Photo via Kill Rock Stars
On Thursday, Queens-bred and Brooklyn-based comedian Hari Kondabolu performed his first of two sold nights at Union Hall in celebration of his debut album, Waiting For 2042, released last week on Kill Rock Stars. The album’s title references the year in which white people are expected to represent less than 50% of the United States’ population, a concept Kondabolu mines for pure gold.
A former immigrants rights organizer and Human Rights graduate of the London School of Economics, Kondabolu brings forth material that is every bit as informed and forward thinking as it is hilarious. People first started taking note of his talent in 2007 after appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and he has since performed on Conan and various Comedy Central standup shows, including a half-hour special of his own. Kondabolu also wrote for FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, co-hosts the Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast alongside his brother Ashok (aka Dapwell of the now defunct Das Racist), and occasionally guest hosts Wyatt Cenac’s weekly Night Train at Littlefield (he hosts tonight with Ashok).
Kevin Avery acted as host at Union Hall and kicked things off with a 20 minute set emblematic of the evening’s intelligent racial humor. Surprise guests Janeane Garofalo and Ted Leo also performed brief sets at the intimate Park Slope venue, with standing room only audience members jostling for views at the rear bar. Avery and Kondabolu – outliers in a scene where comedians of color all too often whore out their cultures for cheap laughs – respect the audience’s intelligence by not dumbing down their sociological material. A Kondabolu line from Waiting For 2042 sums it up succinctly: “People always say I’m obsessed with race… You can’t be obsessed with race in America. There’s racist stuff that happens all the time. Saying that I’m obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning.”
Though he’s been on the indie comedy radar for nearly a decade and developed an impressive resume, 2014 could be the year Kondabolu blows up. His wit is razor sharp, his command of the audience is remarkable, and there are few comics in America with material half as funny or intelligent.