The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #102: W. Kamau Bell Asks His Mom About Sex (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Since this story first aired, we found out that the piece won an award from The Third Coast International Audio Festival! We’re off to Chicago to find out which award we won, and will report back here once we get the news. We are thrilled to say that Janet is going to join us onstage and will say a few words in the acceptance speech.

In the meantime, tune in and listen to the original episode, plus an update at the end from Kamau, on what it’s been like to have this story out there.

Comedian W. Kamau Bell was raised by his mom, Janet Cheatham Bell.


Janet is single, and she has been for Kamau’s entire life. So Kamau naturally assumed the last time she’d had sex was to make him. But recently he started getting the feeling he was wrong about that. Maybe very, very wrong.


Tune in to hear this brave 43-year-old man get the real scoop on his mom’s sex life—and his even braver 79-year-old mom, who delivers the truth.

WKB-mom-outdoors-squareMore from W. Kamau Bell & Janet Cheatham Bell
If you don’t know W. Kamau Bell’s work, you must change that. He is a socio-political comedian and a dad, and an LST fav. Here’s his CNN show United Shades of America—in episode 1, he visits with the KKK. His Showtime comedy special Semi-Prominent Negro is fantastic, and has lots of stuff about being the father of mixed-race kids. Kamau also co-hosts a super fun podcast called Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period.

Also check out Kamau on This American Life, processing how to talk about race with his young daughter. Powerful stuff.

Janet is not just a famous person’s mom; she’s an accomplished author, too. Back in the 70s, Janet was working on her PhD in African American literature at Stanford. But at the time, Stanford didn’t consider African-American Lit a valid field of study so they didn’t let her complete the degree. Janet said screw it, and she left. She went and started her own self-published books of Famous Black Quotations. Before that, there were no books of quotations by African Americans. Janet has also written two collections of personal essays: Victory of the Spirit and Not All Poor People Are Black. Her recent memoir, The Time and Place That Gave Me Life, is a book she was nervous to have Kamau read because it contained some of the secret stuff from today’s episode. She says she was glad to have the opportunity to reveal everything to him before he sat down to read the book!

Have YOU talked to your parents about their sex lives? Or your kids?
Tell us how it went. Or why you would never dare. Give us the dirty details below! (Well, maybe not *too* dirty.)

Kamau headshots: John Nowak/CNN; Janet headshot: Kathlee Rose; Rocking Chair photo: Walter A. Bell

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