Photo by Yoon Kim
Hari Kondabolu_Yoon Kim
Hari Kondabolu pokes a bit of fun at himself in his newest comedy album, Kondabolu’s New Material Night Vol. 1. “It’s weird,” he says, speaking as an imaginary audience member. “He’s only talked about race two times in the first 25 minutes! Wow, he’s lost his step! He’s doing impressions now!” So, there’s all of that to look forward to when he comes to The Cedar on April 26.
Kondabolu knows what he’s become famous for—it’s hard not to with Vice’s headline proclaiming, “Hari Kondabolu Is the Perfect Comedian for Trump’s America.” That headline is almost as loud as Kondabolu’s all-caps tweet last week, which is a variation of his daily tweet: “REMINDER FOR DAY 83 OF PRESIDENCY: THIS IS NOT NORMAL (AND NORMAL WASN’T THAT GREAT EITHER).” His critique of politics, race, and social justice means his act has caught fire in the current climate, but even before, he appeared with much acclaim on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Show with David Letterman, and more.
Kondabolu's conversational style makes you feel like you’re chewing the fat with a friend. Well, a friend who rails against injustice and discrimination, drinks the occasional Bailey’s and milk before bed—what he calls “adult Ovaltine”—and makes you laugh at every little thing because his acerbic jokes are so true.
Since his 2014 debut comedy album, Waiting for America 2024, Kondabolu has started the hit podcast “Politically Re-Active” (now in season two) with fellow comedian W. Kamau Bell, released the comedy album Mainstream American Comic, created the documentary The Problem with Apu, and more.
Back in his fledgling standup days in high school, Kondabolu wouldn't have been cracking jokes like, “Don’t worry [about becoming a minority], white people. You were a minority when you came to this country. Things seemed to have worked out for you, all right?” He wouldn't have been getting interview questions about whether he was concerned about performing in red-voting states. That's because, as he puts it, the jokes in those days were thoughtless nonsense. They were anything to get a laugh or to charm a girl.
“After 9/11, everything changed, at least for me. It seemed like between the deportations and the tensions and hate crimes and all these other things that were happening around the country, it just felt weird to talk about what I had been talking about,” he says. “I was developing as a human as I was developing as a performer, so it just was the natural progression. After 9/11, I was very different, and so was the material.”
Because of the opinions he puts forth in his standup, he often gets labeled as a political comedian, but he disagrees. “To me it’s normal; this is observational,” he says. “This isn’t, like, me attempting to be political; this is who I am.”
Hari Kondabolu presented by The Cedar and First Avenue. April 26, 7:30 p.m., $20, The Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave S., Mpls., thecedar.org.