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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

W. Kamau Bell Is or Is Not Jimi Hendrix at Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 8:30 AM


In the back of my mind, I've always thought I could be Jimi Hendrix. I'm not saying I could be as good a guitar player. Nor am I saying that I would make as iconic a rockstar. My Afro could never compare to his. But I always thought I could do the thing where I went overseas to make my name and then come back A STAR! And people would ask me questions like, "How are you enjoying your first time in the States?" And I'd be like, "I'M FROM HERE BUT YOU DIDN'T GET ME SO I WENT TO WHERE I WAS WANTED!" This pretty much already happens whenever I go back to Chicago.

But that is exactly kinda what happened with Jimi Hendrix, and right now I am on a plane hoping it kinda exactly happens to me. I'm headed to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the original, biggest, and greatest fringe festival in the world. There are more than 2,500 shows and 1,300 premieres, more than 500 of which are X-rated. And guess what? Fringe audiences love --- and love to love --- comedy. They think it's as valuable a form of artistic expression as dance, music, or theater. Silly, huh? Many American comics have made their bones in Edinburgh: Rich Hall, Demetri Martin, Doug Stanhope ... others. And I'm hoping -- maybe even desperately and furtively praying -- that it will happen to me.

Zees is Jimi in Sweden. Borgy borgy borgy!
  • Zees is Jimi in Sweden. Borgy borgy borgy!

I'll be there for the month of August, the entire run of the festival. I'm doing 24 shows in 26 days. And not just 24 short comedy club sets, but 24 of my solo show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. Every night at 9:30, which is a great time slot. Some people are performing their labors of love at two in the afternoon, or worse, at like ten in the morning. Can you imagine being jealous of the two in the afternoon guy?

And no, I've never done my show that many times in that short a period. If Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hours-to mastery-rule is true, I will be much closer to being a good comic by the time this is all said and done.

You better be right, Gladwell. -Eds
  • You better be right, Gladwell. -Eds

When I first saw that I had only two days off, I laughed out loud. The e-mail from the producer mentioned something about adjusting that if I wanted to. I thought to myself, yeah, maybe three or four days off would be better. Then I reread the e-mail. It was saying if I wanted LESS time off I could have it. Umm ... no, thank you. I'm an American. I don't have that kind of work ethic.

So by the time you read this in the future of my now, I will probably be done with my first show and maybe even my second and third. I get three previews before the reviewers come, as a chance to work out the kinks and to also see what plays to an international audience. Will they get my bit about how everyone loves apple pie, illegal wars, and baseball that ends with the audience chanting, "USA! USA! USA!"? Seriously, though, I do need to figure out whether a show that's primarily about racism in America will play to an audience guaranteed to be mostly not Americans. So many things to worry about. But for you it already happened. Tell me how it went.

Kamau's Komedy Korner is a weekly blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next Wednesday for more.

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