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The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
Cover of The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
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
Borrow
You may know W. Kamau Bell from his new, Emmy-nominated hit show on CNN, United Shades of America. Or maybe you’ve read about him in the New York Times, which called him “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” Or maybe from The New Yorker, fawning over his brand of humor writing: "Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable."
After all this love and praise, it’s time for the next step: a book. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of issues, such as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; left-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; white men; his up-bringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing; how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand; and much, much more.
You may know W. Kamau Bell from his new, Emmy-nominated hit show on CNN, United Shades of America. Or maybe you’ve read about him in the New York Times, which called him “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” Or maybe from The New Yorker, fawning over his brand of humor writing: "Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable."
After all this love and praise, it’s time for the next step: a book. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of issues, such as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; left-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; white men; his up-bringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing; how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand; and much, much more.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Awkward Thoughts about Superheroes and Doc McStuffins
     
    When I was a kid I loved superheroes. I loved them in all of their forms. I loved comic books, action figures, superhero movies, and even superhero TV shows. And I was born in 1973, so superhero TV shows were weird. Take the 1970s Spider-Man TV show. Spider-Man wore his web shooters on the outside of his costume because apparently the producers thought they were too big and clunky to fit on the inside of his costume. And also (apparently) the makers of the TV show didn’t think that we, the watchers of the TV show, would suspend our disbelief long enough for the producers to make the fake web shooters small enough to put them inside the pretend, not-real, made-up freaking costume where they belong!

    There was also The Incredible Hulk. A TV show that I LOVED.

    LOVED! LOVED! LOVED! I loved it so much that my mom cut up old clothes of mine that I could wear while watching the show so that when Dr. David Banner “Hulked out,” I could “Hulk out” too. I know you are thinking that it sounds adorable. But it wasn’t. I was six years old, and I was a very ferocious Hulk. Very ferocious. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The Polaroids have all been destroyed.

    The Incredible Hulk was a TV show that could only have been born of the 1970s. At its core it was one of comic books’ greatest stories. It was Stan Lee and Marvel Comics’s twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a whole lot of Frankenstein thrown in. The Hulk was invented in the throes of the Cold War and America was learning to live in constant fear of nuclear annihilation. A puny—that was the word that the comic often used to describe him—scientist named Dr. Bruce Banner got exposed to way too much gamma radiation while saving a young man from an explosion of gamma radiation. This was a simpler time in superheroes that I honestly miss. Back then, a comic book writer could just write "bathed in radiation," and the reader would say to themselves, WELL OF COURSE! THAT'S DEFINITELY GOING TO LEAD TO MAGICAL POWERS AND NOT SOME FORM OF LYMPHOMA! People had more room for mystery back then. Now we know too much. The reason that every modern Super­ man movie sucks is because we all sit in the audience thinking, So wait ... Lois is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and she can't figure out that the key to Superman's secret identity is glasses?

    The 1970s were the last time that Superman made sense on the big screen. And the original Superman movie is still better than every other one since (special effects notwithstanding). I loved that movie. In fact, if you asked me who my favorite actor was in 1978, when it came out, I would have instantly said, "Christopher Reeve!" Even though I had never seen a movie where he played someone other than Superman. But when I love something I go all in. It's tunnel vision. And it's annoying. All my friends know who my favorite bands are (Living Colour, Fishbone, and Rage Against the Machine); favorite athletes (Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali); favorite, ummm ... Bruce Lee (Bruce Lee); comedians (Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Robert Hawkins, Dwayne Kennedy); and actors (as a kid, Christopher Reeve, and as an adult, Denzel Washington, aka the Greatest Actor of All Time Period). And in 1977 my favorite TV show was The Incredible Hulk, and my second favorite TV show was The Dukes of Hazzard, where every week the bright orange car named the General Lee, with the Confederate flag painted on top, would save the day as...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 3, 2017
    With insight and aplomb, stand-up comedian Bell recounts his career arc, including numerous asides on personal and political topics such as why most black superheroes are boring, the casual racism that African-Americans have to contend with every day, and the ramifications of Trump being elected president. Bell grew up in Chicago in the 1980s, an unathletic and asthmatic kid who was way more interested in superheroes and Bruce Lee than football or baseball. He floundered until he found his calling: stand-up comedy. Though his career went moderately well, he didn’t find his footing until he created The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, a solo show that was a mix of social commentary and stand-up. It not only refined his point of view but eventually led to his current stint hosting CNN’s United Shades of America. Those unfamiliar with Bell’s work or expecting a lighthearted read from a popular comedian will be surprised by the book’s breadth and depth as he details the Machiavellian machinations (and general ineptitude) of agents and media moguls and offers prescient social commentary. This informative read will be illuminating and worthwhile for aspiring comedians and general readers.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 5, 2017
    Comedian and political gadfly Bell, who hosts CNN’s United Shades of America, reflects on his place in the world and the challenges facing both marginalized and dominant cultures in the 21st century, while charting the arc of his comedy career and early influencers. With television and stand-up comedy experience, Bell makes the perfect narrator. His baritone voice is convivial and he reads in a fluid, conversational manner. Whether recounting growing up in Chicago in the 1980s or his experiences as a black man married to a white woman, Bell livens his narrative with impersonations of family and friends and strong comedic timing. He reads at a satisfying pace while subtly building up toward more serious and humorous moments in his memoir. A Dutton hardcover.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2017
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2017
    The host of CNN's Emmy-nominated United Shades of America, Bell uses his own life--e.g., his interracial marriage and early career struggles--to discuss major issues from race relations to right-wing politics. A keynote speaker at ALA Midwinter.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
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
W. Kamau Bell
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