Durham, N.C. — Hari Kondabolu will soon complete the North Carolina comedy triangle.
Kondabolu, a veteran stand-up comedian and writer, has performed in North Carolina numerous times, but his Feb. 19 show at Motorco Music Hall will be his first time in Durham, allowing him to connect the dots of the Triangle after shows in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
True of many headline acts, Kondabolu, who has a master’s degree in human rights and was an artist in residence at New York University’s APA Institute, is more than just a stand-up. We talked about more than comedy, including an impeachment discussion that took place days before President Donald Trump’s acquittal.
Asking a learned person questions about complicated issues is an opportunity I never pass up, but I recognize this is an interview with a comedian ,so rest assured there is comedy talk too, and please note that the hilarious Liz Miele will be Kondabolu’s opening act at Motorco.
Enjoy the interview, follow Kondabolu on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
Tony Castleberry: I love “Waiting for 2042” as a concept and as a comedy album but I’m worried that climate change might take all of us out before then. If that happens, will you be more upset about the mass extinction or about white people not being the statistical minority?
Hari Kondabolu: Mass extinction. That’s an easy one, Tony. I’m not petty enough to allow that statistical goal to take over and come before the end of all of us. I would be pretty bummed if we all went.
TC: [laughs] How magnanimous of you. This is the fourth interview we’ve done and I consider you an intellectual. You have the degrees to prove it. So many things make me question how much longer we’re all going to be here. Do you struggle with similar concerns?
HK: The climate stuff in particular. There’s this existential question of what are we doing here and how much longer do we have to figure that out. It’s hard to move forward with that. I’m doing all these things to prepare for a future. Am I just going through the motions of this is what life is and I’m planning for the future or realistically, is there no future, and that scares the hell out of me.
It’s hard, man. The news is really depressing, especially when you see inaction. I support the impeachment but at the same time, it’s very frustrating to see all this energy to get this guy out of office when the issues are so much bigger. The same amount of energy that is being used here, which I think is not being wasted, I wish it was also being spent on climate change and the Green New Deal.
I feel like all these discussions of moving slowly and systemically, step by step, there was time for that. That time is no longer there. I think it’s strange how we keep giving each other extensions, like all these climate accords. Ten more years, 15 more years, as if the Earth cares about our stupid extensions! [interviewer laughs] It’s like students telling the teacher that they’ve decided they’re gonna hand in their research projects in a month. They voted on it as if they’re not all gonna fail. They’re all gonna fail, we’re all gonna fail and that’s on us. It’s scary.
TC: What are your thoughts on like-mindedness? I ask because, as a bleeding-heart liberal, I read liberal web stories, I follow liberals on social media, I support liberal artists, or at least ones who I think are liberal. I rarely hear from “the other side” because most of what I’ve heard from that side I don’t agree with or support. Do you think I’m doing myself a disservice with this line of thinking? How do you approach the “hearing from both sides” argument?
HK: If your goal is to be able to communicate with people to express why you disagree in a way that is useful and connects to them, you need to understand what they’re being fed. I can only watch so much Fox News but I do watch it to see the ways information is manipulated and which heart strings they’re tugging on.
It’s theater and I think it’s important to pay attention to those things because that’s what you’re up against, and that’s what we’re up against as people who believe in justice.
They’re being fed this thing that makes it feel as if white people are persecuted in America, that men are getting their rights taken away by women, that everybody’s too politically correct as opposed to people finally getting to talk for themselves. People, in their hearts, I feel are just but they’re also defensive and they also don’t want to feel guilty and they also can jump on bandwagons.
I think that critical thinking, especially in this country, is decreasing. You have to be able to understand and sympathize in order to be able to cut across the divide, if that’s what you wanna do. Sometimes I find those moments, and sometimes I don’t, but if you’re someone who wants to create change, you have to.
Otherwise, you don’t know what you’re up against. You can’t campaign, you can’t communicate if you don’t know.
The most important thing, I think, in all these situations is love and understanding. That’s something I’ve had to learn as a performer. My points of view are not gonna change. If they do change, I would address it. The thing I’ve learned when performing is the thing that keeps people on board longer, even if they disagree, is that they get to know me and like me. Once you have that rapport with an audience or with a human being, you’re more willing to listen.
TC: I asked Ron Funches this a few weeks ago and wanted to get your opinion too. It seems to me some comics feel almost obligated, contractually or otherwise, to do a new hour of material every year. Do you set a goal like that or do you let new material come naturally?
HK: I’m more in the natural camp. Right now, I have a couple hours of material. I don’t think they work together as well as I’d want and I think they’re more cut out for two or three different specials. I feel like I have three incomplete specials, potentially, right now, and I would rather have that problem than putting an hour together that I feel like isn’t progressing me as an artist.
That’s just another hour of a little bit of everything, which is what most hours are, and in a club setting I see the value of that because you have to keep people engaged. In a theater space (where most hour specials are recorded), it’s different. What Hannah Gadsby did (with “Nanette”) in a club setting wouldn’t work. In a club setting, she’s gonna have to do tighter jokes.
Her ability to take the risks that she takes — whether you like the hour or not — can only happen if you’re willing to focus on ideas and themes.
I’m not big on putting an hour out every year. I’m big on putting out the right hour, an hour that you can stand behind, that is complete, that takes risks, potentially thematic. That’s what I find important.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
Published at Sun, 16 Feb 2020 19:46:44 +0000