W. Kamau Bell: White People Do Not Get the 'Final Word' on Racism

The comedian's "Totally Biased" will be more timely and on the zeitgeist when it moves to a weeknight strip in September on FXX.
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W. Kamau Bell

W. Kamau Bell has a message for white people: "You can't have the final word" on racism.

"You need to listen to the story before you come to conclusions," Bell told media reporters gathered for the Television Critics Association press tour Friday. "The worst thing a white person can say is, 'I don't think that's racist.' You can have an opinion, but you can't have the final word. White people, you've got a lot of jobs; you can't always have the knowing-what-racism-is job."

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Bell's late-night show, Totally Biased, moves from a weekly to a Monday through Thursday strip when it jumps to FXX in September. There also will be a weekly compilation show Sundays at 11 p.m. The FX Productions series, which is executive produced by Chris Rock, has a 130-episode order and has beefed up its production staff to accommodate the increased output. And the day-and-date schedule -- the show will tape at 5 p.m. and air at 11 p.m. -- means that Bell and his writers can be more timely.

"Friday was always a really bad day for us because we'd just done the show on Thursday, and Friday we'd show up at the office and some big news story would break and we'd be like, 'Man we have to hit this,' " explained Bell. "And we'd start writing into it, and by Tuesday we'd be like, 'Oh this issue is dead.' Also, on a weekly show, sometimes you have too much time to think, and you talk yourself out of a provocative idea that you would have just done if you had to do it that night."

The show also will do more of the introspective segments like last season's "Comedian versus Feminist," which had Jezebel writer Lindy West and comedian Jim Norton debating sexism and the boundaries of comedy -- including "rape jokes."

"When I pitched that segment, I knew exactly what I wanted and that those were the two people I wanted to do it," said Bell. "I knew they would be able to handle it in a funny and sensitive way but also keep the ball up in the air. I was aware going into it that it could potentially get a lot of attention. And it got more attention than I was prepared for. But to me, that's where Totally Biased should always live, in that zeitgeist, not pouring into it but stirring something up."