Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hari Kondabolu: Mainstream American


Writer, comedian, podcaster Hari Kondabolu (l) with his brother, writer-artist-performer Ashok Kondabolu. 

Writer, comedian Hari Kondabolu has been hailed for working new social territory with his standup, video, and podcast projects.  The New York Times calls him "one of the most necessary political comedians working today", HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports Kondabolu’s willingness to tackle even tough contemporary topics with humor and humanity set him apart.

Hari Kondabolu is Artist in Residence at the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design.  Kondabolu offers a free conversation at UH Manoa March 7, 2018, then he’ll perform stand up at Marks Garage Thursday, March 8th. 

HPR Generation Listen members will enjoy a live podcast taping by Kondabolu and his brother, writer-artist-performer Ashok Kondabolu at Shangri la.  On the Kondabolu Brothers Podcast the two get into heated conversations about religion, gentrification, racism, and baseball.   
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Hari Kondabolu followed a kind of “college intellectuals” circuit to his current very busy schedule.  Kondabolu attended Wesleyan, then Bowdoin, graduating in comparative politics, before a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics.  Kondabolu's parents immigrated to the U.S. from India; he worked at one time as an immigrant rights organizer in Seattle.

Kondabolu:  I think that comedians, first of all, we do a lot of thinking. Our job is to think and to create and find ways to explain very difficult things, in the simplest way possible.  Hopefully without losing all the complexity.  We have to keep people’s attention.  Even if they’re tired, we have to find a way to grab them, and get them to pay attention.

Kondabolu:  There’s no production value, it’s just a human and a microphone.  It’s very ancient the idea of an individual talking to a large group.  There’s this ancient element to it which I don’t understand how it’s still effective.  Maybe it’s people really desire human connection.  I think people, especially now, need that.

Kondabolu:  There’s anxiety, certainly, there’s a certain sense of, since the Trump election, there’s been a lot of. I feel it’s almost existential, like, Where do we go from here?

Kondabolu:  A lot of people who go to my shows are people who believe strongly in the things I believe in, or they do the work in the things I believe in, so they’re tired, and frustrated, and confused!  That’s why I love doing stand-up, there’s a relief there!  There’s something cathartic in it.  There’s a shared set of ideas and ability to laugh at the group.   That’s certainly something that’s been wonderful even in this terrible time.

Kondabolu discusses his views on gun control in the extended interview here.  His television and video appearances are available widely online and through his website.  Recently he has begun posting conversations with his brother, writer-artist-performer Ashok Kondabolu, on The Kondabolu Brothers Podcast. Kondabolu will head to Brooklyn, Cambridge, and Los Angeles after three public performances in Honolulu as part of his Artist Residency with Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design.

Kondabolu:  I'm excited to discover something that is completely different, I’m very curious about colonial history, how race works, how class works, the context is so different!  I’m not sure a week and a half is enough time, I want to do my best.

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