Totally Biased Stand Up Tour at The Chapel
W. Kamau Bell brought his “Totally Biased Stand Up Tour” to San Francisco at The Chapel on Valencia Street Sunday, July 21 and 22. My husband David and I were there for Sunday’s performance. We’ve watched every episode of the FX show Totally Biased, wondering why it was just a half hour long. So we were, excuse the borrowed phrase, totally biased in favor of the show when we arrived. Fans will be happy to hear that the show will be an hour long on the new FXX channel which W. Kamau Bell assured me will be available on basic cable beginning September 4.
Appearing with Bell are writers and performers from the show, Kevin Avery, Dwayne Kennedy and Hari Kondabolu, along with Karinda Dobbins, a Bay Area comedian. The tour is showcasing talented local comedians in each city. Karinda Dobbins started the show, introduced by Bell’s disembodied voice via loudspeaker.
Dobbins soon had us cracking up, making the first Zimmerman trial joke of the night. One might imagine the show would be laden with them so soon after the verdict but it was nicely balanced, a leavening of reactions to the verdict without overtaking the other material. Dobbins told a story about a work review from her white boss which came the Monday following the verdict. “I got the best review ever. Thanks, George Zimmerman!” The audience went wild. She followed up with stories about her daughter ‘s music and some misleading Nicki Minaj lyrics involving oral sex and the flavor mango. I don’t want to spoil it but readers might want to review the lyrics to Minaj’s “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” David and I resolved to catch more of her shows in the future.
Kevin Avery followed Dobbins. He’s the head writer for Totally Biased and grew up in the Bay Area. He is a very physical comedian, throwing his entire body into his performance as he described how he didn’t realize a college friend, also black, was gay before he came out because it was the ’90s, era of Hammer pants, wild hair, sequins and glitter. Emulating a back up dancer for MC Hammer had us clutching our sides as we laughed so hard it hurt. According to Avery, if you were black and gay in the ’90s you had to burst out of the closet with attitude before anyone would notice you were gay. Much of Avery’s set was self-deprecating, making fun of himself for being out of step with black culture, to the detriment of his dating relationships. He made fun of his speech and how close it is to “white guy speech” as performed by black comedians, explaining that his parents enrolled him and his brother in a Catholic school, all white except for them. After having spent his childhood in the Bay Area, he then went to college in Alabama where he was awaited by culture shock.
Next up was Dwayne Kennedy. He addressed Trayvon’s shooting directly, saying, “If you were a black man, you can’t walk on the sidewalk, run, even go to the store. You got to levitate. I’m just going to levitate to the store.” Why was Dwayne arrested? “He broke the law of gravity.”
Kennedy talked about why there aren’t more black serial killers. “There would be”, he explains, “if black people had higher incomes. At the very least you need a car. Dude, my bus pass ran out, can you come pick me up? I got this body…”
Kennedy says he’s praying for the hole in the ozone to open up more(mimics spraying aerosol can) and notices that more white guys are marrying black women. “They want a UV umbrella; take shelter of that increased melanin, African number 10.” But he saw an interracial couple one day and mimics the sister telling her husband off and Kennedy says “You didn’t think that was free?”
Hari Kondabolu was last up before W. Kamau Bell and made it clear that colonialism would be a theme. The comic, born and raised in Queens, had visited Australia, which has rules about not bringing harmful life-forms into the country which could destroy the ecosphere. “The indigenous people of Australia would agree.” Kondabolu makes fun of whiny liberals who say they’re moving to Canada and points out that Canada also has a history of colonialism, killed natives, and their prime minister is trying to gut the social welfare programs.
His best story of the night involved his dad picking him up from the airport. A white lady jumped into his dad’s back seat, mistaking his dad’s car for a taxi. Kondabolu tried to tell her that it’s not a cab, to which she said “Too bad, guess you should have run faster.” He could only assume that she didn’t really look at the car, just the color of his dad’s skin. “Oh, he’s in the servant class.” I won’t spoil the story’s ending, in case you get a chance to hear him tell it.
W. Kamau Bell was last to perform, followed by a Q and A session with the Totally Biased comedians. Continuing his comedic education on the subject of racism, he tells a story about a Facebook interaction with an ex-friend (emphasis on the word “ex”) who is a white atheist. This ex-friend posted a story concerning racism and tagged Bell so that he was getting alerts on his phone for each comment. The guy declared that whatever the story was about, that it wasn’t racist and Bell disagreed. At some point the ex-friend then said, “As an atheist, I am a member of an oppressed group too.” Bell says maybe atheists rank somewhere near the bottom of a long and ever-changing list of oppressed people, next to people who are allergic to nuts. Bell explains that white people don’t get to decide what’s racist or not. It’s not our area of expertise. People of color are taking the graduate course in racism, writing 500-page papers, attending class every day. White people audit the class, attend when they feel like it and then breeze in like they can break it all down. He said, “Just like I can’t offer an opinion on what’s sexist because I don’t know, I just audit the class.” With regard to his friend, he adds, “I’d rather you just burned a cross on my lawn, it’s cleaner. The cross will stop burning but you won’t shut the f— up.”
Bell states that his daughter is the reason he incorporates identity or sociopolitical politics into his comedy, to make the world a better place for her generation. So it’s no surprise that his daughter is prominently mentioned during his act. Beaming with pride, Bell talks about being a parent on the playground with a mixed race kid among other mixed race kids—who look like each other more than their own parents. Once they’re all together, things get confusing—he mimes losing her amid the many lookalike children and pulling out the wrong one—for instance, discovering it’s a boy, when he goes to change the diaper. Oops! Gotta go back and exchange the boy for a girl until he gets his daughter back. Bell muses that she looks white when he holds her and black when his mom holds her, “like a broken chameleon.”
The Q and A with the Totally Biased cast came next and as they set out chairs for the guys we all wondered where Karinda Dobbins was. The first question regarded the worst place they’ve ever performed and they had some hilarious stories that brought home the courage it takes to get up and try to make people laugh night after night in all kinds of venues across the country. Then, someone asked what we all wondered, “Why isn’t Karinda up there with you?” I think it was intended in every venue to be a Q and A with just the cast, but as we all wanted to see her, they brought Karinda Dobbins out. I wish she’d been there for the worst gig question because I can imagine she’d have a good story to tell. We all really enjoyed her performance and I hope appearing with the cast of Totally Biased results in more bookings. All in all it was a night of witty comedy at a lovely venue.
You can follow the performers on Twitter, in order of appearance: @KarindaDobbins, @KevinAvery, @DwayneTKennedy, @harikondabolu and @wkamaubell. Sample tweet from W. Kamau Bell: “Thank you to the people of Florida who came out to the @Totallybiased tour. & special thanks to George Zimmerman for not killing me.”
Tapati McDaniels is a writer from Sunnyvale, California, who is working on a memoir. She may be reached by leaving comments here, or at @tapati on Twitter.
BOOK REVIEW: ST. PETER’S CHOICE
I was recently given an online copy of a rather interesting book called “St. Peter’s Choice” by Dean Hartwell, from a friend, which I proceeded to read. I was curious about this book, especially about the overall theme, about the existence of God, Heaven, and Hell. In short, it questions everything about the Christian faith, in an attempt to cast it as just another falsehood. The story centers on the following characters:
Peter: a man who God used, despite his shortcomings to be a mighty minister of the gospel, who is now at the pearly gates admitting believers.
X, Y, and Z: Three non-believers with whom Peter has an in-depth conversation with, concerning God and the afterlife.
This conversation delves into the very foundation of Christianity, with X, Y, and Z openly challenging everything God says and does throughout history, thus proving that IF God exists, He is mean, capricious, and heartless. They also poke holes in theological facts, such as the existence of Hell. When they’re banned from Heaven, they are in a place of darkness, and can’t feel anything negative, such as the fire, heat or pain they expected. From this, they decide that God must be some type of liar. Therefore, everything else He has said in His word is useless fiction. In the end of the book, Peter refuses to enter Heaven out of protest with the other three, and stays with them, wherever they are.
The problem with this is that the writer cherry-picks Scripture, and takes it out of context, to support his views. He uses old, tired and superficial arguments against God and His Word, such as claiming that the Old and New Testaments contradict each other, when in reality they can be shown to support each other. The writer also fails to see that Hell is also described in the Bible as “the lake of fire burning with brimstone”, a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, of “outer darkness” and torment (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, Luke 16:32, and Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 14-15) which will last for eternity. Not the mere emptiness Hartwell describes.
The writer apparently has issues with the truth of God’s word, as well as with God, so he spouts what can only be the tenets of atheism, in ways that are not internally consistent. As I also looked into the other works of this author, it was very clear that this person is deeply into conspiracy theories, (9/11 hoax, etc) that have been easily debunked.
While very thought-provoking and entertaining, this book is a work of pure fiction. It’s based on the atheistic influences of philosophical and scientific author Richard Dawkins, whose ideas are contradictory and confused at times, and the works of Dan Brown, whose assertions have been proven to be false. If one is unsure of their faith, needs affirmation of it, and wants to see “both sides,” I would recommend this. However, I would strongly caution that they carefully read God’s Word, examine history in every aspect, and seek out godly counsel. If one wants to read this to get an idea of what an atheist thinks, then go for it, but this in no way is something for a Christian to read as a devotional book.
Wendy Saddler is from Bensalem, Pennsylvania and may be reached at email@example.com
Her stride whispers her story.
Her voice is lost in the breeze.
She owns a face colored by the sun, with deep wrinkles defining dark thoughts.
Walrus like whiskers sprout from her chin and crusted saliva settles in the corners of her mouth.
Front teeth are missing and grey hair grows around a rubber band once bundling off a small ponytail.
Her clothing hangs on her body like a clothesline.
Her quiet existence floats around town tightly clutching in her arms, escaping newspapers, loose leaflets and plastic bags.
She is seen
diligently watering trees using a small paper cup.
She is seen
volunteering her services to nervous shoppers at the local thrift store.
She is seen
standing among young children reading free give away picture books.
She is seen
having quiet conversations to no one other than to herself.
She is known
to turn down monetary offerings.
She is known
to help a stranger look for a fallen wallet in a parking lot of a convenience store.
She is known
to show genuine concern for kept doves in a large aviary in the center of a city park.
She is known
to refuse a hamburger because she is a vegetarian
She appears to exist without definition, But yet when looked upon she defines a thought,
“When we see past society’s disguises is when the human spirit will walk on an equal plane.”
Lorene Miller is an active part of the writing group at her local library, in Hayward, California. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image from George Hodan, who appreciates donations for cups of coffee for the use of his photos!