- Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell throws down tomorrow at Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center.
First of all, did you know that W. Kamau Bell has an entire podcast about Denzel Washington? HE HAS AN ENTIRE PODCAST ABOUT DENZEL WASHINGTON. An entire podcast. About Denzel Washington. Feel free to ignore everything else I'm about to write and just think about that.
And second of all, I don't know if people understand how special and inspiring Bell's erstwhile TV show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell really was. (Full disclosure: I was on it once. It was amazing.) The nighttime talk and satirical news show ran for two seasons on FX and FXX, taking bold, progressive stances on issues like street harassment and stop and frisk—issues I wasn't used to hearing about on cable television at all, let alone handled with gutting humor and righteous anger, the way I talk about those things with my friends. And that's because the writing staff of Totally Biased actually resembled my friend group, my community, more than any other show on TV. The Totally Biased writers room was full of women, people of color, LGBT writers—voices that are usually tokenized, sidelined, hired in ones and twos, if they're hired at all. At Totally Biased, they were the majority. Whatever your opinion on the final product, the fact that the show existed at all is still enough to choke me up a bit.
And then there's Kamau himself. Comedians love to market themselves as "edgy" and "raw" for telling casually racist jokes, jokes about rape victims, jokes that skewer the oversensitive and "humorless." But the reality is that none of that shit is "edgy." You know who loves racism, hates women, and rails against political correctness 24/7? Rush Limbaugh. Ann Coulter. Your drunkest, shittiest grandpa. Comedy that targets marginalized groups isn't daring, brave, or groundbreaking—it is conservative.
What Kamau does—mocking the powerful, disemboweling racist hypocrisy, establishing iron-clad ethical lines and defending them with disarming but steely good humor—is what "edgy" really means. He's at the edge, pushing boundaries, but he pushes them forward, not back. Comedy is powerful, and Kamau doesn't waste it.