W. Kamau Bell
|W. Kamau Bell|
W. Kamau Bell in 2018
|Birth name||Walter Kamau Bell|
|Born||January 26, 1973|
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
|Subject(s)||Racism, social identity, inequality, American politics|
|Spouse||Melissa Hudson Bell|
|Children||Sami Bell (daughter)|
Juno Bell (daughter)
Asha Bell (daughter)
Janet Cheatham Bell
|Notable works and roles||Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America, Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period|
Walter Kamau Bell (born January 26, 1973), 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. 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 and Politically Re-Active with Hari Kondabolu.
Early life and education
Bell was born in Palo Alto, California, and grew up in Alabama, Boston and Chicago, the son 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. Between ages five and 12, Bell lived in Boston, Massachusetts in the Mattapan neighborhood of the city. 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.
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.
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. From 2011 to 2012, he wrote the blog "Kamau's Komedy Korner" for the San Francisco Weekly. In 2012, Bell was voted San Francisco's best comedian by the SF Weekly, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and 7×7 Magazine.
His first stand-up comedy TV special, Semi-Prominent Negro, premiered on Showtime on April 29, 2016, and on September 30, 2016, his third full-length album with the same title, was released on Kill Rock Stars.
On November 7, 2017, Bell became the Frank Sinatra Artist-in-Residence of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.
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. 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, Bell moved back to California from New York.
He is currently the host of the CNN documentary series United Shades of America, which premiered on April 24, 2016 and was renewed for a third season in 2017. The show, of which Bell is an Executive Producer, was awarded the Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program in 2017.
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. The show lasted for 8 episodes in total. The last episode titled "Native Hawaii" aired on July 1, 2018. Later in July 2018, Bell was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality Program for his hosting in United Shades of America.
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. 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, Ava DuVernay, Jesse Williams, Issa Rae, and Ryan Coogler.
Since June 2016, he has also co-hosted the Panoply/First Look Media-produced podcast Politically Re-Active with comedian Hari Kondabolu. 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.
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. The book is a humorous autobiography interspersed with essays about politics and popular culture.
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. In October 2013, he was named the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador on racial justice.
Implicit bias incident in 2015
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. 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. 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." The cafe owner fired the waitress, and, with Bell, held a community forum to discuss implicit bias and how to improve. Bell's account was eventually featured in an episode of the radio series This American Life entitled "Birds & Bees". 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. The cafe reopened a month later with former manager and current co-owner Kara Hammond changing the name to Baker & Commons.
- 2007: One Night Only
- 2010: Face Full of Flour
- 2016: Semi-Prominent Negro
- Taylor, Tracey (March 16, 2015). "At community forum in Berkeley, W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch 'implicit bias' training initiative". Berkeleyside.
- "W. Kamau Bell on the Secret to Raising Multiple Kids". MensHealth.com. November 3, 2018.
- California Birth Index. "Walter K Bell, Born 01/26/1973 in California". California Birth Index. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- "W. Kamau Bell on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
- "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "Home". Politically Re-Active. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- Tedder, Michael (2013-09-12). "W. Kamau Bell Is Trying To Become A Thing". Buzzfeed.
- "Comic Bell brings his total bias here". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on September 15, 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
- "The Clean Revolution is achievable and essential". The Climate Group. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
- "W. Kamau Bell on Growing Up in Boston, Donald Trump's Rise, and Tom Brady". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
- Kamau Bell on Bruce Lee and why he didn’t know Jimi Hendrix was black AV Club.
- 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.
- "W. Kamau Bell". HuffPost. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- Lemon, Bryn (2015-02-11). "Ending Racism in About an Hour with W. Kamau Bell". The Bottom Line. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "St. Paul, MN – Presenting 'The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour'". W. Kamau Bell official website. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "W. Kamau Bell". TempeImprov.com. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
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.
- "San Francisco News and Events". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "W. Kamau Bell: Semi-Prominent Negro". Showtime. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "W. Kamau Bell 'Semi-Prominent Negro' Now Out on CD & MP3!". Kill Rock Stars. October 1, 2016.
- Chuck Barney (October 5, 2017). "W. Kamau Bell named Santa Clara University artist in residence". Mercury News. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- Braxton, Greg (November 13, 2013). "Chris Rock's 'Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell' canceled". Los Angeles Times.
- Sale, Anna. "W. Kamau Bell Wonders How Much Is Enough". WNYC. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- Ryan, Maureen (2017-04-03). "CNN's Timely 'United Shades of America' Gets Return Date (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- United Shades of America is Back (Season 3 returns -- April 29th) - CNN Video, retrieved 2018-08-29
- Wright, Megh. "Season 3 of W. Kamau Bell's CNN Series 'United Shades of America' […]". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- United Shades of America (TV Series 2016– ), retrieved 2018-08-29
- Variety Staff (2018-07-12). "Emmy Nominations: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- "The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture w/ Vernon Reid and W. Kamau Bell". thatfnpod.libsyn.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-14. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- "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 2016-05-08.
- "Mo' Better Blues w/ Ava Duvernay, episode #50 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.comm. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- "Jesse Williams of Grey's Anatomy, episode #70 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- "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 2016-05-08.
- "Creed w/ Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington, episode #57 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". Earwolf.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- "Kamau Right Now!". Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell & Hari Kondabolu by First Look Media / Panoply on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "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 2018-07-16.
- "Bio". W. Kamau Bell official website. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- "ACLU Ambassadors – W. Kamau Bell". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
- staff, Berkeleyside (January 29, 2015). "Comedian W. Kamau Bell reports being victim of racism at Berkeley's Elmwood Café". Berkeleyside.com.
- staff, Berkeleyside (29 January 2015). "Comedian W. Kamau Bell reports being victim of racism at Berkeley's Elmwood Café". Berkeleyside.com.
- "557: Birds & Bees Transcript". This American Life. May 15, 2015.
- Taylor, Tracey (16 March 2015). "At community forum in Berkeley, W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch 'implicit bias' training initiative". Berkeleyside.com.
- Raguso, Emilie (20 April 2018). "Elmwood Café closed, as 2015 racism charge gets new life with Starbucks arrest". Berkeleyside.com.
- 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.
- Raguso, Emilie (April 20, 2018). "After closure, Elmwood Café owner says worker co-op, nonprofit could take over". Berkeleyside.com.
- Phillips, Justin (May 18, 2018). "Berkeley's Elmwood Cafe Reopens Under New Owners as Baker & Commons". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
- Cameron Wade (August 23, 2016). "W. Kamau Bell Announces New Stand-up Album, Semi-Prominent Negro". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
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