W. Kamau Bell is best known for his political stand-up and his television program “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” which ran on FX from 2012 to 2013. He will be performing at Fete in Providence on Dec. 6 with openers Zach Sherwin and Bad Lad. Tickets are $15 for seated general admission and $10 standing.
The following interview was conducted with Bell via phone interview from Berkeley, California.
The Cigar: Is your show in Providence your first time performing in Rhode Island?
W. Kamau Bell: No, I did Netroots Nation [in Providence] one time, but I don’t think that technically counts because all those conferences you’re kind of on an island. But this is my first time that the general public can see me perform in Rhode Island.
Cigar: Your tour is called the “Oh, Everything” Tour. Why did you give it that name?
WKB: Because when people ask me what’s wrong, I go “Oh, everything.” In my act there’s a lot about the world and its reasons for my frustrations. And, you know, sometimes you’ve got to pin on one thing like ‘I think it’s racism, I think it’s sexism, I think it’s homophobia’ and I realize ‘oh wait, it’s everything.’
Cigar: Could you tell me a bit about your new podcast?
Bell: It’s brand new. I think we’re three episodes in. It’s called “Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period.” I think unlike a lot of podcasts where you hear the name and you’re like ‘what’s this about?,’ I think our name is pretty much what the podcast is about. Me and Kevin Avery, my co-host, who’s also a writer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and he also wrote on my show “Totally Biased”, we’re reviewing every Denzel Washington movie in alphabetical order with the hope that people will come to the conclusion that we’ve come to; which is that Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of all time, period.
Cigar: Do you have a favorite Denzel Washington movie?
Bell: It depends on the mood i’m in. It’s probably easier to give you my top five. So, you know, certainly “Malcolm X” is on there. I actually liked “The Book of Eli” Â a lot, which is not a popular choice. It’s like when you like any band a lot, you like the B-sides more than you like the singles. I think “The Hurricane” is a good one. I know I’m missing an obvious one where I’ll be like ‘I can’t believe I didn’t say that earlier.’ You know, I’m a big fan of the early Spike Lee, “Mo’ Better Blues”, which doesn’t get a lot of attention, but I’m a big “Mo’ Better Blues” fan.
Cigar: Aside from your tour, what have you been doing since your show left the air?
Bell: My wife got pregnant and had a baby, so I have a month-old daughter now, which means I have two kids now. And people are like, ‘Where have you been?’, I’m doing a thing called living my life!
Cigar: What has the response from your fanbase about your show being canceled?
Bell: In some ways, it probably helped the show that it got canceled because a lot of people who maybe saw it briefly or saw it a little bit heard about it’s cancellation. Because of YouTube, a lot of the best stuff is online, and so people get to go back and dig into it. It’s like, a little bit of my show gets to be like Woodstock, where more people claim they were there than were actually there.
I hear from people all the time like, ‘When are you going to be back on television? we need you back on television,’ and I appreciate that. But I’ll also be like, ‘I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything exactly like that again.’ I mean, people who like the show I feel like will get the stand-up because the stand up is way more totally biased than the show was.
Cigar: What have you been listening to while you’re out on tour?
Bell: Zach [Sherwin, the tour opener] is a rapper, so he actually listens to way more hip-hop than I do. So I’m actually having Zach school me in modern hip-hop. I’m more of a like, 1960s, 70s-era of music fan, and also 90s rock fan because that’s when I sort of came of age. We’ve been listening to a lot of Run the Jewels and also Busta Rhymes, actually.