W. Kamau Bell Thinks Political Comedy Is Not For Everyone, And That’s Okay is reposted from Forbes, see full interview here.
These days, W. Kamau Bell is best known for his Emmy Award-winning CNN series, United Shades of America. Much like the late Anthony Bourdain‘s Parts Unknown on the same network, Bell’s show follows him as he travels the country. Though en lieu of seeking out the best foods imaginable, the comedian and activist busies himself speaking with various community leaders about the problems they face. Yet every other year or so, the stand-up manages to release a new comedy special.
In 2013, it was the Daily Show alternative Totally Biased on FX and FXX. Three years later, Bell released his first stand-up special, Semi-Prominent Negro on Showtime. Today it’s Private School Negro on Netflix, a titular sequel to Semi-Prominent Negro that continues many of the same themes the comic first touch on back when the 2016 presidential election was in full swing. So to answer your question, yes, much of Bell’s material is political in nature, but that doesn’t mean everything the 45-year-old performer has to say concerns Trump.
In fact, as Bell explained to me ahead of Private School Negro‘s release, it isn’t about riffing on America’s current political situation at all. It’s about longevity and what feels right. “I don’t want any of these people to do something they feel isn’t right for them,” he says of himself and other comedians he knows and respects. “It’s funniest when it’s coming from inside you, not when you’re taking assignments from the outside world.”
Andrew Husband: Unlike Semi-Prominent Negro before it, Private School Negro is performed in the round. Was that a conscious decision, choosing such a drastically different performance space?
W. Kamau Bell: As most stand-up comics will tell you, you end up doing shows in lots of different places after a while. There are all kinds of weird venues or locations, be it the corners of people’s living rooms, art galleries or whatever. I’ve done all those things. At some point, when I was talking to Shannon Hartman and Michelle Caputo, who produced and directed the special, they were asking me where I would like to shoot it. I naturally bristle against anything that feels like every other comedy special, just because there’s a lot now. It’s always “I’ve seen this venue before, ” or “Why would you shoot it there?”
see full interview here.