Hari Kondabolu during interview
October 21, 1982 |
Queens, New York, United States
|Medium||Stand-up, film, podcasts|
|Education||Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University, London School of Economics|
|Influences||Stewart Lee, Paul Mooney, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron|
|Notable works and roles||Waiting for 2042|
I'm not like most comedians. I don't deal with just heckles – I'm also dealing with threats and anger. Here I am, a brown person on stage being quite blunt. I talk about white privilege; I talk about U.S. imperialistic practices; I talk about colonialism. I'm not saying things that are easy for people to laugh at.
I want to write my own stuff, and, you know, it would be nice to put myself in it. But I would like to hope that there are going to be better roles offered as well and that I don't need to do everything. You know, like, I appreciate my career being somewhat DIY, but it would be nice to get some help.
When you see a comedian on stage, the best comedians make it feel like a conversation. But it's not. We have very little interest in what an audience has to say during a performance. Being a stand-up comedian, you're an egomaniac to some degree. Everyone wants to hear what you have to say, apparently. That's not how real relationships work.
The words we use have weight. Whether it's in a conversation with a friend or something said publicly on stage or broadcast. And as performers, we know that because that's why we choose the words we use – that's the whole point of comedy.
Post 9/11, brown people had this force pushing us together. It's like we're all being looked at with fear and suspicion; we're all being targeted, so how do you support yourself and your communities?
I feel privileged that I've been able to get anywhere, with my quote-unquote limited mainstream appeal, given my race and subject matter. Of course, I always have my masters to fall back on.
Heckles always vary. I mean, some people are just drunk, and it's nonsense, or, you know, some people just want to just repeat something I've said or add their own two cents about an opinion, but because of the nature of what I do and who I am, like, I also get the racist stuff, which is hard.
I'm not a Republican, but I was one once – when I was 7 years old. Not my fault. The symbol of the Republican Party is an elephant, I'm a Hindu – I was confused.
I try to be as thoughtful as I can about everything that comes out of my mouth and not reinforce sexism.
I've been approached after shows from people who said, 'I don't agree with anything you said, but I laughed the whole way through.' That's still a little strange to me. Like, nothing, really? But at the same time, that's what happens in a conversation.
Both my parents are immigrants. I've seen different struggles they've had. There's a reason you don't see me using accents. I don't do impressions of my folks. When I'm doing a crappy impression of my folks, and you're laughing, I'm thinking, 'When my parents talk to people, when they walk away do people do impressions of them? Do they laugh?'
You can be funny and say what you mean; these ideas are not mutually exclusive. Some of the best jokes came from people who meant it. See: Pryor, Bruce, Carlin, etc.
January 14, 2000, was my first time on stage, and I've been hooked ever since. I got discovered nationally in Seattle by the now-defunct HBO Comedy Festival, and that led to an appearance on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' and a path to a professional comedy career.
I'm not a politician, I'm not an ideologue, I'm not an organizer anymore. I'm a human being sharing ideas, and those ideas have to feel fresh and from my heart and my head, and I have to feel it. You can't force that feeling.
When I started doing standup when I was 17, I was talking about being Indian and specifically ethnic jokes. Straightforward stuff that was fairly ignorant that I knew would get the laugh. It wasn't flipping stereotypes; it was using them.
I am actually a bit chubby, and I eat everything. I eat in a way – if my parents fed me the way I choose to eat as an adult, they would've lost custody.
Politics and sports are the same thing in some ways. I like sports; I don't like the sports aspect of politics. The conventions are basically the playoffs, and the election's the Super Bowl. To me, it doesn't feel important.
I like playing with that space between laughter and discomfort where your discomfort can also make you laugh, and you're confused about the mixed feelings. That's challenging, and I think that's what makes for some of the best art.
I would love the opportunity to create my own program. I feel like a TV show with a format of monologue with lots of sketches thrown in could be really fun. But you know, that may never happen. Minimally, I just want to keep making stand-up.
When you ask your white friends what their cultural heritage is, they don't just say white. They give you a math equation. 'Well, I'm a third German and a fourth Irish and one-sixteenth Welsh and one-fortieth Native American for college applications.'
Stand-up will always be my first love, and it has been the primary way I've expressed myself since I was 17.
After 9/11, I changed a lot of the ways I viewed the world. I realized my comedy and my politics and my view of the world did not match. I had to start writing from my heart.
Introductions are always weird for me because my name is Hari and it's constantly mispronounced . 'Hurry', 'Hairy' – there are different ways to screw it up, and it leads to these awkward conversations.
Seattle is a place I've lived only a couple of years, but I feel like I've been adopted by this city. It's like a hug. I've been recognized on planes, in the airport and by cabdrivers. I don't get that anywhere else in the country.