On the cable TV show “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell,” the comedian poked fun at racism, ignorance and how the two relate to current events. But last November, FX cancelled the show.
Bell then decided it was time to take his act on the road. “I’m really excited to get back to standup ,” he says in a phone interview, “because the TV show took me out of it for a couple of years. Some of the best work I do is in the rooms, directly in front of people and being in the moment.”
Bell will perform Thursday at the South Beach Comedy Festival, which will take place through Saturday at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Excerpts from the interview follow.
You and your wife have a 2-year-old daughter. What are the challenges of being a father?
I’m in the late-night business, and kids are an early-morning activity. So trying to figure out when free time is and take advantage of it is the biggest challenge. And also, now that I don’t have the TV show, I’m also trying to pursue middle-of-the-day things. I’m talking to other networks about possibility working there and doing things. There’s just a lot of different pieces that I try to fit in together. My wife is working on her Ph.D., and it’s great once you get it, but the getting it is one of the worst things in the history of humanity.
As a comedian, what do you find challenging?
Making people laugh. It’s funny how easy it is to miss that target. Being a comedian for several years, I take the stage with a new joke and go, “I hope this is funny.” Well, really, I hope the audience thinks I’m as funny as I do. If [comedians] totally knew everything they did was funny, it wouldn’t be worth doing it. If every comedian had a good set and had total confidence, we wouldn’t be standup comics. We’d be the funny guy at the office.
This is a broad statement, but it boggles my mind that we’re still having a talk about racism in America. We see it a lot in Florida.
Well, Florida has an international reputation for its race issues. President Obama said if Russia invades Ukraine, there will be consequences. And I was like, “Great, President Obama, when are you going to say that to Florida?”
You know what I can’t stand? When people using the N-word so loosely.
I drop N-bombs in my act, but I use them very specifically. I don’t use them as adjectives and adverbs, which I feel there’s an urban culture in America — not just black people. About 15 years ago, I was on the bus, and I heard a group shouting, “n---,n---, n---” and I was about to say, “Look, black man, you got to …” But it was all Chinese dudes, and I was like, “Ahh.” And I couldn’t say anything to them, because I don’t want to start a gang war [on the bus] between the blacks and the Asians.
Kamau W Bell will perform 8 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave. Tickets cost $29. Go to SouthBeachComedyFestival.com.