Nothing is Stopping Hari Kondabolu
“It feels like everyone is almost catching up with what I’ve cared about for a while because they see how blatant it is,” comedian Hari Kondabolu says about the recent wave of political comedy that has emerged since the election of Donald Trump.
Kondabolu, who was once an intern for then-Senator Hillary Clinton, rose to prominence through his politically charged standup. The title of his debut album, Waiting for 2042, is a reference to the year it is predicted that white Americans will be a statistical minority in the United States. The album touched on subjects all too familiar in progressive circles, such as friends threatening to move to Canada if they don’t get their political way, and unrealistic expectations for Barack Obama.
When I last spoke to Kondabolu, in July of 2016, President Trump was only candidate Trump, but the alt-right internet machine was already taking shape. “I got like 30 hate messages over the weekend,” he said at the time. “Some were people telling me they were going to kill me when they saw me. It’s a bit much! Then I think to myself, ‘oh wait, this is Trump’s America.’ This is the America where people who are maniacs, racists and sexists are empowered because their presidential candidate is saying the same kind of shit.”
Then a few weeks before we spoke this time around, the real world manifestation of these types of online threats came to life in Charlottesville, Va. “I feel like you can predict what we’re seeing now, in terms of people marching and the scariness of these rallies,” he says. “I’m not saying that the internet predicts something like that, but it’s clear that there are more people out there with these kind of wicked thoughts and a certain kind of misplaced anger. We’re not just seeing them in comments now, we’re seeing them marching.”
And the threats haven’t stopped. Kondabolu’s most recent project is The Problem with Apu, a documentary film about the “Simpsons” character who Kondabolu says is “sort of corny, and clearly a caricature,” and “caused a lot of trouble” for him as a child. While the film hasn’t even been released yet, Kondabolu says he has already received “really vile” and “hateful” things from people. “You can say you don’t like the film, but don’t say things about me and my family that don’t have anything to do with anything,” he says.
None of the threats or hateful comments have seemed to deter Kondabolu. He’s charging forward on The Problem with Apu, hosts the podcast Politically Re-Active with friend and fellow comic W. Kamau Bell and is touring new standup material across the country.
Konabolu’s new material will certainly touch on our current administration, but he wants to take this tour as an opportunity to show his comedic range. “I’m feeling good about this hour,” he says. “It’s definitely my tone, and it’s aggressive, but it’s also silly and fun. It shifts from your mind being on what’s happening right now to being kind of silly and whimsical.”