You might not know W. Kamau Bell,
but if all goes according to plan, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting with his new late-night talk show. It’s all there in the title.
Premiering Thursday, Aug. 9, on FX, “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell”
— from executive producer Chris Rock
, whom Bell calls his “foul-mouthed Yoda” for all the words of wisdom Rock has imparted — puts Bell’s political persuasion front and center. Er, front and left, actually. It’s “comedy from a not even left-leaning, but left-laying-on-the-ground perspective,” Bell says. While he was still figuring out the exact format of his show at interview time, objectivity will most certainly not be a part of it.
“Luckily, I’m not a journalist, so I don’t even have to pretend to play into that,” he says. “I have friends who are journalists, and they try to be objective, and I just am like, ‘Well, that sucks for you.’ Then you have a lot of quote-unquote journalists who claim to be objective and aren’t objective at all. As comedians, our jobs are to call it as we see it and then prove it through jokes.”
“Totally Biased” continues FX’s foray into late-night entertainment for liberals, following on the heels of the tepidly received “BrandX With Russell Brand.”
Like that show, “Totally Biased” will have six episodes to introduce Bell – who is well-known in comedy circles, especially in his adopted hometown of San Francisco – to a much wider audience.
“I think a certain type of person enjoys me,” he says. “That person tends to be an open-minded, actively engaged participant in the world … someone who’s connected to culture and society and always questioning, ‘How come the world isn’t as good as I was taught it was going to be by this point?’ Those people come in all shades and colors and sexualities.”
He put his money where his mouth is, literally, when he gave out two-for-one tickets to performances of his one-man comedy show “Ending Racism in About an Hour” if an audience member brought a friend of a different race. He did this because he believes the more diverse an audience is, the smarter it is.
“I talk about race in a way that maybe they aren’t used to hearing in public,” he says. “Also, I have a way of talking to [white people] where I can indict them but also say that they’re still my friends. Some of my best whites are friends. I’m married to a white woman. I’m not doing it from the standpoint of ‘You guys are wrong, and I don’t like you.’ I’m doing it from the standpoint of ‘You guys are wrong, and I want to help you.’ “
As for what the show will look like, Bell says, “We probably have more ideas than we have show for,” but it will include taped sketches as well as interviews and contributions from fellow comedians.
As dedicated as he is to his convictions (“There’s no way you’re going to talk me out of gay marriage being legal,” he says. “Or there’s no way you’re going to talk me out of America having a friendlier immigration policy than it has right now. I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess we should be mean to the immigrants.’ “), Bell says a focal point of “Totally Biased” will be featuring differing viewpoints.
“A spirited discussion is always interesting if two people are respectful of each other’s sides,” he says. “I don’t want to do what you see on a lot of cable news shows where it’s just two people yelling and snapping at each other.”