Describe yourself in one line.
I’m a stand-up comedian, writer and podcaster who wants to make art that challenges power, adds to the public discourse and most importantly is original and funny.
Why do you do what you do?
I have always loved making people laugh and I think stand-up comedy is the freest art form there is. You need a microphone and a stage...that’s it.
One similarity and one difference between Hari Kondabolu on stage and off stage?
On stage, I’m a tyrant who does not care what you have to say. Offstage, I believe strongly in having open and difficult conversations with people. Also, I’m much more serious off-stage.
First memory of performing?
I played “Captain Hook” in our elementary school version of “Peter Pan.” It was a very “Queens, NY” production since Captain Hook was Indian, Peter Pan was Filipino, Tinkerbell was Italian and the lost boys were a mix of South Asians and East Asians.
First job ever?
Working as an immigrant rights organizer in Seattle. I worked with refugees and immigrants.
What do you resort to doing when you have a tough crowd?
I think the most important thing to do when the crowd is not with you is to be present in the moment. Address what’s in the room and what you have in common. My worst case scenario tactic is going into the audience or getting on a table in the crowd and doing the show from there. Sometimes you just need to wake people up!
If you could be a fly on the wall, whose wall would it be?
Wherever the illuminati meets.
Favourite thirst quencher?
Water. No question. Ironically, I don’t drink enough water, which constantly keeps me dehydrated, making water even more ideal as a thirst quencher.
The best thing to spread on toast?
Nutella. I debated answering “jam” or “jelly” since that’s what I use the most, but Nutella is the most delicious. If it wasn’t for the peanut butter industry’s hold on the United States,Nutella would be king. Who would turn down hazelnut, chocolate spread?
One ritual you cannot do away with?
I pace a lot before shows and often repeat jokes over and over to myself. If there is not adequate pacing room and a quiet green room, I get very agitated.
What makes Hari—
a) Sexy: My hair and face and sense of humour.
b) Mad: Injustice.
c) Dumbstruck: Anytime Trump speaks.
Your wildest fantasy?
Being locked in a bakery and eating everything without any criminal or health consequences.
If you had a shrinking device, what’s the one thing you’d miniaturize first?
I’m living in the United States during this era. You know the answer to this question.
An event from the past that has most influenced you?
9/11 changed how I viewed the world as a young person. In addition to the pain of your city being attacked, I also dealt with the pain of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs and many other brown-skinned people being attacked by their fellow Americans. In addition to the violence, the government detained and deported many people without just cause. These events politicized me and my art.
Freedom for you means?
Freedom means the ability to criticize. Criticize the govern- ment. Criticize the status quo. Criticize the culture. Criticize society. Criticize without the threat of violence or retribution by the power structure or other people.