Top 15 Comedians

Hari Kondabolu#2. HARI KONDABOLU


Comedian Hari Kondabolu has a lot to brag about. In a career spanning less than 10 years, the Jackson Heights-born comic has performed on shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, premiered a half-hour special on Comedy Central and worked as a writer and correspondent on FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.

Kondabolu’s accomplishments outside the comedy stratosphere merit just as much boastfulness: he earned a masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics in 2008, and was named NYU’s APA Institute’s “Artist in Residence” last year. However, of the array of entertainment and academic achievement from which Kondabolu could choose to boast, he seems most proud of something else altogether.

“The Townsend Harris mascot is named after me,” he said of his alma mater’s “Hari the Hawk” mascot.

For this Queens native, who lived in Jackson Heights and Floral Park before his family settled in Jamaica, the connection is nothing to scoff at. Townsend Harris is where he first tried his hand at stand-up, organizing a comedy night at the high school his senior year after years of traveling to Manhattan clubs to watch comedy heavyweights such as Patrice O’Neal and Louie CK.

“Growing up in New York City taught me that it wasn’t just a magic thing where you wrote a joke and it was ready,” he said. “You saw people struggling with it a bit, working it out and then two or three months later it was perfected. As someone who idolized comics from a distance, I got to see the process of how the sausage actually gets made.”

Despite the success of his high school comedy events, Kondabolu didn’t pursue comedy until years later, attending Bowdoin College after high school and later transferring to Wesleyan, before earning his masters at the London School of Economics. What followed was a career as an immigrant rights organizer in Seattle, throughout which he performed at local venues as a hobby.

However, everything changed when a rep from the HBO Comedy Festival saw one of his stand-up clips on YouTube, and booked him for the prestigious show.

“I went from doing comedy as a hobby and not treating it seriously, working as a human rights organizer, to suddenly this passion I’ve had since I was a kid is turning into a reality,” he said.

Shortly after he appeared in the festival he performed on Live with Jimmy Kimmel!, further catapulting his career.

“All of a sudden I went from a popular local act in Seattle to somewhat of a national figure,” he said. “I was on TV and people had heard of me all of a sudden. It was very strange and amazing.”

What’s followed are a host of late-night appearances and performances at some of the country’s biggest festivals, a comedy album released in 2014, Waiting for 2042, and the podcast “Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast” co-hosted with his brother Ashok, one-half of musical group Das Racist.

Amidst tours that have taken him around the world, Kondabolu’s affinity for his home borough hasn’t waned.

“I’m very grateful when I go home,” he says of his parents’ house in Jamaica. “There’s something about the great diversity Queens has to offer. People have diversity training all around the country. We didn’t have training—we just grew up in Queens. There’s a certain base level you get from growing up with many types of people. It means something.

“I’m starting to realize when people are worried about a future with more diversity throughout the country, they’re worried about turning into Queens,” he added. “Which is horrifying because Queens is great. When people are afraid of what a diverse future means for America being America, I don’t know what your definition of America is, because growing up in Queens it was so much broader. It’s not always the easiest, but we create something beautiful by living together.”

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Posted by on Dec 30 2015. Filed under It's List, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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