Critically-acclaimed comedian, sociopolitical explorer and host of the Emmy Award-nominated CNN docuseries “United Shades of America” W. Kamau Bell has been lauded by the New York Times for his talent and political comedy. He shares his perspective on how humor is useful in taking on serious issues, and why taking them on is important for all of us.
Megan: Critically-acclaimed comedian and sociopolitical explorer, W. Kamau Bell, who has been lauded by the New York Times for his talent and political comedy, is the host of several podcasts including “Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period” and “Politically Reactive.” He also hosts the public radio show “Kamau Right Now” which airs on KALW in San Francisco. His television projects include the FX comedy series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and his most buzzed about project of late, the Emmy Award nominated CNN docuseries “United Shades of America”, in which he selects and visits locations in the United States to examine their racially defined subcultures. W. Kamau Bell welcome to Boone, North Carolina and welcome to SoundAffect.
Kamau Bell: Thanks for having me.
M: I’m so glad you’re here.
M: So I would like to begin by asking you about humor and why humor in the context of the incredibly complex and emotionally charged topics that you address?
KB: How not humor in the middle of these complex topics? (chuckles) I don’t know how you would get through all of this without humor and sugar. You need something to sort of make things feel a little bit better. Some of the best humor that has been ever produced, definitely in the country but I’ll say the world-even though I don’t know for sure, comes out of painful situations. Usually the most oppressed group of this country is the funniest group of this country. I don’t know how you would get through life without laughing through difficult situations. The thing about humor is that if somebody is laughing at something you say, that means they’re paying attention. People don’t generally laugh if they’re not paying attention, and if they do you can tell that they are fake laughing. So I can tell a very sad story and if it’s not funny, you can sit there and go “Mmm hmm, mmm hmm,” and be thinking about a lot of other things. But if I make the sad story funny and you laugh, then I know that you’re paying attention.
[GFX: W. KAMAU BELL on the next SoundAffect podcast, from Appalachian State University]