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Thursday, August 11, 2011

W. Kamau Bell Is a Star In Scotland! Actually, Four Stars!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 9:30 AM


The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has made me obsessed with stars. Not the famous kind. Although there are famous stars as part of the festival, Margaret Cho, Henry Rollins, Michael "That Dude From The Police Academy Movies Who Makes Crazy Sounds With His Mouth" Winslow, Al Murray The Pub Landlord. (He's super famous here.) I also don't mean the stars in the night time sky. Especially since it doesn't get dark until after 9pm ... which is awesome.

I'm talking the kind of stars reviewers give to shows. One thing I've learned in my first week at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that it's all about stars! Preferably lots and lots of them, like a hotel in Dubai.


So many posters here -- I've never seen so many posters in all my life -- are littered with stars proving each show is the most awesomest of any show. I came up to the Fringe with no poster stars at all. All I had was a quote from some regional American publication. And my quote withers next to these.


I was all excited to tone and tighten my show during my three previews and then welcome the critics in. However, a reviewer showed up to my second preview, when I was still heavy in toning and tightening. Since my show is primarily about American racism, I knew I would have to recalibrate and pick up new material over here. Too bad nothing big and race related has happened in UK news. This reviewer saw a good show but not the one I was ready to have reviewed. The next day I opened the link and there it was: three stars. You're thinking, "THREE STARS! That's great!" Not exactly. 1) It's out of five. 2) Nobody puts only three stars on their posters. See, once people get new star-loaded reviews, they literally print out stars on paper and gum paste them to their already hanging posters.


And all my other reviews have been three stars. I feel like the only one getting B's in a class filled with A students. Maybe I'm doing as well as can be expected. If I had moved to the UK six months ago, by now my show would be more relevant to them. (Set the flux capacitor to 141.6 km/h!) So I'm stuck working on it now, because our comedy dialects are as different as our English ones. Me, Hari Kondabolu, and Margaret Cho often discuss how references and punchlines just don't hit the same here. In response, Margaret has written her own reviews of the festival.

There's also the whole thing -- AND IT IS A WHOOOOOOOLE THING -- of being an obvious ethnic in a city which is well over 90% white. And Edinburgh is touted for it's diversity. In some ways it feels like a city with one foot in the past (There's a flippin' castle IN THE CITY!) and one foot in the future (legalized gay marriage.) The UK is a place where a reviewer will actually say "the most exciting young black comic on the scene" as a compliment (not about me). Meanwhile, as I was putting my thoughts together for this, walking through the city with my family, having just read an awesome feature story about me in The Scotsman, and thinking, "TAKE YOUR STARS AND SHOVE 'EM!" a woman called out to me, "I GAVE YOU FOUR STARS IN THE FEST MAGAZINE!"

Well then, fire up the printer! I got gum pasting to do!

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

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