2016-10-26 / Features

Local Express

Hari Kondabolu is a Brooklyn-based comedian and writer hailed as “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today,” by The New York Times, and an “inventive and groundbreaking comedian,” by the AV Club. Mainstream American Comic, his chart-topping new stand up album, was recorded live, and on it, Hari makes a strong case for why race, gender and politics should be mainstream comedy. In an early review, the Seattle Times calls the album “fantastic,” noting “Kondabolu proves throughout the album that he’s a comedian who has found his voice and figured out how to harness it for consistent laughs.”

On TV, Hari has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “John Oliver’s NY Standup Show,” “@midnight,” “The Nightly Show,” and has his own half-hour “Comedy Central Presents” special. A former writer and correspondent for “Totally Biased with W Kamau Bell,” Hari has teamed up with Kamau for a new podcast called “Politically Re-Active,” which recently premiered (www.politicallyreactive.com/).

Hari’s debut album, Waiting for 2042, named for the year in which the US Census Bureau says whites will be in the minority, made Best of 2014 lists, including those of AV Club, Paste and Exclaim!. A popular guest on public radio, Hari has been on “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and many regional affiliate interviews. To hear an album track, “My Mom (Accent Not Included),” visit harikondabolu.bandcamp.com/track/my-mom-accent-not-included/ or video, “All Lives Don’t Matter,” youtu.be/7t7OiqpFLkA.

QG: What, if any in particular, was your reason for starting in comedy?

HK: I was 17 when I started a Comedy Night at Townsend Harris High School. I always loved stand up and wanted to try it and at that point, my world really wasn’t much bigger than high school. Also, I was a heterosexual teenage boy and I wanted to impress girls. I wasn’t a genius or athletically gifted, and couldn’t play the guitar or write poetry. So, comedy it was!! In hindsight, that was a foolish reason to start and also was not helpful in meeting my goal.

QG: Your work often has something of a political bent to it – what do you think the merits of political commentary in comedy are?

HK: I think comedy allows people to put their guard down. They are more willing to listen to things they may not agree with because there is a promise of a laugh, so that is certainly useful when you are trying to share a perspective that people may not be exposed to regularly. However, I try not to write with that in mind. I do comedy because it is my way of expressing myself. I tell my truth on stage and that’s all I can be...honest. I am not trying to change the world.

QG: What other comedians inspire you, contemporary or otherwise?

HK: Margaret Cho was the person who made me want to do comedy. I’ve also been hugely inspired by Paul Mooney, Richard Pryor, Dave Chapelle, Marc Maron, Chris Rock and Stewart Lee. My friend, W. Kamau Bell, is a constant source of inspiration.

QG: What’s your favorite part of doing live stand-up? What’s your least favorite?

HK: I love making people laugh. That has always been the best part. The travel, however, can be brutal.

QG: What are some of your favorite things to do and/or see in Queens?

HK: My parents are in Queens, so I obviously see them whenever I can. I love Jackson Heights and think it is the greatest neighborhood in NYC. Sri Pra Phai in Woodside has the best Thai food I’ve ever had. I’m a Mets fan, so I love Citi Field, even if I don’t go enough. Also, Cinemart Cinemas is a great independent movie theater in Forest Hills – a gem.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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