W. Kamau Bell on megachurches, the jokes that define him, and the new season of his show

W. Kamau Bell, standup comedian and host of CNN’s TV series United Shades of America, sat down with Baby Huey and Chasta to talk comedy, music, and detail the many facets of filming a show with such sensitive material.

United Shades of America is an hour-long show on CNN that tries to document racial-based subcultures across America. Bell broke down how much thought goes into producing a show with constraints to time and material. In general the show tries to cover many subjects but can be the victim of traditional televisions rigid time slots. Streaming services offers a slight reprieve to lengthy run-time but he admits that all of the stories told in the show are more like vignettes than whole truths.

The show has also seen a large increase in security, though Bell admits the most dangerous episode was probably the pilot as he sat face to face with Klu Klux Klan members.

“We have instituted a lot more safety since season 1,”Bell said. “People may be like, ‘I wasn’t going to riot but I see the guy from CNN over there.’ You might be angry at CNN and not really know who I am.”

The show seeks to highlight what really is going on from sea to shining sea. Though, if his show proves anything it’s that the United States diversity will keep you guessing. Bell even stated that currently the Pacific Northwest is one of the current hotbeds of white nationalism.

Bell’s show also highlights many other topics including religion which sparked a heated debate amongst the families of The Bone staff. Chasta admitted the episode about megachurches sparked some tension at home about how much religion to expose to her child.

“There were moments where you were talking about megachurches and the money behind them and of course [my hustband] was looking at me like, ‘See! See what I’m telling you about!” Chasta said. “Then there’s the end of the episode where you’re talking to this really beautiful man who getting it right about religion and I’m like,”See! See that’s what I’m talking about!”

Bell was not deterred by this reaction and in fact relished in it as his show’s ethos is to talk about difficult issues that face this country every day. He wants all his viewers no matter what their viewpoint to have a “see that’s what I’m talking about moment.”




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