Fox News host Tucker Carlson makes a brief cameo in the new season of comedian W. Kamau Bell’s CNN series United Shades of America.
In the second episode of the travel show’s fourth season—Bell, who interviewed members of the Ku Klux Klan for his 2016 premiere, has joked that he “samples racism” the way Anthony Bourdain sampled food—we see a clip of Carlson labeling him a leader of the Antifa movement after he spoke at an anti-hate rally in his native Berkeley.
At the time, Bell really wanted to clap back at Carlson on social media, but CNN convinced him to hold his fire.
“CNN was worried about looking like they are at war with Fox News,” Bell tells me during our conversation for this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “So they sort of talked to me about, hey, don’t get in a war with Tucker Carlson.” He managed to restrain himself in the moment. “But I’m going to hold this,” he remembers thinking. “I’m a comedian and an only child. So I keep grudges.”
The comedian also reveals that Carlson’s bookers at Fox reached out to CNN to try to get him on his show. Even if CNN had allowed it, “There is no circumstance in which I would do that,” he says. “I’d rather talk to the Klan again. At least they’re honest.”
On engaging with people on the other end of the political spectrum
“Despite what maybe my wife would think, I’m a really good listener. I don’t have to agree with you to listen to you. I think a lot of times it’s important, especially when you disagree with someone, to be quiet and let them get all their stuff out. Because people are so ready to be interrupted when they know they’re saying something you don’t agree with. And if you interrupt them, it very quickly derails the conversation into a battle of who can talk louder or faster. And you see that all the time on TV.”
On Tucker Carlson labeling him a leader of Antifa
“Oh, fuck him. So that happened right around the time there were all these alt-right marches in Berkeley. And the first time it happened, Berkeley didn’t take it that seriously. Then they came back another time and Berkeley didn’t take it that seriously, and then the third time every anti-racist activist in the surrounding area showed up and outnumbered them and I was a part of that. That’s why I went, not to confront them—there were fights that broke out—but most people just went to show that we’re going to put our bodies here to show that you’re not going to take over this area. It’s not OK. They gave me a megaphone at one point and I was like, ‘This is the Berkeley I believe in and we’re all here together showing up.’ And Tucker Carlson clipped out the ‘Bye, Nazis, bye’ part, as if that’s a bad thing to say. He manipulated it to say that I was somehow part of Antifa and Antifa’s a ‘hate’ organization so therefore W. Kamau Bell peddles hate.”
Why he’s not so sure about his hometown candidate Kamala Harris
“You know, there are a lot of black men in jail because of Kamala Harris. And in jail for too long because of Kamala Harris. She certainly is a popular figure in the Bay Area, but she’s not popular with the most progressive people. So for me, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t vote for Kamala Harris, but I’m not here to stump for anybody right now.”
Why diverse late-night hosts deserve a chance
“[The cancelation of The Rundown with] Robin Thede was disheartening just because I don’t know what BET expected to happen with that show. They had never done a show like that before so it seemed to me they could have just kept it on forever. Because it’s going to get better as she goes and she’s going to find her voice. I mean, remember when Trevor Noah first had [The Daily Show]? There’s some people who still haven’t taken to Trevor Noah but he’s also found a new audience that didn’t watch it before. But he’s grown a lot because Comedy Central knew it was an investment. They weren’t going to pull the new host of The Daily Show three months in, or a year in. Giving talented people a chance is how talented people make good things. Michelle Wolf didn’t have much of a chance. And if people feel like the minute you make a mistake you’re going to pull them, then they’re going to make more mistakes, or not take big chances.”
Why he has no problem performing comedy for ‘woke’ college students
“I think there was the idea that college gigs would be more fun, because the audiences are younger and hipper, but any gig you play where it’s a defined, closed-off community, it’s going to be harder. Any gig where the audience knows each other more than they know you and they’re walking in as a group, that’s a harder gig. Colleges are automatically more sensitive, because they’re all there having their brains stretched and being lectured every day about how to be in the world. And they may have come from some seminar about consent or binge-drinking, so they’re thinking about all this stuff. And they’re just more sensitive than your average audience, because college is not the real world. For me, when comedians complain about colleges, don’t play them. The comedy club is the fun thing, the colleges aren’t supposed to be fun. That’s work.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Host of TBS’s Full Frontal, Samantha Bee.