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.
Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell — from executive producer Chris Rock (or as Bell calls him, “foulmouthed Yoda”) — 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 when we talked, 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.”
But as dedicated as he is to his convictions — “There’s no way you’re going to talk me out of gay marriage being legal. Or there’s no way you’re going to talk me out of America having a friendlier immigration policy than it has right now.” — Bell says a focal point of Totally Biased will be to feature differing viewpoints.
“A spirited discussion is always interesting if two people are respectful of each other’s side,” 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.”
But it might not take the presence of a gay-marriage opponent or a Tea Party activist to get tempers flaring. Bell says he often gets into his most heated arguments with people he’s supposed to agree with. Despite his strong opinions and controversial subject matter — he’s most known for his straightforward approach to discussing race — the comedian is very genial and far from the angry firebrand a quick description of him might lead one to envision.
“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.”
Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell airs Thursdays beginning Aug. 9 on FX.
Photo: © 2012 Credit: Matthias Clamer