — realized what was going on in her C room, she had strict instructions for her to be called the minute he entered the building, so she could get down there right away.
I was there many of those evenings. I got to see him be him at Cobb’s and I got to see him at The Mock Cafe. It was always electric. It was always overwhelming. It was always hilarious. And I always felt lucky to be there. Joe Klocek pointed out to me that Robin regularly got a standing ovation on his way up to the stage, before he’d even said anything. This was before cameraphones were ubiquitous, and yet when he hit the stage suddenly everybody had a camera. He would usually do an hour. The first five was just him responding to people responding to him. And then he would get to work and just be a comic working on bits. Much of which ended up in his “Live on Broadway” HBO special. I’m sure I met him on one of those nights. Maybe I even talked to him. I’m sure he didn’t remember. But he was very approachable. He always hung out with the comics before he went on, even if those comics were the open mikers whose biggest credits were, “I got to hang out with Robin Williams one night.”
That night at The Glide Benefit I actually met him for reals. I was a comic who was on the show with him. And since it was this “big wig” show, all the comics took a picture together. And then the show started. I wanted to do well for a bunch of reasons. 1) Because I always want to do well. 2) Because there’s nothing worse than bombing at a benefit. Trust me. I’ve done it… recently. 3) ROBIN WAS WATCHING.
And although I followed a full-on gospel choir, I had a good set. It felt good. I didn’t drop the ball. I got the crowd refocused from choir to jokes. And then I said good night, and immediately I hopped in my wife’s car with her. And we beat it over to Cobb’s where I featured for Bill Burr minutes later. It was a great stand-up comedy night.
And it was made better by the fact that I later heard that Robin had thought I was funny, and he had spent time looking for me at The Benefit after I had left. And he had asked one of the organizers if he could have my contact info. (I told her that he could because… YES!)
And then one day out of the blue I got an email from an email address that didn’t have the words “Robin” or “Williams” anywhere in it, but it was him. And he told me that my stand-up was a “revelation” and “you got the spark.” Robin had no idea how often I thought of the fact that HE thought I had “the spark.” He had no idea that those simple words helped dig me out of my own dark corners and emotional dead ends. Even now I spend more time offstage wondering if this career makes any sense for me than I spend onstage doing it. And his simple words have often made a difference in me getting up and getting at it again and again.
And I’m not the only comic by a longshot who he reached out to and “bonafide.” He was obviously still a fan of stand-up, and he also understood that kind words from him meant a lot. He just had a generous spirit, which people in positions even close to his position don’t always have. He was generous in one more way too. He donated money to a film project I was working on without even being asked really. He just heard about it and wanted to help.
My wife cried last night when she saw the still from the movie Aladdin that Evan Rachel Wood tweeted of The Genie hugging Aladdin. That’s who he was to her. And that’s when it really hit her that he was gone. But I’m a little older than my wife, for me he will always be Mork. And I’m not being condescending. When I was a little kid, Mork was my hero as much as Spider-Man and The Hulk. As far as I was concerned they all had superpowers. They all seemed bigger than life. To me Robin had more in common with greatest athletes than other entertainers. He had all the tools. His standard was so high the rest of us comics won’t even have to worry about being compared to him. You can still be in the NBA but still be miles away from being Michael Jordan.
When I was thinking about how amazing it is to see so many people show so much love in Robin’s death, one thing struck me. For so many of us, Robin first got us when we were kids. You don’t forget those entertainers who got you back then. But then Robin did near the impossible. He circled back and got us again when were adults. It’s kinda like if Steve from Blues Clues grew up to be Richard Pryor.
And yes, Robin was a complicated human with a complicated history, much of which he covered in his very open interview with Marc Maron. And now he's gone. I already miss him.
I know you just heard from me a week ago, but now that I'm back in the Bay Area for good (READ MORE ABOUT THAT HERE.) and we've found a new home... and a new pre-school... and a new mid-wife... and most excitingly... A NEW TRADER JOES(!) I'm ready to get back to work!
Last week, I told you about my residency in San Francisco at The Cynic Cave (It's almost sold out). I also told you about my return to Largo in Los Angeles. (Get your tickets here.) And today I am adding two more cities to this growing "tour."
SHOWS ADDED IN TEMPE, AZ AND SAN DIEGO, CA
Today at 11am PT, advance tickets will go on sale on my site for shows in Tempe, AZ on 9/21 and in San Diego, CA on 9/22. And both of these shows will be for just 15 bucks. THAT'S A 2014 SHOW AT 2004 PRICES! I'm practically giving the comedy away! As I add more shows, I'm really trying to keep the ticket prices low in my effort to be stand-up comedy Fugazi. (Now there's a musical reference worth Googling.)
Get your PRESALE TICKETS HERE for one day only (and then they will be on sale to the public tomorrow at 11am PT):
MY MOM'S NEW BOOK!
Also please continue to support my mom's Kickstarter for her new book, like you've been doing. There are only five days left and we are still a good ways off from hitting our goal. Even a dollar will help, and/or just spreading the word on your social media Internetic platforms and devices.
And in case you didn't know, I'm a huuuuuuge basketball fan, so I wrote a blog recently about Team USA and Paul George's broken leg. If that means something to you then check it out here. If that doesn't well there are still a lot of things for us to talk about.
"And that's why I kept my half-black ass at home." - Blake Griffin
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) August 2, 2014
That was a tweet I sent out yesterday shortly after hearing the news about Paul George’s horrific injury at a scrimmage in preparation for the World Cup of Basketball. I’m using the word horrific because that is the word that was used in the Deadspin article about his injury. Now at first I thought, “Oh boy. Here comes another sensationalistic, click bait-alistic Internet headline.” And then I clicked on the link to the article, saw the still photo, threw up all over myself, cleaned myself up, accidentally looked at the still picture again, threw up all over myself again, cleaned myself up again, accidentally looked at my computer screen again, threw up one more time… Anyway, I repeated this process about nineteen more times until I finally realized that I had to just let that computer go for good, and go buy a new one that didn’t have that picture on it.
Deadspin was right. It is horrific. If you don’t believe me, go Google it yourself. I’m not embedding it here, because I don’t want to be responsible for buying you a new computer too. It was so bad that ESPN only replayed it once. ONCE??? That means in TV terms they determined it was more offensive to the at home viewer than the many replays they did of the Challenger exploding, more offensive than the 9/11 footage being rerun every ummm… 9/11, and more “offensive” than that time every “news” outlet showed Michael Sam giving his boyfriend a grandma kiss on the lips. It was actually deemed so horrific by the people who run Team USA they immediately cancelled the rest of the game. So horrific that the commissioner of the NBA took time away from praying for Donald Sterling’s quick and painful death to make a statement about Paul George’s injury. In that still photo Paul George’s leg looks like something from a fight scene from an early 90’s Steven Seagal flick.
Now, I meant no disrespect to Paul George with that tweet. Though I was not surprised when somebody tweeted back at me, “Too soon.” And although I am a comedian the only part I was joking about in the tweet was the “half-black” part. Blake Griffin is black. He has to be. He’s been on the Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher’s The Champs podcast twice. I’m not even black enough to get on there once. And I guess I was joking about the fact Blake Griffin said it. I don’t know him. I don’t know if he did say it. But I bet he thought it.
Now they may have good reasons for not wanting to go, but they shouldn’t need good reasons. Because one thing none of them wanted to do this summer is risk a career threatening injury during games that don’t matter at all. Not even a little bit. Paul George was injured during a scrimmage for the FIBA World Cup. A SCRIMMAGE! So a fake game for a thing that’s not a thing. The World Cup of Basketball sounds like something invented by Vince McMahon. It sounds instantly corny and second rate, like the Xtreme Football League. It sounds like a bad video game from one of those home game systems that didn’t take off in the 80’s like ColecoVision Jr. What it doesn’t sound like is a reason for a professional athlete like Paul George to skip out on a summer of being young, gifted, and black.
We have to stop sending pros to these things. And I’m including The Olympics in these things. I remember the Dream Team. It was, and still is awesome. Twelve players, eleven Hall of Famers. (Woulda been twelve Hall of Famers if they I had taken Shaquille O’Neal instead of taking the player Michael Jordan still refers to as “the college kid.” #NotAGoodSign) But I have no memory of any of the dream-ish team-ishes that followed them. I know they happened. I know one of them lost. But the fact remains, we should have just sent the Dream Team once and then returned world basketball to the amateurs. This stuff should be for the people who have the most to prove and the most to gain. Send the players who if they have a good showing it helps their draft status. Send the players who will be excited to go to Spain, not the guys who can go to Spain anytime they want and would rather be at home. Send the players who might actually be excited to win a gold medal at the World Cup of Basketball. (Is it a gold medal? Again, I have no idea.) Send the players who if they break a leg then they at least do it trying to prove themselves and better their circumstance. Don’t send the players who have little to prove and much to lose.
Whenever a player withdraws from The Galaxy Classic... I mean, The World Cup... somebody somewhere talks about them not being patriotic. Stop it! We all know even “amateur athletics” is big business. And the reason they make the pros go is that it is good for business. Well, it’s not good for these pros’ business. Don’t believe me. Watch the clip. I dare you.
I don’t exactly know how to wrap my head around everything going on in the world right now. Everyday thing seem to be getting worse and worse or spinning more out of control and I’m feeling combination of scared and crazy about everything. (Scrazy, anyone?) And I haven’t even mentioned Iggy Azalea. (If you don’t know who that is, don’t Google. Trust me.) And in the middle of all that me and my family (my growing family) have just packed up everything and returned to The Bay Area. (As in San Francisco Bay Area in case you were thinking Tampa.)
CYNIC CAVE SHOWS, San Francisco
And as a way to try to get a handle on this big, scrazy world — and also as a way celebrate commemorate mark the occasion of my return, I am doing a residency at The Cynic Cave, a cool underground (literally) comedy space in the basement (I told you.) of Lost Weekend Video in the Mission District of San Francisco. It’s going to be every Saturday in September with shows at 6pm and 8pm. This is all for the (hopefully) reasonable price of $15! Come see me comedically wrestle with everything (including the impending birth of my second child - YIPES!) in a space that is the very definition of intimate. Don’t believe me? It only holds 35 people. Seriously. The Cynic Cave opened after I left for NYC, but whenever I came back I tried to perform there. It is one of the most fun rooms I’ve ever performed in. It feels like it would have fit in nicely during heyday of The Hungry i. Seems like the kinda place Lenny Bruce woulda been arrested. I’ll be in there trying to discover the new classics. So get your tickets now before they aren’t as easily get-able. I have a limited number of PRESALE tickets available to you directly on my site today, and then they will be on sale to the public tomorrow at 11am PT.
LARGO SHOW, Los Angeles
For my Los Angeles people who have been asking when I’ll be back, I’ll be doing a very special show at the legendary Largo on September 23rd. You can get your tickets NOW from me. The show is $25 but TODAY ONLY I have a few for $20. Because I love you. They will be on sale for regular non-special folk tomorrow at 11am PT.
And for the rest of you, there are more dates to come this fall/winter. Lots, lots, (gulp) lots more. Stay tuned.
MY MOM'S NEW BOOK!
And for everybody who is reading this, my mom has a new book coming out. It’s entitled, “Not All Poor People Are Black: and other things we should think more about.” If you like what I do, then you’ll LOVE my mom and her writing. Currently she is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, because she is self-publishing it by choice. My mom has had several books published by many major publishers, but she wants to do it herself like she did back in the day. (That day was the mid 80’s.) Check out her page and video, and help a 77 year old recovering academic’s dream come true. (I know she doesn’t look 77, but as they say, “Good black, don’t crack…" They being “me.”) The video features my mom, me, and a shout out from Henry Louis Gates, Jr, who in a recent email to me called my mom one of his heroes.
If each of you on this list gave just a buck we could wrap up this Kickstarter today easily, and for only $15 you get a digital copy of her new book. There are lots of other awards. Check it out, please. I know this plug has gone on awhile, but my mom is more than worth it. If you a friends with her on Facebook then you know this already. She will wade into any controversy and set all fools straight. Friend her. You’ve been warned. :-)
I always wanted a concert tee of me, and now I have one! The image that Dima Djurchin created for the tour was too good to just let disappear into the ether, so now it is immortalized in cotton. Also there is another t-shirt available that some of you more intrepid watchers of me may remember. They are both 20 bucks and available...NOW! AND if you buy a ticket AND an "Oh Everything" tee together, you'll get $5 off!
And for anyone who didn't get the "More Kamau Bell" tee already - I only have a handful left and have marked them down to a mere $5 - I won't be printing anymore, so if you wanted one, go get 'em!
So I live in the Bay Area now (again). Yup. after two-ish years of living in New York City, we are back. I say “we” because the main reason I moved back is because we, as a family, knew it was best for us. My wife is very pregnant with our second child, a daughter. (YAY! Maybe some of the credits I earned from my first daughter will transfer over!) And our O.D. (Original Daughter) is now three years old, which means it’s time for school to begin. The kind of school with book learnin’, propaganda about 2+2, and the white-man’s sentence structure. So the next few months are going to be hectic for me and my family for lots and lots (and lots) of reasons, and the idea of having a kid in NYC just started driving us crazy. In our two years in NYC we hadn’t had the time (or opportunity) to dig our roots down deep enough to have a community of family and friends large enough for us to feel good about having a second kid there. Whereas in The Bay, my wife’s entire immediate family and 90% of her closest friends are within 2 hours. And after living in The Bay for 15 years, many of my best friends are here. All of whom are in part responsible (and continue to be so) for the adultification of W. Kamau Bell.*
I could only imagine what it might have been like for us to live in NYC and have a baby. Calling one of our handful of friends to come over to help and hearing, “Ummm… I’d love to but I’m way out in Brooklyn and I don’t think the G Train is running today.” Not to mention that when we went to an obstetrician in NYC and my wife mentioned some of the natural childbirth methods she used during her first pregnancy, the doctor had a look on her face like she had sucked on a dozen lemons while my wife tried to sell her on Jesus Christ as her personal lord and savior.**
Also, as I’ve said many times, in print, on audio, and in the flesh, The Bay Area is my happy place. And after two years (three if you count the lead-up) of being picked-up, chewed up, swallowed up, and ultimately spit up by Totally Biased, I could use some happy place in my life. Now, I know The Bay Area has changed in dramatic ways in just those two years. (The lights on The Bay Bridge… Even hipsters are mad about gentrification… The entire country knows Oakland is cool now… Google bought MUNI and now it’s free. — Am I getting that right?) But I still feel like it is the best place for me to feel like myself again. I have no idea how The Bay will feel (or if it will even care) about my return, but to me — not to get all Lebron James-y on ya — it’s home. Which is incredibly weird because when I moved to The Bay in 1997 it was just supposed to be a stop gap (a place to hone my craft) on my way fame and fortune in LA. (Oops.)
And yes, I love NYC as much as any t-shirt does, but honestly it got tainted by the show. For me, everything in NYC was due to, because of, and ultimately the fault of the show. It was hard to see having a life there that wasn’t a spinoff of the show. And to the many friends I made in NYC, sorry about springing this on you. I've never been good at goodbyes. And also sorry if I've been hard to reach. It's been crazypants*** around these parts. And I'll be back your way often.
So, now I’m back in The Bay being another one of those weirdos who think you can make things happen from here.**** But mostly I think I wrote this, just in case my Bay Area people see me in the streets more often than they are accustomed to they can know I’m not lost; I’m home.*****
* Please don’t sue me Lauryn Hill.
** OK, I may be overselling this slightly.
*** My fingers are circling around my head.
**** Looking at you, Boots Riley!
***** Cue that song the ESPN played over and over (and over) again for Lebron.
After watching Leslie Jones’ Weekend Update appearance on Saturday Night Live, one thing remains crystal clear. From Garrett Morris to Leslie Jones, it never gets easier being black on SNL. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about SNL’s black problem. Usually it’s that SNL doesn’t have enough black people… OR they don’t know how to use the ones they have. But this is different.
Much of the outrage surrounding her appearance (We really need a better word for being mad on the Internet than “outrage”.) has focused on the bit itself, either it being funny or not funny. It happens every week, in real time, during SNL, on social media. That is totally fair. (Although some of the outrage has used words like “coonery” which is totally fucked up.) But I would say that the real sticking point with this bit is the audience.
The challenge that I had when I watched Leslie’s bit wasn’t about the bit itself. I laughed several times. Sometimes it was that “Ouch!” laughter. But I’m a fan of that. My real challenge was the old black trope of, “Uh oh! White folks are seeing her do this!” When I watched the bit I kept thinking about white people. And thinking about white people doesn’t make any activity better, unless your activity is “Thinking About White People”.
I was thinking about the white people who (I’m sure) make up the vast majority of SNL’s studio audience, the white people who (definitely) make up the vast majority of the TV audience, and the white person (Colin Jost) who was literally sitting next to Leslie during the bit. I took a scientific poll of myself, and I determined that it just felt like too many white people were watching her bit. Especially for a bit as potentially (and actually) incendiary as the one Leslie did. I didn’t trust that those white people understood the historic context behind the bit. I didn't trust that it wouldn’t lead to frat boys walking up to black women with Afros and saying, “I’d totally do you over Lupita Nyong’o!... Hwey! Where you going?”
IMHO, context is what made Leslie Jones’ bit seem weird to some (like me) and offensive to others. Imagine, just for a second, that instead of Chris Rock taping his classic (CLASSSSSSSSSSIC!) bit, “Niggas vs Black People”, in Washington, DC, in front of what appears to be a mostly black audience, that he had taped that bit on SNL… at the Weekend Update desk…. next to Norm MacDonald… right after another Norm joke referencing Frank Stallone. Would it have been as immediately heralded as a new high in cultural criticism and satire? Or would Norm’s awkward laughter and the studio audience’s “whiteness” have made it harder to focus on the brilliance? In fact, I vote that Rock’s bit is better on HBO because we can see through all the audience reaction shots that black people are fully (FULLY!) onboard. (I do think the bit would have killed with SNL’s audience too, but the laughter would’ve been more “REEEEEALLY?” instead of the black audience’s laughter of, “YES!!!”
There’s an interesting thing that happens when POC experience entertainment. We feel like if we are the only ones “in the room” — whether that “room” is an actual room like a comedy club, OR a TV taping, OR just the “room” that exists when the majority of the TV viewing audience is black. (See: Fox’s 90’s sitcom “Living Single”.) When we feel like we are the only ones privy to the material AND the person onstage is one of us, then we will laugh harder, celebrate louder, and applaud more ferociously than if we feel like we are being watched by white folks. Why is that? Well actually it has to do with that whole slavery thing and how white people were LITERALLY watching us all the time and us feeling like we couldn’t relax. No, most of of black Americans today aren’t slaves, but slavery is like phantom limb syndrome. Even though it’s gone, we can still feel it.
The laughter that POC have when we are amongst ourselves is like the drive home after you have Thanksgiving dinner with your relatives. When you get in the car you can finally say, “What the fuck is up with grandma?” But Leslie basically said, "What the fuck is up with grandma?" in front of grandma! (Colin Jost makes a great grandma.) And if you don’t believe me that black people react bigger when we are “alone”? Watch any episode of “Showtime At The Apollo” from the late 80’s/early 90’s. If you don’t see that black woman in the front row get up less than four times, I’ll eat Pharrell’s hat.
And we (black people) love to give ourselves the luxury of feeling like we are the only ones watching — even if we EMPIRICALLY KNOW IT IS NOT TRUE! And I believe if Leslie Jones had done her bit on “Comic View” or “Def Comedy Jam” or at a random Sunday on Hannibal Buress’ night at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn — where there are a TON of white people, but the lens through which they watch is BLAAAAAACK! — she would have killed! And she may have been heralded as one of our (black people’s) favorite types of comedians, one who goes there! But because of the venue and the audience, it felt weird. Well, here’s hoping that Leslie Jones continues to make it weird at 30 Rock, because I certainly prefer this take on a black woman and all the "ouch" she brings to Kenan Thompson's take in assorted wigs and dresses. #TeamLeslie