By Lauryn Higgins
Hailed as one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today by the New York Times, Hari Kondabolu is bringing his unabashed and politically savvy stand-up comedy to the Orange Peel on March 3.
A native of New York City, Kondabolu’s comedy is largely based on his genius ability to channel his heritage and upbringing – he’s Indian-American – into fodder that addresses racism and the current political climate.
“Art is as political and persuasive as it is effective. If it’s not good art, it’s not effective for any purpose,” Kondabolu says.
The Indian-American and son of immigrants, Kondabolu acknowledged the on-going racial disparities in a recent stand-up by commenting on how white people are beginning to feel nervous. But humorously advised them not to freak out. “You were the minority when you came to this country,” he says. “Things seem to have worked out for you.”
Kondabolu’s career spans over a decade, but began at local clubs where he performed while attending Bowdoin College in Maine. He later crossed the country to Seattle to begin performing in the alternative comedy scene that was known for being a bit more politically unhinged and irreverent in its style- his acts included reading the U.S. Citizenship application onstage. But his career hit a high note in 2017 when he released his documentary, The Problem with Apu, that discussed the stereotyped namesake character on the “Simpsons.”
“I love “The Simpsons.” Even when Apu was at his worst early on, it was just something you tolerated because the show was so good,” he says. “Thank you, come again” became the catchphrase, but the character is more interesting than that catchphrase.”
Since then, he has been a regular guest on the popular NPR show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!”, The Moth and All Things Considered. His debut comedy album, Waiting for 2042, made Best of 2014 lists and his second album, Mainstream American Comic went number one of Amazon and iTunes. He’s since appeared on “2 Dope Queens,” “WTF with Marc Maron” and his most comedy special “Warn Your Relatives,” premiered last year.
In light of the current political climate, Kondabolu acknowledges that his stand-up hasn’t changed much since the 2016 election, and that can be seen in his latest Netflix special. He’s still addressing terrorism, LGBTQ issues, his family and even does a bit on Asheville.
But looking to the future for the comedian, he says comedy is the vessel for a larger discussion he hopes to have with others.
“I think, like a lot of comics, I want my own vehicle to create a bigger vision. Like a TV show. I want to be the lead on something shown through a screen. I’m ready for that. I’ve been ready for that. I’ve been on TV before—I’ve had a pilot that unfortunately didn’t go through. I know how to work with other people, and I have stories to tell. I think there’s enough outlets now that I can find an audience.”
His show is Sunday, March 3 at The Orange Peel. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.