W. Kamau Bell
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W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell
Birth name Walter Kamau Bell
Born (1973-01-26) January 26, 1973 (age 45)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.[1]
Medium Stand-up comedy
Nationality American
Subject(s) Racism, social identity, inequality, American politics
Spouse Melissa Hudson Bell[2]
Children Sami Bell (daughter)
Juno Bell (daughter)[3]
Parent(s) Walter Bell
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
Website wkamaubell.com

Walter Kamau Bell (born January 26, 1973),[4] known professionally as W. Kamau Bell, is an American stand-up comic and television host.[5] Prominent within the San Francisco stand-up comedy scene, he is best known as the host of the CNN original series United Shades of America and of the former FXX television series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.[5][6] 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.[7][8]

Early life and education

Bell 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.[9][10] Between the ages of 5 and 12, Bell lived in Boston, Massachusetts in the Mattapan neighborhood of the city.[11] 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.[12]

He is first cousin once removed to N. K. Jemisin.[13]


After establishing himself as 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 is 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", that he has continued to periodically perform updated versions of the show.[14][15][16]

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.[17] From 2011 to 2012, he wrote the blog "Kamau's Komedy Korner" for the San Francisco Weekly.[18] In 2012, Bell was voted San Francisco's best comedian by the SF Weekly, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and 7×7 Magazine.[14]

His first stand-up comedy TV special, Semi-Prominent Negro, premiered on Showtime on April 29, 2016,[19] and on September 30, 2016, his third full-length album, also titled Semi-Prominent Negro, was released on Kill Rock Stars.[20]

On November 7th, 2017, Bell became the Frank Sinatra Artist-in-Residence of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.[21]

Television host

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.[22] 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,[22] Bell moved back to California from New York.[23]

He is currently the host of the CNN documentary series United Shades of America, which premiered on April 24, 2016.

Podcast host

From 2010 to 2014, Bell co-hosted the podcast The Field Negro Guide to Arts & Culture with Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid.[24]

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.[25] 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,[26]Ava DuVernay,[27]Jesse Williams,[28]Issa Rae,[29] and Ryan Coogler.[30]

Since January 2016, he has hosted Kamau Right Now, a live radio show and podcast produced by KALW.[31]

Since June 2016, he has also co-hosted the Panoply/First Look Media-produced podcast Politically Re-Active with comedian Hari Kondabolu.[8] 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.[32]


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.[33] In October 2013, he was named the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador on racial justice.[34]

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.[35] An employee of the cafe told Bell to "scram," or words to that effect, while he was talking to his white wife and her friends at one of its outdoor tables.[36] The cafe owner and Bell held a community forum to discuss implicit bias and how to improve.[37] Bell's account was eventually featured in an episode of the radio series This American Life entitled Birds & Bees.[38] After a similar incident resulted in the arrests of two black men at a Starbucks in April 2018, Bell renewed his criticism of the Elmwood Cafe, and it closed shortly thereafter.[39][40][41]


  • 2007: One Night Only
  • 2010: Face Full of Flour
  • 2016: Semi-Prominent Negro[42]


  1. ^ Tedder, Michael (2013-09-12). "W. Kamau Bell Is Trying To Become A Thing". Buzzfeed. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Tracey (March 16, 2015). "At community forum in Berkeley, W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch 'implicit bias' training initiative". Berkeleyside. 
  3. ^ "Race Matters: Comedian Kamau Bell Told To "Scram" By Waitress While Socializing With His White Wife And Her Friends". February 2, 2015. 
  4. ^ California Birth Index. "Walter K Bell, Born 01/26/1973 in California". California Birth Index. Retrieved 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Huston, Warner Todd (10 Mar 2015). "CNN Adds Reza Aslan, W. Kamau Bell to Cable Line Up". Breitbart.com. 
  6. ^ "W. Kamau Bell on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved . 
  7. ^ "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  8. ^ a b "Home". Politically Re-Active. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ "Comic Bell brings his total bias here". philly-archives. Retrieved . 
  10. ^ "The Climate Group". www.theclimategroup.org. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ "W. Kamau Bell on Growing Up in Boston, Donald Trump's Rise, and Tom Brady". Boston Magazine. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ http://www.avclub.com/article/w-kamau-bell-bruce-lee-and-why-he-didnt-know-jimi--236560
  13. ^ Bell, W. Kamau. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell. New York, NY: Dutton, 2017. pp. 24, 28. ISBN 978-1-101-98587-8.
  14. ^ a b "W. Kamau Bell". www.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved . 
  15. ^ Admin, Student (2015-02-11). "Ending Racism in About an Hour with W. Kamau Bell | The Bottom Line". Retrieved . 
  16. ^ "St. Paul, MN -- Presenting "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour"". W. Kamau Bell. Retrieved . 
  17. ^ "W. Kamau Bell". tempeimprov.com. Retrieved . 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. 
  18. ^ "San Francisco News and Events | SF Weekly". SF Weekly. Retrieved . 
  19. ^ "W. Kamau Bell: Semi-Prominent Negro | SHOWTIME". SHO.com. Retrieved . 
  20. ^ "W. KAMAU BELL 'SEMI-PROMINENT NEGRO' OUT NOW ON CD & MP3!". 1 October 2016. 
  21. ^ Chuck Barney (October 5, 2017). "W. Kamau Bell named Santa Clara University artist in residence". Mercury News. Retrieved . 
  22. ^ a b Braxton, Greg (November 13, 2013). "Chris Rock's 'Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell' canceled". Los Angeles Times. 
  23. ^ Sale, Anna. "W. Kamau Bell Wonders How Much Is Enough". Death, Sex & Money. wnyc.org. Retrieved 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture w/ Vernon Reid and W. Kamau Bell". thatfnpod.libsyn.com. Retrieved . 
  25. ^ "Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  26. ^ "Spike Lee: Another Thing People Don't Know, episode #57 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  27. ^ "Mo' Better Blues w/ Ava Duvernay, episode #50 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  28. ^ "Jesse Williams of Grey's Anatomy, episode #70 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  29. ^ "Devil in a Blue Dress with Issa Rae, episode #69 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  30. ^ "Creed w/ Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington, episode #57 of Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period on Earwolf". www.earwolf.com. Retrieved . 
  31. ^ "Kamau Right Now!". Retrieved . 
  32. ^ "Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell & Hari Kondabolu by First Look Media / Panoply on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved . 
  33. ^ "Bio". W. Kamau Bell. Retrieved . 
  34. ^ "ACLU Ambassadors - W. Kamau Bell". Aclu.olrg (American Civil Liberties Union). Retrieved . 
  35. ^ http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/01/29/comedian-w-kamau-bell-reports-being-subject-of-racism-at-berkeleys-elmwood-cafe
  36. ^ https://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/01/29/comedian-w-kamau-bell-reports-being-subject-of-racism-at-berkeleys-elmwood-cafe
  37. ^ http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/03/16/at-community-forum-in-berkeley-w-kamau-bell-and-elmwood-cafe-launch-implicit-bias-training-initiative
  38. ^ "557: Birds & Bees Transcript". This American Life. May 15, 2015. 
  39. ^ http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/04/20/elmwood-cafe-closed-as-2015-racism-charge-gets-new-life-with-starbucks-arrest
  40. ^ http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/04/20/opinion-whatever-the-reason-it-closed-the-elmwood-cafe-missed-a-real-opportunity-to-be-a-force-for-change-in-berkeley
  41. ^ http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/04/20/after-closure-elmwood-cafe-owner-says-worker-co-op-nonprofit-could-take-over
  42. ^ Cameron Wade (August 23, 2016). "W. Kamau Bell Announces New Stand-up Album, Semi-Prominent Negro". Paste Magazine. Retrieved . 

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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