After months of secrecy surrounding a possible new cable network project, Laughspin can reveal exclusively that Chris Rock will executive produce a weekly series for FX, starring comedian W. Kamau Bell. The as-of-yet-untitled 30-minute show – loosely described as a cross between the Daily Show on Comedy Central and more traditional late night chat programs – will premiere this August and run for six episodes. The series will shoot in New York City, where Rock is based, and will find Bell breaking down current events, pop culture and more— most likely, with the help of other comedians on screen.
“I think Kamau is one of the funniest guys out there and I can’t wait to work with the good people at FX,” Rock says about the upcoming show, which will be produced by FX Productions. Rock, along with longtime collaborator Chuck Sklar and Bell, will serve as executive producers.
In early November of last year, Bell taped a pilot in Los Angeles titled The Bell Curve: Apologies, based on his long-running one-man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. Involved in the taping were Bell’s longtime collaborator, comedian Kevin Avery, Sklar, Marc Maron, Hari Kondabolu, John Ennis, Nato Green and Janine Brito. At that point, Rock was already involved in the show, but that fact wasn’t made public.
“I think he didn’t want to make a big deal about it before he knew something was happening,” Bell tells Laughspin. “There was a reality that if this never went anywhere, I just never would’ve told anyone he was involved. That was my beautiful struggle. I would’ve been the old man on his death bed: ‘One time, I almost did a show with Chris Rock.’”
Luckily, that won’t be Bell’s fate.
Years into traveling around with his solo show, the San Francisco-based Bell performed The W. Kamau Bell Curve at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York in October of 2010. By that time, Rock had caught wind of Bell’s socio-politically minded comedy.
“It was a really good show that night,” Bell explains. “I went backstage and all of a sudden I see my manager walk in and she’s got this real weird look on her face, and behind her is Chris Rock. He slipped in the showroom after the show started— dressed in all black like he was in the Matrix. He came back to tell me he thought it was funny. He also told me to move out of San Francisco as soon as possible.”
Two months later, Bell got a call from an “unknown” number. It was Rock, although Bell didn’t believe it. “He said, ‘Don’t be the guy who doesn’t think it’s me, when it’s me,’” Bell says. “He said he was interested in trying to get me a show.”
But then Rock went on to star in the Broadway show, The Motherfucker with the Hat and Bell and his wife had a baby, a daughter who is now 10 months old. But things picked up after the pilot presentation at the end of last year. And here we are. “I’m going to do the best show I can,” says Bell. “I have six episodes to make a mark on Hollywood— or a scar on Hollywood. We’ll see how it goes.”
W. Kamau Bell photo by Beth Allen.