Sorting out the complexities of racism in 60 minutes might seem an impossible proposition, but that’s exactly the challenge San Francisco comedian W. Kamau Bell undertakes in his one-man show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. Spark visits Bell to discuss race and check out his show.
After years of performing standup in comedy clubs, the Chicago transplant to the Bay Area has been delivering his solo show before local audiences since 2007. Trading the comedy club circuit to pursue his solo show has given him new freedom to explore race and its impact on American culture in a public setting. Like his earlier work, the show is rooted in comedy. But Bell’s underlying agenda is much more serious.
“I want people to actually walk out talking about racism in different ways. We don’t ever really have open discussions about race …. Normally it’s quiet, it’s only our group. And that’s what this show’s about,” Bell explains.
During the show, Bell riffs on everything from race and politics to interracial friendships and the sort of subtle racism that is likely to emerge, as Bell puts it, “around the water cooler, at the Xerox machine, often while holding a latte.”
“An audience shows up to my solo show knowing I’m going to talk about race. It leaves me open to talk about race in ways I could never really get away with in a comedy club,” he says.
Bell was named the 2008 Bay Area Comedian of the Year by San Francisco Weekly. He can be heard on radio station Live 105 and online at Roof Top Comedy as half of the rant-and-rave team Siskel and Negro. Along with television appearances on Comedy Central and Comics Unleashed, he has performed at numerous festivals and comedy events, including the New Faces show, the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and the Best of the Uptown Comics show.