Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hari Kondabolu makes America laugh about America again


Even though Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu was born in Queens, xenophobes frequently tell him to go back to places like Iraq, Afganistan, and Libya. "Whatever nation our country is bombing, I'm told to go back there at the worst time to go back," he says. But in Denmark, during a particularly awful performance, he was told to go back to America. Maybe that was a sign of how bad things have gotten here in the States, or maybe it was a sign that Kondabolu had finally proven himself as a Mainstream American Comic (Kill Rock Stars), the sarcastic title of his new album.

Kondabolu's comedy is politically observant—he's not getting on a soapbox and forcing his beliefs on the crowd, he's just starting a conversation about topics he thinks the entire country should be talking about, like health care, sexism, and racism. And it seems like he has successfully contributed to activist efforts through his comedy—an image on the comic's Tumblr shows a protest sign featuring a joke from his first album, Waiting for 2042: "Telling me I'm obsessed with race in America is like telling me I'm obsessed with swimming while I'm drowning."

On Mainstream American Comic Kondabolu contends with his distaste for Bobby Jindal and the phrase "all lives matter," but without ever getting too serious. And among the album's lighter moments he tells a story about getting a photo taken with Joe Biden just for the social media likes; breaks into a Doc Brown impression (the only one he's got); and discusses the dissonance between the phrase "nocturnal emissions" and the act it describes ("Nothing is more mainstream American than a come joke!" Kondabolu declares). It's this combination of his political point of view and casual silliness that makes Kondabolu the important new kind of everyman comic America needs.
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