close menu
Episode 353: Nerdist Podcast
W. Kamau Bell
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast: W. Kamau Bell

Chris sits down with hilarious and intelligent W. Kamau Bell to talk about his show Totally Biased, the difference in his comedy between his stand up and show, and taking his two year old daughter to his stand up shows!

Watch Totally Biased, Thursdays at 11 pm on FX!

Watch Tommy Wiseau's Joker Audition Tape

Watch Tommy Wiseau's Joker Audition Tape

ANNIHILATION's 'Shimmer' and Ending Explained

ANNIHILATION's 'Shimmer' and Ending Explained

Expect Permanent Deaths For AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Expect Permanent Deaths For AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR



  1. alva7t1i says:

    Wow! This is a definite of the most valuable websites We’ve ever before occur across about this issue. Essentially Impressive. I’m additionally an authority with this topic so I can comprehend your effort.

  2. MsBrewski says:

    When I saw Kamau booked at Calvin College for Gilda’s LaughFest, the same festival where the Nerdist boys did the podcast in the church, I thought both were odd bookings, but I went to both. I risked the hellfire and stepped my former Catholic school self into those churchy churchy venues without so much as a smolder.
    So glad I did, and that someone in this town wanted to host funny people.

  3. Colin says:

    FoxSoccer is dissolving because NBC paid a shit-ton more for the broadcast rights of the English leagues, not because we didn’t watch it. Looking forward to FXX though, I’ll get my football elsewhere.

  4. Mescalineous says:

    Yeah, we’re master debaters. A pair to beat a full house. Like Abbot and Costello.

    Speaking of Abbot and Costello, why are you here anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be on second?

  5. What says:

    @Mescalineous @ Walter

    Jesus Christ both of you are idiots. Arguing about a podcast with paragraphs after paragraphs on a Wednesday afternoon.

  6. Mescalineous says:

    Ha! A wall of text KO. I like that term, but even if that was what I was going for I wouldn’t dare to dream that it would work on someone as passionate about their beliefs as yourself. I must say that while we’ll most likely never see eye to eye on this issue, I admire the clarity and eloquence with which you’ve made your points on the subject.

    I agree that the political system we have in place, as it stands, gives far too much power to people with money in this country. There’s no way to get elected to public office in America without a metric fuckton of cash. In order to get your face in front of people’s eyes and your message into people’s ears you need to buy ad space which forces political candidates to kiss the asses of the people with the resources they need to have any chance at getting elected, giving people with money an unfair advantage when it comes to having a say in the direction our government moves. They’ve gamed the current system. They have too much power, in other words, and as the founding fathers were all too aware long before it was famously written by Lord Acton, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    It’s a problem. I agree. But it’s a fixable problem. And it’s not a problem that’s going to fixed by any amount of internet ranting, overgeneralizing, or sign-waving. You can’t effect meaningful change by alienating people. It just doesn’t work. There are only two ways campaign finance reform (which I see as the magic bullet for most, if not all of the problems you brought up) is ever going to happen: from the inside by elected officials who understand that the current system is flawed and act to fix it, or by a fucking revolution. I think it’s worth at least trying the former before becoming an advocate for the latter, which is what you seem to be doing.

    Now I say overgeneralizing because I feel that that’s the core of our disagreement. You say “the rich” do this and “the rich” do that. All rich people are bad? Really? Put the shoe on the other foot and overgeneralize about any other group of people (“the poor”, “the blacks”, “the Jews”) and you sound completely ignorant and backward, but apply the same overgeneralizing, oversimplified, flawed thinking to people with money and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. “What do they care?” people say. “Those bloodsucking parasites can wipe their tears with their fatass dividend checks,” people say. It’s true, they’re not a disenfranchised class, but that kind of thinking is logically incorrect, morally questionable, destructive, divisive, and doesn’t solve anything; in fact it just creates more problems. Even if a person with money agrees with you, what incentive have you given them to go out of their way to try to turn things around? Why would they bother to put time and effort into advocating for a cause that hates them?

    Despite your well made points to the contrary, I believe that most people are good people, even the rich ones, and that, unfortunately, there are some people only act good when they’re part of a system that increases the chances of getting caught with a hand in the cookie jar, and makes the consequences of a bad deed outweigh the benefit. That system is exists, and it’s one we can find and put in place, but it’s not one we’re going to get to by any amount of finger wagging and name-calling. That doesn’t inspire people to let their better selves guide their actions, it only inspires them to dig their heels into their current positions a little deeper and hold on to their flawed values a little tighter.

    I’ve gotta say, though, why aren’t you running for some sort office? Take even a tenth of that passion, back it up with some hard facts, remove some of the destructive anarchist venom, and put it all in front of a camera, and I’d vote for you. Get enough mes to cast a ballot and you could actually effect some change. Maybe not the Enterprise, but I bet you could, at the very least, fix the damn transmission that was the problem in the first place.

    In Matrixy terms you seem to think I’ve taken the blue pill and you’ve taken the red, but I honestly think that there’s a middle option, a purple pill if you will, between bovine ignorance and unbridled cynicism. I think that you can acknowledge the good without ignoring the bad. But hell I’m not so entrenched that I can’t admit that there’s a possibility that I’m wrong. It’s sure as hell happened before. As a wise man once said, “You may be wrong for all I know, but you may be right.”

    No wait, that was just Billy Joel. Never mind.

  7. Walter says:

    Fair enough, the way I criticized the episode was kind of a dick move, which I acknowledged in the initial comment, but didn’t make it less of a dick move.

    Against my better judgement I can’t let your attempt at a wall of text KO be the end of this point on America. You are painfully naive when it comes to American.

    “Never in the history of mankind has there been a country with more power that has abused it less.” That’s a joke right? Where horrible in education, horrible in income inequality, horrible on population in prisons, horrible in gun deaths, horrible in health care, and apparently we’re now cool with torturing people and holding them indefinitely. Similar countries with records like ours get condemned or sanctions. However, we’ve retained and maintained the capably to end all life on this planet. Because in the past a King or Emperor might have used that power to take over the entire world we should get a gold star for not being that evil? No, our leaders have learned controlling everyone through direct force is not possible or sustainable. They are now more precise with their use of force. “Owning” everything isn’t as important as controlling everything. You give them a pass because you feel you can say whatever you want or open up whatever business you want. However we’ve learned recently that if you say or create something that actually matters they will shut you down in a hurry ( The AP’s phone records being taken, Wiki Leaks being treated as criminals, private Bradley Manning treated like a terrorist for letting us know the evils our government is engaged in). So because in Russia you can get thrown in jail for calling Putin a jackass, and here Obama is cool with it, we are better than Russia? Even though the consequences for actions that actually challenge the establishments power is treated the same. Our leader are just smarter at maintaining there power through subtly. They don’t have to keep us in prisons in Siberia. Prisons in suburbia are just as effective. They kill terrorist to keep you safe. Do you know who they are killing and if they are terrorist or just an unlucky bastard that lives on top of oil or an equally valuable resource? No, and you don’t care because we’re great and Jon Stewart is allowed to go on TV and make fun of our Dear Leaders. “Look how free and progressive we are!”

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not as nutty as to say a group of families or old world/new world order lizard people from space are secretly controlling everything. That’s crazy. I just think our system isn’t as you said “…a mostly good system that does it’s best to keep bad people out of power and does that fairly well most of the time.” It is, however, a perfect system for the wealthy to maintain their wealth and power. Because it was designed that way. You get to pray to whatever God you want, they get to keep as much money as they want. You get to call them evil money grubbing monsters. They might spare a second to have their feelings hurt after they cut wages and before they use that money to buy another boat, mansion, and or fleet of cars. As long as what you’ve said or done doesn’t take their money away, they could give a rats ass. Women and minorities voting, who cares, it’s not like popular vote means anything if you really want someone elected (G W Bush 2000). Gay people getting married? Sure why not give the country something else to be “proud of”, but we’re still allowed to pack 1000’s of 3rd world workers into a building that is only safe for a hundred, pay them next to nothing, and escape any meaningful consequences when they all die?

    I’ll close on this. You said I’m trying to “…make a car run better by painting “Your transmission sucks ass” on the hood.” Not really. What I’m saying is the car needs to be melted down and used to create the USS Enterprise. We are all in the back seat with no seat belts, while the rich are in the front seat with seat belts and air bags doing 100 mph through a forest and it’s only a matter of time before they hit a tree. They may walk away with superficial cuts and scrapes, while we’re all going to be either dead or paralyzed trying to forget the accident with the pot they finally let us have because we are so “free.”

  8. Mescalineous says:

    Well this escalated quickly.

    To clarify, I wasn’t saying that you were a dick for criticizing free content. I was saying that you came off as a dick in the WAY you criticized it. I really don’t know you well enough to draw any fair conclusions in regards to whether or not you’re dick overall, only that you acted like one when you made that comment. If you had made your complaint politely and constructively I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

    It’s clear that we’re both fans of this podcast and that we can at least agree on the quality of the content. I just hate to see people put time, effort, and passion into things, have those things turn out remarkably well, and then get treated poorly because somebody found one small aspect of it slightly annoying. I understand why you made your comment, and don’t even think that you should have kept silent if it bothered you enough to turn off the podcast. I only said that the way you chose to do it was a tad deplorable. It WAS mean, whether you want to own that or not. Those two comedians aren’t world leaders, but they’re still people, people who were doing nothing more than trying to entertain you with an intelligent discussion and they don’t deserve that kind of treatment from you or anybody.

    As for the rest of your comment. Wow. Well you’re right about one thing. When it comes right down to it war and death are much better reasons to leave the planet than a guy acting like an dick on a comment thread. Thank you for, uh, rearranging my perspective. To show my gratitude I’ll be sure to send you a case of toilet paper imprinted with the faces of every person whose ever held office in American politics printed on each square. You’ll be able to wipe with Washington, poo on Pierce, and crap on Clinton. What fun!

    Funny thing is, in America, you would absolutely be able to create, market, and sell that product without fear of reprisal from the government. I’m not sure I could say the same about Soviet Russia or modern day China whose regimes and ideals might be vastly more prevalent in the world were it not for the actions of our past leaders. When it comes to the use of force to protect oneself, there are no good choices. Those people simply did the best they could with the limited knowledge that they had. That doesn’t make them evil. As I said, America has committed sins and it would be foolish to deny them, but give it some for fuck’s sake credit. Never in the history of mankind has there been a country with more power that has abused it less. It’s not a perfect country because it’s not made up of perfect people and it never has been, but its reality doesn’t at all meet up with the Grimm fairy tale that you’ve spun here when viewed with even a modicum of objectivity. In reality it’s a mostly good country made up of mostly good people, with a mostly good system that does it’s best to keep bad people out of power and does that fairly well most of the time. Could it be better? Sure. That we can agree on. But does it deserve the dressing down you just gave it? No, it does not.

    Perhaps I can tie these two things together. I’d like to suggest to you that if you’re looking to take action that leads to change, you’re more likely to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. You can’t make a car run better by painting “Your transmission sucks ass” on the hood. That doesn’t bring ideas or solutions to the table, it just points out a problem and vandalizes a car. I’m not sure that the best place to start enacting change is by blasting the thing you want to change with undeserved negativity, whether it be a podcast or a country.

  9. walter says:


    We’re just talking about 2 comedians voicing their opinion on a comedy podcast. This isn’t as if I turning off the President addressing the nation about a war he was going to start because the HD channel wasn’t working. If I skip one episode because something annoying was happening, it’s not a statement on down fall of humanity. I commented on it because I am a fan and I thought it might be useful information for Chris that there was something minor that made a fan turn off the podcast. I do realize that it makes me look like a dick for criticizing free content, but I’m not some guy who listened to one episode said “Gay” and made a mean comment about it. I’ve listened from day one and was bummed that I skipped an episode.

    Rose-colored glasses! Landing on the Moon was about crushing the Soviet Union. It became a symbol of scientific achievement and what can happen when the greatest mind of a generation work together. While the poor and middle class were holding hands and patting themselves on the back the rich and powerful were sending men to die in Southeast Asia for the same goal of crushing the Soviet Union. We celebrate the Moon landing but condemn Vietnam even though both happened for the same reason. Since the moon landing wasn’t done for pure intellectual curiosity and the betterment of mankind, the only way we’ll ever go back is if there is a chance that a bigger Chinese flag might be planted.

    The American flag is a symbol of rich white men that didn’t want to pay taxes and want to keep their slaves. Freedom & equality are meaningless ideals that were sold to the poor to get them to charge a field against a far superior trained military. We have far too much reverence to and past events and symbols in this country, and unless we critically look and the shameful parts of our past we might as well make plans to leave the planet, because the shit is going down hill fast having nothing to do with turning off a comedy podcast because of an annoying sound. My complaints about the audio quality of my distractions are not something to leave the planet over.

  10. Mescalineous says:

    My dear Walter, I’m afraid you give me far too much credit in regard to the organization of my thought and expression if you’re under the impression that I organized my observations by perceived importance from greatest to least. The podcast contained a conversation about race relations in America, comedy, and at times race relations in comedy in America. The two were one in my mind when I wrote the comment. If I’ve offended anyone by appearing to give “top-billing” to one over the other then I humbly apologize. I assure you one and all (well actually pretty much just one) that nothing could be further from the intention of my comment.

    If you’re determined to dismiss the podcast outright because of the sound quality then do so, by all means. I don’t, however, see the sense in acting like a brat about it. That flag for which you have so much distaste is the symbol of a country founded by a group of men and women who agreed that you were born with the right to act however you damn well please as long as you’re not harming anybody else, and that it’s a right that deserves protecting. So be it.

    As Bell said in this episode, however, you can say what you want, but certain things that you say are going to come with consequences. In this case the consequence of dismissing the content of the podcast and acting like a jackass while you did it was merely having me say something about it. As consequences go that’s not so bad in the scheme of things as I’m sure you’ll agree. Take your lumps if lumps you consider them and next time act like an adult.

    And if I am afforded the chance to leave the planet, the flag stays. I look at it, not as a symbol of a stake claimed, but rather a symbol of the celebration of a momentous achievement shared by an entire nation. America is far from perfect now and wasn’t remotely perfect in 1969 when that flag was planted. It’s a nation haunted by the ghosts of its sins, of which imperialism certainly is one of many, but for a brief moment in history we had something incredible that brought us together as a nation, as a people; something that gave every American man, woman, and child something to shake hands and smile and congratulate each other about regardless of social class, race, or political affiliation. We are now, as we were then, a disparate nation spread out over millions of square miles, separated by language, religion, heritage, etc. But for a brief span we were a single community with a single worthy goal and that flag is proof that the goal was achieved and achieved gloriously. I wouldn’t so casually toss all of that away because of a cynical, misplaced sense of shame. We certainly have a plethora of things to be ashamed of as a nation, but that flag isn’t one of them. Pick something else.

  11. walter says:


    The fact that you would give top billing to “important issues facing comedy” over race relations or even mentioning them together as if they are even remotely comparable is a little ridiculous. I did acknowledged how ridiculous my comment was as a take away from this episode and I was probably a little over the top, but I was simply making an observation as a fan of the Nerdist podcast. Maybe I’m a little full of myself to think that I should voice an opinion about the audio quality of my free podcast. If the idea that someone doesn’t like the snorting sound in their ear, regardless of the conversation surrounding that sound, makes you want to leave the planet, please remove the American Flag from the moon. I feel that it’s a symbol of a bygone age of imperialism and slavery to claim a new land upon arrival. I don’t think that’s a great message to new visitors of Earth.

  12. MarkinLV says:

    Troll troll troll… Troll troll troll… Troll troll trolololololololo… Troll troll troll (to the tune of “chain of fools”)

  13. JetpackBlues says:

    @WTH: True, but Lord Trolldemort’s soul will never be whole after creating the Horcrux.

    Chain of Trolls is my Aretha Franklin cover band.

  14. WTH says:

    As far as I’m concerned a person is only worth their weight in trolled.

  15. Mescalineous says:

    Yeah, almost as disgusting as your comportment, Walter.

    An articulate and compelling conversation between two intelligent individuals discussing some of the most important issues facing comedy and race relations in America and the comments are “eeeeeeew! snorting!”

    Jesus fucking Christ I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

  16. walter says:

    I’m sorry, I’m sorry I know am a horrible human being, and judging by the comments I’m the only one that picked up on this, but Jesus fucking Christ was this episode hard to get through and I had to turn it off. How fucking gross was Bell’s snorting?!?! ewwwwwww!!! I know this makes me a bad person and it sounded like an interesting episode, but I couldn’t take it anymore. It just made me sick to my stomach every time. I know “Free podcast, deal with it”, but maybe next time edit that out or heads up. Sorry, I’m an ass.

  17. JetpackBlues says:

    @WTH: As long as no one is making a troll centipede*.

    Actually, that would be fitting punishment for a chain of trolls.

    *See Human Centipede

  18. WTH says:

    Are you trolling me? Because if you are that makes you a troll’s troll’s troll. We’re making a troll chain here. 🙂

  19. I would be delighted if all Nerdist podcast episodes ended with fake quotes “by our boss, Mr. Chris Hardwick”, a la Torey Malatia from This American Life.

  20. Charles says:

    The troll of my troll is my friend.

  21. WTH says:

    I guess that makes me 3 for 3 on the recent CH comment approval chart. 😉

  22. chris hardwick says:

    @historian: maybe I did but I wish I hadn’t! Your answer was way better, and shockingly accurate!

  23. JetpackBlues says:

    @Chris: Seriously, you mean you couldn’t have pulled some strings and begged/borrowed/stole/charmed your way into a wind tunnel @ Ames or JPL? And here I made the mistake of thinking you were A-List now…. 🙄

    @Tyler: I guess your air conditioning system is as quiet as a kindle of purring kittens, sleeping on a velvet bedspread, on top of a Tempur-pedic mattress in an anechoic chamber?

  24. M says:

    This podcast really suffers without Matt and Jonah. It’s still good but it’s even better with all three!

  25. Andrew says:

    This exchange made me realize I have no idea what a wind tunnel is, nor do I have any desire to learn about them. Sounds like a bad place to record a podcast, anyway.

  26. Wind Tunnel Historian says:

    Aw, fuck. Ya beat me to it, Chris.

  27. Wind Tunnel Historian says:

    Yeah, Tyler, they probably recorded the podcast in a wind tunnel. I daresay they probably didn’t know offhand where to find a wind tunnel that they could record in, but from the moment they conceived of recording the podcast they both knew that a wind tunnel was where it had to be record. It just…felt right

    Most people don’t know offhand where to find a wind tunnel, let alone whom to talk to in order to secure a functioning wind tunnel, and these two were no exception. Most likely they put out feelers through their connections and searched the four corners of the globe to find the proper wind tunnel in which to record. “The wind in the tunnel can’t be too buffety, but it also can’t be too breezy.” they said as they crossed one wind tunnel after another off their list, movie montage style, over a period of several months.

    By the time they stumbled across this wind tunnel they were exhausted. Moods were sour, but neither of them was ready to give up. They both had a bit of steel in their spirit and they knew that now was the time to test it. “Searching for wind tunnels really…blows,” one of them said in the car on the way to inspect what felt like the millionth wind tunnel. The phrase had begun as an intentionally unfunny inside joke, but over time it had taken on a deeper meaning, had morphed into a mantra, a story of hope and disappointment, journey and hardship, pursuit of something greater than oneself and the toll it takes on one’s soul. It had become the tale of the most important journey either of them had ever taken, or ever would take, packed into a single sentence. “Sure does.” the other replied, completing the circuit.

    But this time the phrase rang differently and they both felt it. The sound of its last syllable rang through the silence of the rest of the trip like a church bell on Christmas morning. The morning sunshine splashed playfully across the windshield of the car as they finally arrived and pulled into the parking lot. The sweet smell of jasmine was in the air as they both got out and slammed their car doors. The wind tunnel operator’s handshake was firm and friendly when they shook it and steady on the wind tunnel controls. And as they lowered their goofy looking wind tunnel goggles and put their faces into the stream, the wind carried with it an electric feeling of redemption, of pride, of an affirmation of all of their time and effort. This was it. The podcast recording wind tunnel. They had found it at last.

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

  28. Chris Hardwick says:

    @Tyler yes. We recorded in a wind tunnel. Just to annoy you. It cost tens of thousands of dollars to sublet one from a government testing facility but it was really worth it! Aw man, you should have seen your FACE!!!

  29. tzvi says:

    good episode, in three acts.

  30. Tyler says:

    Did you record this podcast in a wind tunnel?

  31. Leonard Alan Sultana says:

    Another guest who, as a Brit, I’m utterly unaware of – I have no problem with that, Chris’s choices of ‘super, super awesome’ guests are usually on the head. And after a recent run of cracking podcasts, I’m very much up for learning about this guy. Bring it the hell etc. etc.

    PS. The links took their time getting posted on to the website on this one. Where do you find the latest Nerdist news, including libsyn listings? The Nerdist G+ Community! We’re not always to-the-second on podcast releases but, hey, we’re near as dammit. Pretty pictures, too.

    Join us today: