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Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Ending Racism in About an Hour" of laughs

Was reading a report by Julianne Ong Hing on Color Lines about black comedian Kamau Bell ( He calls his show "The W. Kamau Bell Curve Show: Ending Racism In About An Hour." Gotta love this guy for that title alone. Then there is this: apparently he offers a deal that allows folks who bring a friend of a different race to get two tickets for the price of one. He does this for a reason: “Most comedy club audiences are white. But there’s a critical mass of brown people who need to be in the room,” Bell says, “or else there are times when it becomes court testimony.”

Among the topics of his show: the tension of needing to be on his best behavior when he is the only black in a room full of whites. "He compared it to acting like Cuba Gooding Jr. ... before multiple slights make him feel more like Samuel L. Jackson, mouth set and shoulders clenched" writes Hing.

For the people of color in the audience, the laughs came from knowing recognition. If the whites in the room felt a little uncomfortable, Bell says that is exactly his intention. 'Sometimes I don’t want it couched in a joke,' he says. 'I want the statement to bounce off their foreheads.'"

As for how Obama's election affects Bell's routine: “The show needs to be even more specific than before, because people think racism is over. I feel the need to say it more directly and more specifically now.”

See his website at I like this kind of honest, squirm-inducing approach to race. Good for breaking through those troublesome, stubborn defenses.

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