Wait. Is it possible to laugh at and at the same time learn something about racism? W. Kamau Bell seems to think so. Bell is a rising socio-political comic, dissecting race, sex, politics, class, and culture. Doing this very well; the NY Times calls him “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” Having dropped out of college to pursue stand-up 15 years ago, Bell now hosts his own show on FX, “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” produced by Chris Rock.
Bell represents a new wave of comedy, shaping what some are calling “the post-Obama world.” This perspective promotes blunt honesty, and seeks to lessen the demand of political correctness between and among intercultural groups. This means that it should be okay to criticize a black leader for making poor decisions, and it should be okay to talk down on another comedian even if they are of the same race (Tyler Perry). Bell is indirectly promoting honesty within and between cultures (such jokes are not exclusively for African-Americans, though many of other races may be afraid to laugh at first), while suggesting that points are only to be made if intellectual thought is invested in them. An example of this is Bell toying with the idea that President Obama looks to shield himself from criticism by making it look like he is working harder than he is, a la the mother in the old Rice Krispie Treats commercial who throws flour in her face, “even though”, Bell says, “we all know there's no flour in Rice Krispie Treats.”
Humor is often seen as a unifier, and Bell is a testament to that as he looks to demolish the rules that only allow one ethnic group to laugh at a specific joke. Influenced by his civil rights activist mother and his experience in private education, Bell promotes the use of reason and the idea of peacemaking through humor. Bell is not religiously affiliated, but he uses his keen insight to promote what he stands for, even if what he stands for often has religious connotations.
While taking part in Bell's now-famous stand-up act, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour”, an audience member can plan on being entertained, as well as enlightened by the perspective of a critically thinking observer of race relations today.
- Michael Bass (SAO Intern)