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The W. Kamau Bell Curve 

Wednesday, Nov 19 2008
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After the election of Barack Obama, what could an African-American comedian with a gift for uncovering the nuances of race possibly have to say in our obviously post-race society? Well, it turns out W. Kamau Bell has plenty to say in his latest one-man show. In his laid-back, conversational style, he deftly deconstructs the ponytail Michelle Obama sported when she voted on Election Day; how the world would be a better place if the government would curb anonymous Internet postings with the Say It to My Face Act; and the racism inherent in that hipster staple, superskinny jeans. Not all his musings and observations hit the mark. An extended riff on how John McCain is evil not only seems like an easy target (or "so Bay Area," as Bell would say) but also already old news in what is otherwise a very current and thought-provoking show. Bell really hits his stride in the second half of his 100-minute routine, when he talks about his fiancée's family. Of course, the shabby treatment he gets from his prospective grandfather-in-law is no laughing matter, yet Bell is able to use humor — and his sorely lacking talents in making his first sweet potato pie for a Thanksgiving gathering — to highlight how he and his fiancée continue to find ways to make it through their days together. Bell has no brilliant solutions to share with us about how we can fix race relations for good, but that's one of his main points. For all the power of electing the country's first black president, there are still some racial issues – a lot of racial issues – where there can be no real meeting in the middle. This show encapsulates beautifully how far we all have come, and how far we've yet to go.

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Molly Rhodes

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