Sunday, July 23, 2017

"The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell," by W. Kamau Bell

I am proud to say that the comedian/writer/performer/activist/television personality W. Kamau Bell intentionally lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley to be specific), and hopes to live here indefinitely, although many have advised him he needs to live in Los Angeles or New York. In his quasi-memoir, “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4,” African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian” (Dutton, 2017), he writes lovingly of the comedy scene in San Francisco over the past decades, and how he got some of his best opportunities at local comedy clubs. But before that, he lived all over the United States as a child, and points out that he grew up as a “blerd” (black nerd) rather than as a cool kid. This memoir is a somewhat loosely connected set of essays, more or less in chronological order, about his life, his slow climb in the comedy world, his setbacks and his successes, his marriage to a white woman, his two little daughters, what it is like to be a black male (especially a tall one) in America, his thoughts about politics and especially racism and sexism, and more. His voice is engaging; he tells hard truths but tells them in carefully chosen words. He comes across as very candid, very open, very concerned about the future of the country and of his daughters, and committed to making a difference however he can, especially through using his comedic gifts and through being the best father he can be. The essayistic format does mean there is some repetition across the chapters, but this is a small quibble.

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