There are those comedians that play upon their own stupidity to make people laugh at them. And then there are the other comedians, the smart comedians, that can make witty social commentaries on the state of the world, make you think, drop knowledge, and make you laugh really hard. I have got to say that after seeing Hari Kondabolu perform this week with his troupe Laughter Against the Machine, he is definitely of the latter variety. It’s about time the world noticed. Comedy Central has. This Friday at 11pm, Hari Kondabolu has his very own half an hour long special, Comedy Central Presents: Hari Kondabolu. Set your DVR and be prepared to laugh and groan.
I virtually sat down with Hari to ask him a few questions about his forthcoming special, what makes him funny and his tension filled relationship with his brother. (Check out Phillygrrl’s previous interview with Hari here). Read below.
Taz: Are you nervous about what is going to happen on February 11th, 2011 at 11pm?
Hari: HA! You’re making this sound like a catastrophic event that will take place 4 times that night in the various mainland U.S. timezones. Honestly, I think it’ll be fine. I filmed the thing months ago and it’s been edited down to 22 minutes and there’s nothing else I can really do besides hope the edit looks good and captures the spirit the jokes were written in and how they were performed live that night. I’m anticipating that some people will like it, some people won’t and that I’ll definitely be seeing some mean spirited messages on a variety of social media and probably in the comments section of this very blog post. Am I right, brothers and sisters?
T: What is the absolutely funniest thing to you right now? Something that made you laugh so hard you had milk come out of your nose type funny?
H: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the last thing that made me laugh out loud was how a friend on twitter described the Black Eyed Peas as “Will.i.am, Fergie…Michaelangelo and Raphael.” It was a well-placed Ninja Turtles reference. Seriously, I am ashamed.
T: Do you feel like you need to censor yourself and your comedic material the more famous you become? Because, I don’t know if you realize that, but getting your own Comedy Central special makes you preeeeetty famous.> H: I want to make honest, thoughtful art that can make people laugh. I mean, there can be a different set of rules and expectations for television and film, but if I can’t stay fearless and discuss the things I care about in front of real audiences, then there’s no point in me continuing to perform.
T: Can we expect a MANOJ part 2 to come down the line?
H: No, I don’t really see that happening. I think MANOJ was a one-time project that tried to make a clear point. If I keep bringing him back, then people will just laugh at that dude’s existence (and voice) and not what I was trying to do with him. The only time I seriously thought about bringing him back was when someone asked me for his contact information so they could book him to perform at a university in Alaska. I imagined an opportunity to grow the beard back, bring Zia Mohajerjasbi (who filmed and directed Manoj) to Alaska with me and film the performance and the interactions with people before and after. Somewhere during the show, I’d shave off my beard and reveal what was actually happening. This was actually the original idea for MANOJ before it became a film project. Unfortunately, I stupidly told the bookers that Manoj and I were the same person and I wasted this opportunity. I will regret this forever.
T: What do you think of your brother Dapwell’s hip hop crew, Das Racist? From the looks of the promo… it seems a bit…tense? Brothers being brothers?
H: I’m proud of what they’re doing, especially the interviews and media criticism. I love my brother’s description of John Boehner as “the utmost in white demonry” in this New York Time’s interview. It’s something he would say at home and its now in the NY Times. Wow.
Several people have asked me about the tension in the video, which I find very strange. I mean, this is clearly NOT REAL. This is a video sketch made for promotional purposes. I loosely scripted it and then DR improvised the spaces perfectly. Have people not noticed the many cuts and camera angles?
T: How do you find funny things to be funny about? How do you get inspired to create your material?
H: I never know how to answer the question about how I find my material because it’s like asking anyone “how do you think the thoughts you think?” I take in stimulus (reading, watching, listening to things, mostly) and respond to it from a point of view shaped on a lifetime of experiences. You know…the usual. I will say that being around people who I vibe with can definitely help with the process and I’ve noticed that the audiences in Seattle and the Bay Area seem to bring the best out of me. I generally leave there with a few new ideas for pieces because I have an audience I trust and that seems to trust me back and let’s me be free enough to write on stage. When live comedy is at its best, it feels like the performer is having a conversation with a large group of people. A conversation where people are not allowed to talk back and people are supposed to laugh and clap at you. Pretty strange, when you think about it. An egomaniac’s dream.
T: What can we expect next out of you?
H: I’ll keep writing and performing standup for sure. I’m working on some video projects with WorldCompass so you’ll get more online content from that project. Also, my brother Ashok and I are continuing our Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Project live show and are planning a podcast. Stay tuned.
Comedy Central Presents: Hari Kondabolu will be showing on a cable television near you this Friday, February 11th at 11pm. To see what Hari is up to next, be sure to check out his Pixie-inspired re-vamped website at www.harikondabolu.com and on twitter @harithecomic.