So­cial jus­tice comes to com­edy

Co­me­dian Hari Kond­abolu fights for the dis­en­fran­chised, and has a killer Trump one-liner.

Metro USA (Boston) - - WKND - ALISON GOLD­BERG @MetroBOS let­ters@metro.us

Hari Kond­abolu is not a house­hold name yet, but if you like po­lit­i­cally charged com­edy that tack­les so­cial and racial is­sues, there’s no one do­ing it bet­ter. Case in point: his up­com­ing project, “The Prob­lem with Apu,” a doc­u­men­tary an­a­lyz­ing “The Simp­sons” con­ve­nience store owner, com­ing this fall on TruTV.

Un­til then, Kond­abolu is ready to let his au­di­ence get to know the man be­hind the laughs.

“You’ll get to know what I be­lieve in through my sto­ries, and not just my pol­i­tics and my jokes,” the In­dian-Amer­i­can comic says about his sec­ond standup al­bum “Main­stream Amer­i­can Comic,” out July 22.

We caught up with Kond­abolu be­fore he takes his act on the road.

What’s the role of co­me­di­ans in pol­i­tics?

For me, it’s im­por­tant to hold truth to power, and com­edy is a very ac­ces­si­ble way to do that. Peo­ple will be will­ing to lis­ten be­cause there’s a prom­ise of a laugh.

Is it hard to be funny given how toxic things have got­ten?

Com­edy has al­ways been my de­fense mech­a­nism. So when things are bad I au­to­mat­i­cally go to, “What can I say to make it bet­ter?” With [Trump’s] par­tic­u­lar cam­paign, you’ve seen peo­ple protest and be re­ally coura­geous in con­fronting things, and the folks in his ral­lies have been greeted with vi­o­lence and racial slurs, and he con­dones those kinds of things. So you kind of worry with this pres­i­dency — are peo­ple go­ing to be able to speak their mind?

How have the cam­paigns in­spired your com­edy?

This elec­tion, cer­tainly, the big is­sues have re­ally come out, whether those is­sues are about class, racism, xeno­pho­bia or sex­ism. That in some ways helps, be­cause peo­ple be­come more at­tuned to think­ing a lit­tle more deeply about so­ci­ety and what kind of so­ci­ety they want, and that helps me be­cause that’s what I talk about.

Any Trump-re­lated ma­te­rial you can pre­view?

I’ll give you one — the only time that Don­ald Trump has lib­er­ated women is when he’s di­vorced them.

Tell us more about “The Prob­lem with Apu.”

It’s about “The Simp­sons” char­ac­ter Apu, and to me how strange that char­ac­ter is in 2016 and how strange it was in 1990. I grew up in Queens, New York, which is a re­ally di­verse place, but we weren’t rep­re­sented on TV reg­u­larly un­til this car­toon char­ac­ter came out — and the voice wasn’t even an In­dian per­son, it was a white guy, Hank Azaria. So it was al­ways re­ally strange to feel like that was our big­gest rep­re­sen­ta­tion, this car­toon full of stereo­types. I re­ally wanted to cre­ate a film about how a show that I love so much that I was hugely in­flu­enced by still has what I feel is a ma­jor flaw.

Are you try­ing to achieve any­thing spe­cific with your com­edy?

If there’s an is­sue that in­volves jus­tice, or peo­ple who are not get­ting jus­tice, that’s where my in­ter­est is. So, whether we’re talk­ing about un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, work­ing class peo­ple get­ting cheated from a sys­tem that doesn’t work for them, sex­ism, racism and ho­mo­pho­bia. These are all things that I grav­i­tate to­wards, cer­tainly from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, dis­cussing racism and is­sues about im­mi­gra­tion be­cause my par­ents are im­mi­grants.

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