W. Kamau Bell

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W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell (44054422401) (cropped).jpg
W. Kamau Bell in 2018
Birth nameWalter Kamau Bell
Born (1973-01-26) January 26, 1973 (age 49)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
MediumStand-up comedy
NationalityAmerican
Years active2005–present
Subject(s)Racism, social identity, inequality, American politics
Spouse
Melissa Hudson Bell
(m. 2009)
Children3
Parent(s)Walter Bell
Janet Cheatham Bell
Notable works and rolesTotally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America, Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period
Websitewkamaubell.com

Walter Kamau Bell (born January 26, 1973),[1] known professionally as W. Kamau Bell, is an American stand-up comic and television host. He has hosted the CNN series United Shades of America since 2016, and hosted FXX television series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell from 2012 to 2013.[2] He is the host of the live radio show and podcast Kamau Right Now on KALW, and also co-hosts the podcasts Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period with Kevin Avery (comedian) and Politically Re-Active with Hari Kondabolu.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Bell was born in Palo Alto, California,[5] and grew up in Alabama, Boston and Chicago. He is the only child of Walter Bell, who served as Alabama's Insurance Commissioner and Chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, and author Janet Cheatham Bell, who founded a self-publishing firm.[6][7] Between ages five and 12, Bell lived in Boston, Massachusetts in the Mattapan neighborhood of the city.[8] Bell graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and attended the University of Pennsylvania before dropping out. Later he began to pursue a career in comedy.[9]

He is a first cousin once removed of speculative fiction writer N. K. Jemisin.[10]

Career[edit]

After establishing himself as a sociopolitical comedian and community activist based in San Francisco, Bell became a founding member of the comedy collective Laughter Against the Machine and has been featured in a number of prominent podcasts and publications, such as WTF with Marc Maron, Citizen Radio, and Current TV's The War Room with Jennifer Granholm, on which Bell was a regular correspondent.

His first comedy album, One Night Only, was released in 2007. Also in 2007, he developed a one-man show entitled The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour, "a comedic exploration of the current state of America's racism", which he periodically performs in updated versions.[11][12][13]

His follow-up album, Face Full of Flour, was released in 2010, and was named one of the Top 10 Best Comedy Albums of the year by iTunes and Punchline Magazine.[14] From 2011 to 2012, he wrote the blog "Kamau's Komedy Korner" for the San Francisco Weekly.[15] In 2012, Bell was voted San Francisco's best comedian by the SF Weekly, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and 7×7 Magazine.[11]

His first stand-up comedy TV special, Semi-Prominent Negro, premiered on Showtime on April 29, 2016,[16] and on September 30, 2016, his third full-length album with the same title, was released on Kill Rock Stars.[17]

On November 7, 2017, Bell became the Frank Sinatra Artist-in-Residence of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.[18]

Television[edit]

From 2012 to 2013, Bell hosted a weekly stand up comedy television series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, first on FX and later on FXX.[19] The show, produced by Chris Rock, provided observational comedy and commentary on social and political issues in addition to celebrity interviews. After the show was cancelled in November 2013,[19] Bell moved back to California from New York.[20]

He is currently the host of the award-winning CNN documentary series United Shades of America, which premiered on April 24, 2016. The series has been nominated for several Emmy Awards: from 2016 to 2019 (4 nominations) it was nominated for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program; in 2021 it was nominated for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series Or Special. Bell was also nominated as Outstanding Host in 2017 and 2018. Bell is Executive Producer of the show, accepting the award for Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program in 2017, 2018 and 2019.[21]

The show United Shades of America was renewed for season 3 in 2018. The first episode of the show was aired on the 29th of April 2018.[22] The season consisted of 8 episodes.[23] The last episode, titled "Native Hawaii" aired on July 1, 2018.[24] Later in July 2018, Bell was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality Program for hosting United Shades of America.[25]

Podcast host[edit]

From 2010 to 2014, Bell co-hosted the podcast The Field Negro Guide to Arts & Culture with Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid.[26]

Since November 2014, Bell has co-hosted the Earwolf-produced podcast Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period with comedian and writer Kevin Avery.[27] In addition to reviewing the films of Denzel Washington one by one, the podcast has also featured interviews with prominent actors, filmmakers, musicians, and comedians including Spike Lee,[28] Ava DuVernay,[29] Jesse Williams,[30] Issa Rae,[31] and Ryan Coogler.[32]

Since January 2016, he has hosted Kamau Right Now, a live radio show and podcast produced by KALW.[33]

Since June 2016, he has also co-hosted the Panoply/First Look Media-produced podcast Politically Re-Active with comedian Hari Kondabolu.[4] The podcast explores American politics and elections with a comedic approach, and includes interviews with activists, journalists, and scholars such as Ian Haney López, Robert Reich, and Pramila Jayapal.[34]

Author[edit]

Bell has authored a number of essays and blog posts about race and racism in American politics and media. In May 2017, Bell published his first book, The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6'4, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian.[35] The book is a humorous autobiography interspersed with essays about politics and popular culture.

Activism[edit]

Bell sits on the advisory boards of Race Forward, a racial justice think tank (formerly known as the Applied Research Center), and Hollaback!, an anti-harassment organization.[36] In October 2013, he was named the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador on racial justice.[37]

Implicit bias incident in 2015[edit]

On January 26, 2015, Bell and his wife Melissa were involved in an incident at the Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley, California, which Bell alleged was racially motivated.[38] Bell reported online that an employee of the cafe told him to "scram", or words to that effect, while he was talking to his white wife and her friends at one of its outdoor tables.[39] He had approached the women from the outside casually dressed (e.g., wearing a knit cap), and the employee, a waitress, assumed he was "selling something," which Bell took as code for "homeless."[40] The cafe owner fired the waitress, and, with Bell, held a community forum to discuss implicit bias and how to improve.[41] Bell's account was eventually featured in an episode of the radio series This American Life entitled "Birds & Bees".[40] After April 2018 arrests of two black men at a Starbucks gained media attention, Bell renewed his criticism of the Elmwood Cafe. It closed soon after.[42][43][44] The cafe reopened a month later with former manager and current co-owner Kara Hammond changing the name to Baker & Commons.[45]

Personal life[edit]

Bell dated Melissa Hudson Bell starting in 2003, and they married in 2009.[46] They have three children.[47]

Bell underwent a vasectomy in May 2019.[48]

Discography[edit]

  • 2007: One Night Only
  • 2010: Face Full of Flour
  • 2016: Semi-Prominent Negro[49]

References[edit]

  1. ^ California Birth Index. "Walter K Bell, Born 01/26/1973 in California". California Birth Index. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  2. ^ "W. Kamau Bell on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  3. ^ "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Home". Politically Re-Active. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  5. ^ Tedder, Michael (September 12, 2013). "W. Kamau Bell Is Trying To Become A Thing". Buzzfeed.
  6. ^ "Comic Bell brings his total bias here". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on September 15, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  7. ^ "The Clean Revolution is achievable and essential". The Climate Group. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  8. ^ "W. Kamau Bell on Growing Up in Boston, Donald Trump's Rise, and Tom Brady". Boston Magazine. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  9. ^ Kamau Bell on Bruce Lee and why he didn’t know Jimi Hendrix was black AV Club.
  10. ^ Bell, W. Kamau (2017). The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell. New York City, New York: Dutton. pp. 24, 28. ISBN 978-1-101-98587-8.
  11. ^ a b "W. Kamau Bell". HuffPost. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  12. ^ Lemon, Bryn (February 11, 2015). "Ending Racism in About an Hour with W. Kamau Bell". The Bottom Line. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  13. ^ "St. Paul, MN – Presenting 'The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour'". W. Kamau Bell official website. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  14. ^ "W. Kamau Bell". TempeImprov.com. Retrieved June 29, 2016. Kamau has also released two stand-up comedy CD's, ONE NIGht ONLY & Face Full of Flour which was named one of the Ten Best Comedy Albums of 2010 by both iTunes & Punchline Magazine.
  15. ^ "San Francisco News and Events". SF Weekly. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  16. ^ "W. Kamau Bell: Semi-Prominent Negro". Showtime. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  17. ^ "W. Kamau Bell 'Semi-Prominent Negro' Now Out on CD & MP3!". Kill Rock Stars. October 1, 2016.
  18. ^ Chuck Barney (October 5, 2017). "W. Kamau Bell named Santa Clara University artist in residence". Mercury News. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Braxton, Greg (November 13, 2013). "Chris Rock's 'Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell' canceled". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ Sale, Anna. "W. Kamau Bell Wonders How Much Is Enough". WNYC. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  21. ^ Ryan, Maureen (April 3, 2017). "CNN's Timely 'United Shades of America' Gets Return Date (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  22. ^ United Shades of America is Back (Season 3 returns -- April 29th) - CNN Video, retrieved August 29, 2018
  23. ^ Wright, Megh. "Season 3 of W. Kamau Bell's CNN Series 'United Shades of America' […]". Vulture. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  24. ^ United Shades of America (TV Series 2016– ), retrieved August 29, 2018
  25. ^ Variety Staff (July 12, 2018). "Emmy Nominations: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  26. ^ "The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture w/ Vernon Reid and W. Kamau Bell". thatfnpod.libsyn.com. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  27. ^ "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  28. ^ "Spike Lee: Another Thing People Don't Know, episode #57 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  29. ^ "Mo' Better Blues w/ Ava Duvernay, episode #50 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.comm. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  30. ^ "Jesse Williams of Grey's Anatomy, episode #70 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  31. ^ "Devil in a Blue Dress with Issa Rae, episode #69 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  32. ^ "Creed w/ Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington, episode #57 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  33. ^ "Kamau Right Now!". Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  34. ^ "Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell & Hari Kondabolu by First Look Media / Panoply on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  35. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6'4, African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black, and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell. Dutton, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-101-98587-8". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  36. ^ "Bio". W. Kamau Bell official website. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  37. ^ "ACLU Ambassadors – W. Kamau Bell". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  38. ^ staff, Berkeleyside (January 29, 2015). "Comedian W. Kamau Bell reports being victim of racism at Berkeley's Elmwood Café". Berkeleyside.com.
  39. ^ staff, Berkeleyside (January 29, 2015). "Comedian W. Kamau Bell reports being victim of racism at Berkeley's Elmwood Café". Berkeleyside.com.
  40. ^ a b "557: Birds & Bees Transcript". This American Life. May 15, 2015.
  41. ^ Taylor, Tracey (March 16, 2015). "At community forum in Berkeley, W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch 'implicit bias' training initiative". Berkeleyside.com.
  42. ^ Raguso, Emilie (April 20, 2018). "Elmwood Café closed, as 2015 racism charge gets new life with Starbucks arrest". Berkeleyside.com.
  43. ^ contributor, Guest (April 20, 2018). "Opinion: Whatever the reason it closed, the Elmwood Café missed a real opportunity to be a force for change in Berkeley". Berkeleyside.com. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  44. ^ Raguso, Emilie (April 20, 2018). "After closure, Elmwood Café owner says worker co-op, nonprofit could take over". Berkeleyside.com.
  45. ^ Phillips, Justin (May 18, 2018). "Berkeley's Elmwood Cafe Reopens Under New Owners as Baker & Commons". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  46. ^ Chittal, Nissa (February 14, 2015). "Love is Love: Comedian W. Kamau Bell and Melissa Hudson Bell". MSNBC. Retrieved May 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. ^ Bell, W. Kamau (November 3, 2018). "W. Kamau Bell on the Secret to Raising Multiple Kids". Men's Health. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  48. ^ Bell, W. Kamau (May 2019). "Getting a vasectomy is personal. This is why I'm making mine public". CNN. Retrieved May 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. ^ Cameron Wade (August 23, 2016). "W. Kamau Bell Announces New Stand-up Album, Semi-Prominent Negro". Paste Magazine. Retrieved September 13, 2016.

External links[edit]