W. Kamau Bell: Trump or Biden, America ‘Might Be F*cked’

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Aundre Larrow
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Aundre Larrow

It’s been six years since W. Kamau Bell’s last special, Private School Negro, premiered on Netflix. And after hosting CNN’s United Shades of America for seven seasons and directing two hit documentaries, he’s not totally sure that he should still be considered a stand-up comedian.

In his third appearance on The Last Laugh podcast—taped in-studio in his native Oakland—Bell speaks frankly about his ambivalence around pursuing the life of a comic right now and why he keeps finding himself on stage, especially as the 2024 election heats up. Bell discusses comedy’s role in a Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump rematch, why comedians like Joe Rogan have embraced third-party spoiler RFK Jr., the fallout from his We Need to Talk About Cosby docuseries, and a lot more.

As self-proclaimed “showbiz mayor of the Bay Area,” Bell welcomes me with open arms to Skyline Studios in Oakland, California, for The Last Laugh’s first in-person podcast taping since early 2020. Aside from the two years he lived in New York while making his short-lived late-night series Totally Biased, Bell has spent his entire comedy career in the Bay. So when he decided he was ready to start making jokes on stage again earlier this year, he called in a favor at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and booked a weekly residency.

It was during one of those shows in early March that I saw him perform what was, to my mind, the most successful joke to date about President Biden’s age. In a bit reminiscent of John Mulaney’s famous Trump as a “horse loose in a hospital” run, Bell compared Biden to a toddler trying to walk down the stairs. Infused with a sense of both terror and empathy that is especially familiar to any parent, the joke captures something unique about how Democrats in particular are feeling about their prospects this fall.

“One of the real thrusts of the show is me accepting my own old age,” Bell explains of his new material. “I’m 51 now, so I really feel like I’m allowed to have these conversations in a way that people weren’t going to allow me to have before.”

But that didn’t stop people from getting mad at 61-year-old Jon Stewart for broaching the topic of Biden’s age when he returned to The Daily Show back in February. Watching the backlash play out, Bell’s first thought was, “Fuck this, man. You can’t even say an old person’s old?”

CNN’s W. Kamau Bell Fires Back at Fox News Host Tucker Carlson: ‘Fuck Him’

“If democracy is so delicate that comedians can’t make fun of it, we’re in trouble,” he adds. “I’m not expecting Jon Stewart to save me.”

And like Stewart, Bell too draws some equivalence between the two elderly men who will likely face off once again in November. “No matter who the next president is, this country might be fucked,” he says bluntly, pushing the importance of local races. “If we act like the whole future of the country swings on who’s the president, we’ve misunderstood the problem. We’ve misunderstood America.”

“So I’m not saying don’t vote,” he continues. “I’m saying absolutely vote, please vote, register to vote, check your voter registration, but don’t act like your vote for president is going to save America.”

Listen to the episode now and follow The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Wednesday.

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