Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Tales of a 6'4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian

by W. Kamau Bell

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-101-98587-8
Publisher: Dutton

The “sociopolitical comedian” shares his opinions and stories from his life.

Best known for his socially conscious, political style, Bell, the host of CNN’s United Shades of America, offers readers more of the same in his first book. The author riffs on pop-culture topics such as being a “blerd”—i.e., black nerd—his childhood love of superheroes, why Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of all time (an idea he originally discussed in a podcast series), the film Creed, and social issues such as sexism and racism from personal experiences. Fittingly, he also dedicates chapters to his thoughts on the recent presidential election and the state of the Democratic Party. Bell’s brand of comedy is insightful at times, but oftentimes the punch line or message is immediately obvious from the outset, and there is a one-dimensional tendency to many of his bits that begins to grow tiresome after a few chapters. The author is at his best when he recounts his early stand-up career in the 1990s and the comedy business in general. He recalls how the comedy boom of the ’80s had burst, and he was left trying to find his personal and professional identity in this new era. It was then that Bell learned to use current events as source material—though during his first experience doing so, in which he joked about the Rodney King beating, he was booed offstage. It wasn’t until 2007 that Bell began to truly find his voice with his one-man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, which mixed “personal stories, late night theories, and topical news stories” and incorporated what would become his signature social critique. Though Bell’s social commentary is hit-or-miss, he is establishing himself as one of the most outspoken comedians of our time.

A unique perspective of the development of identity comedy in the 21st century.