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

Book - 2017
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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.
Publisher: New York : Dutton, [2017]
ISBN: 9781101985878
Branch Call Number: 792.7602 BELL W
Characteristics: viii, 340 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

LPL_KateG Jun 19, 2018

THIS IS SO GOOD ON AUDIO. Bell's book was released Spring 2017 and tackles so many subjects with both hilarity and thoughtfulness. I listened to this in my car and there were times I had to stop driving because I was either laughing too hard or sobbing. He tells personal stories about his stand-u... Read More »

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Sep 03, 2018

I didn't enjoy this book as much as I appreciated it. I wanted to hear more Black points of view, and I read it for that - trying to understand, trying to put myself in shoes I can never fill (and not just because Bell is 6'4") and imagine what on earth it must be like to be a Black man in America. Of course I failed - I can't even put myself in the place of a Black woman. But understand or not, it's important that I try, if for no other reason than to try to minimize my damage.

This is not a funny book. It's occasionally amusing, but Bell isn't trying to be funny. He's trying to give a point of view, and that he does extremely well. But comedians aren't always funny, even when they're joking, and I can see his points clearly.

It's instructive to compare this to Bossypants, Tina Fey's book. (For some reason Goodreads isn't letting me insert links.) Both are comedians in space dominated by white males. But Tina seems to have more career leverage right from the beginning. Where she comes off as rebellious, Bell seems to come off more as resigned. 

I have to say that I'm not upset that I'm white, but Lord and Lady, my ancestors were at least complicit and at worst actively involved in some awful shit. Awful shit continues, and Bell lays out a lot of it. I am trying to do better, and to do better I have to know better. I'm grateful to Bell for being as gentle as he is, because he sure doesn't need to be. 

Don't expect to like this book if you're white. Expect to appreciate it if you give a damn about other people's issues.

And, by the way, as I write it's Black Women's Equal Pay Day. Let's take care of each other out there, OK? Because the fact that there needs to exist a Black Women's Equal Pay Day is some seriously fucked-up crap right there.

W. Kamau Bell is a tall black comedian, writer, producer, and author. He is a parent in an interracial marriage and this book is a semi-autobiographical collection of memories. Mr Bell attempted to tell us the formative pressures, ideas, advice, dreams and nightmares that go into the make-up of a present day Afro-American male. In this book he retells the story of his growth and arrival at his present day level of success.

LPL_KateG Jun 19, 2018

THIS IS SO GOOD ON AUDIO. Bell's book was released Spring 2017 and tackles so many subjects with both hilarity and thoughtfulness. I listened to this in my car and there were times I had to stop driving because I was either laughing too hard or sobbing. He tells personal stories about his stand-up career, his upbringing, his biracial daughters, etc., as well as lots of reflections on the 2016 election and the aftermath thereof. I am so glad I listened to this book.

RobertELPL Jan 22, 2018

This was a great combination of memoir and comedic musings. Both insightful and funny, Bell does a great job of touching on a lot of different, difficult topics. Whether you are a fan of his, or haven't heard of him before, this is a title everyone should pick up and read. I have since looked him up on YouTube and he is as good as you'd expect.

Rebecca_Kohn Nov 02, 2017

I'm going to declare this as one of the most important books of 2017. W. Kamau Bell has a gift for looking at difficult topics from many angles, holding your attention to the painful or what he would call awkward parts, and finding humor and sometimes even resolution in the many predicaments happening across the country. Fans of his work will enjoy the details about his work in comedy in tv, readers interested in the life of a thoughtful comedian negotiating work/family life will appreciate his honesty, and anyone who wants to engage with a resonant discussion about race in America in 2017 will find important facets in this book.

Cynthia_N Sep 09, 2017

Hilarious! I found myself mentioning this book to most of my friends that I ran into as I was reading it! Bell presents his beliefs in a very passionate but not overbearing manner. I learned quite a bit and laughed quite a bit while reading. Highly recommended!

Jun 02, 2017

"Every few years, angry white men rebrand themselves as a way to disguise their racism. It my lifetime they have been called the alt-right, the Tea Party, the ‘silent majority.” And when they can’t come up with a new name to change to, they usually just go ‘Aww, screw it ! let’s just call ourselves the Ku Klux Klan again!’”
W. Kamau Bell is best-know for his acclaimed, but short-lived show "Totally Biased" and his current CNN show "United Shades of America." He's both a comedian and a social critic, and while I think he's funny, I think he's more influential as the latter and this book is definitely its best when he's dealing with issues of race. Like many comedians' books, it's a loosely connected string of anecdotes and autobiography. It's a breezy read, but a little unfocused. The strongest chapters are the more serious ones, like the show he did with members of the KKK and the one about a racial incident at a Berkeley cafe. I'd also recommend Phoebe Robinson's collection of essays, "You Can't Touch My Hair."


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