Humor / John / Memoir / Nonfiction

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell

Have you ever found yourself enjoying a book and suddenly come to an opinion by the author so puzzling, or perhaps even horrifying, that you had difficulty continuing with the book? Or perhaps you just quit reading it altogether. I ran into this over halfway through W. Kamau Bell’s book The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell. I was enjoying the book when on page 232 Bell states that his favorite Martin Scorsese film is not Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, or Goodfellas (my favorite). No, his favorite Scorsese movie is Casino, a movie so dull that calling it a second-rate Goodfellas is far too kind. I try to recognize that opinions are just opinions, but the Casino over Goodfellas argument makes about as much sense as someone claiming Paul McCartney’s solo albums are better than the Beatles. Despite this bump in the road (really a huge crater) The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell had enough going for it that I went ahead and finished the book.

Bell spends a good part of the book talking about how he made his way into standup comedy and eventually to the short-lived TV show Totally Biased and the currently running CNN show United Shades of America. A lot of standup comedians talk about paying their dues and working comedy clubs around the country that sometimes do not have the most welcoming crowds. Standup comedian, author, and actor Patton Oswalt discusses this career path in his book Silver Screen Fiend. He talks about working on material that had broad appeal before he was able to create his own following and perform material he really wanted to do. Bell started down a similar path and, like most comedians, had mixed results at first. After establishing himself to some degree at various comedy clubs, Bell decided to take a different approach and started performing a one-man show at a theater in San Francisco. He was eventually able to take this show on the road, often to colleges. His decision to try to find his own audience rather than pander to random crowds at comedy clubs proved to be a very good decision. And sticking with The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell despite our differing opinions on Scorsese’s mob movies proved to be a good decision for me.

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