Hari Kondabolu is “the comedy equivalent of a punk concert that breaks out at a human rights rally,” says W. Kamau Bell, who hired Kondabolu to write for his FX show Totally Biased (they’re also friends). I can’t be sure exactly what Bell meant, but I do know NPR’s Terry Gross told everyone that for Kondabolu “explaining the joke is the joke,” and that he’s been known to read the U.S. citizenship application on stage.
This all points to edgy nerd, and so does his background: after earning degrees in Comparative Politics and Human Rights, he moved to Seattle and worked as a human rights organizer. You know, normal comedian stuff. He has since appeared on Conan, Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel, and released his first stand-up comedy album, Waiting for 2042 (when, according to the Census Bureau, whites will be a minority in the U.S.) on Kill Rock Stars.
He has a slew of smart, politically-insightful jokes posted all over the internet (“Remember when people said Bill Clinton was the ‘the 1st Black President’? The 90s were desperate times”), but for some reason, this one really works for me: “Overheard woman say ‘I like cats because they mind their own goddamn business.’ DOGS ARE BIG GOVERNMENT?”
When was the first time you remember making someone laugh? What happened?
I really can’t remember. I’m sure it wasn’t really funny, but people laughed anyway because people can be polite and/or dumb. Maybe, I passed gas. Either way, I’ll take it!
What is the toughest part about being on the comedy scene in Brooklyn today? What is the best?
The toughest part of being in the Brooklyn scene is aging. I’m good in Park Slope, but I think I’ve aged out of Williamsburg. I just care too much about the things I write about and have a tough time pretending I don’t when I’m on stage there. Apparently, people hate you when you’re earnest. Also, I have no idea what indie bands are popular and what 20-something nonsense to reference. Also, I have a very tough time hiding my contempt for Williamsburg. I fucking hate Williamsburg. Oh man. I really do.
Who do you find funny?
Stewart Lee is my favorite comedian. I love W. Kamau Bell. Hannibal Buress is invincible.
What was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I was hanging out with my friend, the legendary Chicago comedian Dwayne Kennedy and we were watching this YouTube video that keeps cracking us up. It’s a public access sports call-in show somewhere in the midwest that OJ Simpson agreed to be on sometime after his murder trial and before we went to jail for trying to steal his own stuff. This is not a sketch, but an actual event that happened. OJ is taking calls from people, assuming they will ask him serious questions about his sports career. It’s as if he’s forgotten the 90s altogether and assumes everyone else has, as well. Needless to say, the calls are brutal and funny.
What are your goals for your comedy career?
I want to keep making recorded work I’m proud of. (Be it albums or specials). Also, I hope to keep challenging myself and audiences with both the content and form of my jokes. Plus, consistent health insurance would be great. And maybe, just maybe a TV show.
And finally: What is your favorite knock-knock (or otherwise goofy) joke?
Here is something my writing partner Ahamefule Oluo wrote that I still think is hilarious: “What do you call Neil deGrasse Tyson pouring champagne all over his naked chest? AN ASTRO-FIZZY-TITS.”
To see 49 more of Brooklyn’s other funniest people, click here.
Photo by Nicolas Maloof.