Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The subject of violence was raised during the morning TCA panel for the weekly FX late-night talk show Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, as it has been during every panel of TCA thus far. Not that there’s any violence in Bell’s show, per se. But exec producer Chris Rock has famously riffed on gun control in his own stand-up comedy act, ranting that there should be no restriction on guns, but bullets ought to cost $5,000 apiece. “The gun lobby also says people need to be able to protect their property,” Rock said, “but every mass shooting is done by guys who live with their mother. So I believe you should need to have a mortgage to buy a gun. A mortgage is a real background check. Even if you go to jail for 30 years, you’ve still got to pay your fucking mortgage.”
Rock was asked if he’d maybe like to get back into the talk show game himself. “Well, a part of me would want to do it,” he said. “I just don’t know if I could do it all the time. Michael Jordan could play one game and score 50, but he couldn’t do it the next night. I just don’t care about Lindsay Lohan. Maybe if this show is successful, I can be like Barbara Walters on The View and just step up and be funny and then leave.” And if Rock were to do his own scripted comedy series, he would want the same do-everything-yourself model that Louis C.K. has at FX. “I’d want nothing less than that,” he said.
Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell returns to FX from its original six-episode run on January 17. It features young comedian-turned-talker Bell, whom Rock plucked from the club world and took under his wing. Bell explained what the “W” in front of his name means (Walter), why he doesn’t use it (“‘Totally Biased with Walter Bell sounds like an insurance program,” he quipped) and his orientation (“I grew up in the era where black people felt the revolution was coming; we just didn’t realize it was the tech revolution”). When the 11 PM show returns next week, guests will include George Takai, Whoopi Goldberg, and journalist Matt Taibbi. Not your typical group. “I try to get Kamau out of his young comic head,” Rock explained. “I try to get him to embrace comedy as a whole. It’s like being a CEO of your own company.”
Bell admits that the learning curve for the job has been fairly steep. “No one is born knowing how to be a talk show host,” he reasoned. Actually, pointed out Rock, Regis Philbin was. “Well, yes, Regis,” he acknowledged. Bell didn’t have the advantage of a horrid childhood to draw from in his comedy. “Sometimes I wish I was raised in a whorehouse like Richard Pryor,” he admitted. “Instead, my mom thought everything I did was totally awesome, so I grew up with a skewed sense of myself.”