"Pretty much all of it worries me. I was just getting used to one day a week" on FX, said Bell, who's bringing his "Totally Biased Standup Tour" to Philadelphia's Prince Music Theater on Friday.
"It'll be me and three of the writers, every city, each leg of the tour I have three different writers from the show, so that'll be Janine Brito, Kevin Kataoka and Aparna Nancherla" in Philadelphia, Bell said.
"We're a lefty comedy show. We like to mix up the voices of the left, so on that show you're going to get a half-Cuban all-lesbian [Brito], a Japanese-American [Kataoka], a South Asian-American [Nancherla] and a black guy," he said, breaking it down in "Totally Biased" fashion.
"That's a good, solid lineup. Philly should not feel gypped by that lineup. It's got gender equality, so that's good. It's got a little bit gay, so that mixed it up. It's got a good brown quotient," he said, laughing. "We're doing good."
One thing Philly won't be able to claim, though, is that Bell's a local alum, the comedian having dropped out of Penn in his sophomore year.
"I technically took a leave of absence [in 1992]. I believe I could still go back," he said, laughing. "I think I can still show up and move back into the Quad and take my single - I had a really nice single room in the Quad. But, yeah, I withdrew, and I was sure at the time that I was not going to be back."
And, no, it wasn't anything we said.
"I'd always wanted to sort of be in comedy, like I was a huge 'Saturday Night Live' fan, and I was a huge stand-up comedy fan," but didn't know how to get started, he said. "So I was like, well, I guess I'll go to college and I'll study East Asian studies because I'm a big fan of Bruce Lee, and I did that."
He studied Chinese, "but it turned out that they don't really teach a lot about Bruce Lee in East Asian studies at that level. Maybe that's the advanced level."
Realizing that he didn't "want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman," he decided to pursue comedy, but "without the debt behind me," he said, adding, "It's funny how much debt you can rack up in a year and a half, though. It took me a while to get out of it, though. Especially at open-mic wages."
Bell, whose stand-up album, "Face Full of Flour," was No. 7 on Punchline magazine's list of Top 10 comedy albums of 2010, went to high school in Chicago and spent 15 years in San Francisco until moving to New York last year for "Totally Biased."
He may have quit school, but he's still studying, at one point assigning himself "homework" in the form of Bill Carter's two books about late-night television, 1994's The Late Shift, and 2010's The War for Late Night, behind-the-scenes looks at how, among other things, Jay Leno came to be named host of "The Tonight Show" twice.
"Almost all those guys" that Carter writes about, it's said that "as a kid, he always wanted to be a talk-show host," Bell said.
That's not how he's ever seen himself.
"I like those shows, and certainly my show contains elements of those shows, but 'The Daily Show' was the show that made me go, 'Oh, that show's about Jon Stewart.' And now that he's gone [for the summer] it's about John Oliver."
"I came [to interviewing] as a complete newbie, and, you know, I think that's reflected," he said, laughing. "I think there's a lot of interviews I'm proud of from 'Totally Biased' and there's a lot where it's like I can see, yeah, this guy's still figuring it out. I got pretty lucky the first couple of episodes because the first episode was Chris Rock [one of the show's executive producers] and he just played the role of a tennis ball, and I played the role of a wall, and he just sort of bounced off of me.
"And then the next one was [MSNBC host] Rachel Maddow and I probably had that interview in my head a million times . . . so I was prepared for that one, and then after that point, I really had to go watch other late-night talk shows and study."
He particularly looks to Stewart and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert ("The Colbert Report") for technique.
"They're listening for ways to be funny, but they're listening for ways to be funny that are involved in the conversation, which means they're really listening," Bell said.
The other guys
With all the competition after 11 p.m., though, it's "Deon Cole's Black Box," a new late-night sketch-comedy show on TBS, that Bell finds his show being compared to.
"I'm getting all these tweets" from people "either that his show's a rip-off of my show or my show's not as good as his show, and I sort of feel like if you actually watch both our shows, we're not actually doing the same thing," he said. "We just happen to be black guys talking about the world.
"I would like to think that the late-night talk-show universe isn't like the 'Highlander.' I hope there can be more than one black guy at a time. I'm actually happy for Arsenio [Hall] to come back" this fall in a syndicated late-night show, "because I feel like, oh, yeah, he's actually a dude who wants a talk show. He wants to talk to famous people about famous things. And he wants to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the band.' Which is a legitimate format and a lot of people out there are doing that [but] that's not actually what I'm trying to do."
Bell's final "Totally Biased" of the season ran June 20, in time to include some commentary on the Paula Deen saga, which was still unfolding when we talked the following week, hours after her "Today" show appearance.
"Of course, I wish I had a show this week, though I'm glad we have a break," Bell said, adding, "It won't be too long before some other famous white person drops an N-bomb. That's one thing you can count on in America, a famous white person dropping an N-bomb inappropriately."
And soon, Bell having a few more nights a week to catch it.
W. Kamau Bell, "FXX Presents: The Totally Biased Standup Tour," 8 p.m. Friday, Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., $22.50 advance, $25 at the door, 215-893-1999, ticketphiladelphia.org.
On Twitter: @elgray