Laughter Against the Machine

Humor has long been a potent weapon in the struggle for justice and social change.  In 1963, for instance, Dick Gregory titled his autobiography, “Nigger” and he wrote in the dedication, “To my mother—“From now on, whenever you hear the word ‘Nigger’, “you’ll know they’re advertising my book.”  From Gregory’s cutting commentary in the 1960s to Richard Pryor’s salute to the Black Panthers in the 70s to Margaret Cho, George Lopez, and Chris Rock speaking the truth in the 90s and 21st century, comedians have long used laughter to get America to look at its shortcomings and hypocrisy.  That’s why we’re so excited to partner with W. Kamau Bell in the final weeks of this election.

In a world filled with timid, frequently culturally clueless, reporters and commentators, Kamau’s show “Totally Biased” is the most cathartic 30 minutes on television for politically progressive people who understand that race still matters in America. His bit on how Obama really is the President of Black America was just straight up funny, while his “Who would you gay marry?” person-on-the-street interview segment was a textbook illustration of using humor to educate and expose prejudices and biases. And his piece on “Sikhs and Sheiks” after the mass killings at a Sikh temple was nothing short of brilliant in using humor to lay bare ignorance, hypocrisy and hatred.

As a San Francisco resident, I’ve know of and followed Kamau for several years now (going back to at least 2007 when he joked that nobody named Barack Obama could get elected President -- “he might as well be named ‘Blackety-Black’”). I enjoyed his stand-up show “How to End Racism In About an Hour” (with half-price tickets if you brought a person of a different race) and was glad to see him mentoring promising talents such as my friend Enzo Lombard (“Love, Humiliation, and Karaoke”). So the fact that he has now rocketed onto the national stage is just all the more exciting for those who knew him when.

The importance of his success is much more than a “local boy makes good” story. As Rachel Maddow said when she appeared on his show, “we need you on the air.” When so many of the people who have access to a national platform to influence public opinion are afraid to even talk about the critical issues and forces that shape our lives, a strong, sharp voice is that much more resonant and meaningful. And that’s what W. Kamau Bell is, and that’s what his show, “Totally Biased” does every week.

And fortunately for all of us, Kamau understands political change and movement-building and has graciously agreed to partner with PowerPAC+ to help build the movement for political change in America. So, by all means, don’t miss out on the contest to join Kamau for dinner or to get tickets to the taping of his show. Together, we just might laugh ourselves to a better world.

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