Brito tells the Voice, "Getting different voices in the writers' room brings value because we all bring perspectives and voices you rarely see in media. And all of it presented by a 6-foot-4 black man from San Francisco. I mean, c'mon, you can't get more diverse and progressive than that."

Some of the pitches resemble the ones a newspaper editor might receive from muckraking reporters: real-world injustices and outrages, all quickly run through. One writer reads from a conservative pamphlet detailing how Republicans should not talk about immigration. Another proposes that the show parody the loyalty oaths an Arizona high school was forcing upon students: "We could have a Totally Biased disloyalty oath, the thing you make everyone say before every show. Like, we have to question everything—"

The idea is met with silence—it's a little too Democracy NOW!.

Christopher Farber
Totally Biased writers Aparna Nancherla, Guy Branum, Bell, Kevin Kataoka, Hari Kondabolu, and Janine Brito
Christopher Farber
Totally Biased writers Aparna Nancherla, Guy Branum, Bell, Kevin Kataoka, Hari Kondabolu, and Janine Brito

"Of course, we'd make it funny," the writer adds before dropping it.

Obama's push for gun reform is in the news. Someone says, "Maybe we could send Kamau out for a man-on-the-street with an assault rifle around his neck."

"Is that legal?" Bell asks.

"We'd find out in a hurry."

Nancherla asks if anyone saw the joint interview Obama and Hillary Clinton gave on 60 Minutes. "That just reminded me of the old couples that got interviewed in When Harry Met Sally," Bell says. "They were like, 'Oh, no, dear, you tell that part.'"

That gets laughs.

"'When Barry Met Hilly,'" a writer suggests.

"That's a classic movie, right?" Bell asks. "People have seen that? How do we make that into a thing?"

He gets many answers: "You could just show the clip and go into a run." "We could work in 'I'll have what she's having.'" "Make it 'I'll have what Bill's having."

A couple of pitches break through: "The Lighter Side of the Darker Side," a possible recurring segment finding reason for hope in news items, inspired by the fact that Chris Brown's fistfight with Frank Ocean apparently had nothing to do with Frank Ocean's gayness.

Or Kennedy's proposal for "A History of Black Names."

"Black people make up names, like they've always had to make things up," Kennedy says, in the same commanding tones that distinguish his stand-up—he sounds like the world's most stentorian African-American studies professor gone utterly mad. "We made up jazz. And blues. And rock. And when you make a lot of things up, sometimes you're going to miss."


"You know: Kwabanjanee."

More laughter.

A white writer asks, "When did black people start making up names?"

"That started with 'Get on the boat,'" Kennedy says.

The room explodes.

"It started with 'free trip to America.'"

Kennedy did the bit on the air a few days later. It was beefed up: "Not only is Shiraz a fine dinner wine, she's also a very nice lady who works at the Shop 'n Save near my crib." It was also impassioned, even touching, a celebration of inventiveness and self-definition, of the way African-Americans had to create their own culture—as with "Sheiks vs. Sikhs," Totally Biased dared to be enlightening. It's purposeful comedy unlike most of TV, some tricky alchemy of outrage into laughter and then maybe into something more profound. These folks are making it up as they go along. They've got 26 weeks' worth of episodes to figure it out.

Bell seems upbeat despite the pressure. "Sometimes I think, if this doesn't go on, at least we'll be written up in some grad school papers."

'Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell' airs Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. on Fox's new FXX channel. A highlights roundup runs each Sunday.

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