W. Kamau Bell on Visiting Africa for the First Time

Comedian W. Kamau Bell heads to Kenya with travel companion, Anthony Bourdain, and as an African-American, sees Africa for the first time. He joins the program to discuss that trip, and how as host of “United Shades of America,” he tries to heal the cultural and racial divide across the country.

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W. KAMAU BELL, STAND-UP COMIC & TELEVISION HOST: And Tony didn’t have to tempt me. I mean I’d been watching Tony since before he was on CNN. I was sitting on my girlfriend, now wife’s couch watching that show. I want to do something like that someday, having no idea I would ever get there. It seemed like a pipe dream. So when we finally met and he said we should do something together, I was like I’ll leave today. I’ll cancel all plans to go.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And it was actually one of his funniest episodes because you’re very funny and the two of you played off against each other the whole way through. But it was also really poignant. There’s one fantastic scene of you both in the wilderness, just sitting on these rocks, looking out onto the horizon and the camera pulls way back and you’re having a very profound conversation. We’re going to play a little bit of it.


BELL: What I’m aware of, too, is that on this trip is that still that thing about not wanting to feel like I have come home. And yet there is a sense that there is this diasporic connection even though I have not come from Kenya. It’s nice to have that connection even if the frame that the connection was built through was colonialist. It’s the good part of colonialism. It brings people together.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: It’s kind of compulsory viewing. If you ever run for president, this should be compulsory viewing.

BELL: At the very least. I do think that a lot of perspectives will be opened up, a lot of minds will be changed. This is on a very personal note. The idea that I’m sitting here with you doing this now knowing where my life and career have come, it’s pretty cool.


AMANPOUR: I mean there’s so much to unpack there, isn’t it? Even you were almost putting the idea that I’m doing this with you now and he’s no longer there anymore.

BELL: Yes, I know. I mean luckily I learned years ago because of loss around me that you got to tell the people that are important to you that they’re important while they’re around. So when I went to Kenya, at some point I didn’t know it was going to be on camera. I’m going to have to tell this man how important he is to me. We’re not just colleagues at CNN, that he actually means the same way he means something to people who watch the show. I was that person watching the show going that guy is amazing, I wish I could be with him

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour interviews Barbara Boxer, former U.S. Democratic Senator; Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwean President; and W. Kamau Bell, comedian and host of CNN’s “United Shades of America.” Michel Martin interviews Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility.”