Posted April 25, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Features
 
 

Comedian Hari Kondabolu is Waiting for 2042

BY SERENA IMANI KORN

Album art for "Waiting for 2042"

Album art for “Waiting for 2042”

When comedian Hari Kondabolu performed at Evergreen in April of last year, there was a mad dash for tickets. They all sold out.

But now, nobody has to fight for seats to Kondabolu’s shows. Kondabolu’s debut album, “Waiting for 2042,” brings his stand-up straight to your speakers. Kill Rock Stars, an independent record label that started in Olympia, released “Waiting for 2042” in March, and it was recorded during a show in Oakland.

As an intersectional feminist who is dedicated to anti-racism, combating transphobia and homophobia, etc., it can be hard to find comedy artists who don’t constantly offend. There are many “comedians” who think that directly offensive “jokes” are the only way to be funny, including Anthony Jeselnik, who often opens shows with bits about rape and beating up his girlfriend. (Jeselnik tried to offend me with fat jokes when I shook my head at his rape joke, right before I walked out of the theater).

But Kondabolu’s comedy is safe, and preferable, for people who are socially conscious. Kondabolu is proof that you can tell insanely hilarious stories without being offensive.

I am a huge Hari Kondabolu fan. I’ve seen him five times, even spending 5 hours on public transportation from Bellingham to Seattle after my afternoon class. I can’t say I’ve owned, or even listened to, many comedy albums. I was a little nervous that an album wouldn’t hold up to the live experience. But I guarantee that “Waiting for 2042” holds up incredibly well.
“Waiting for 2042” is a great introduction and proper representation of Kondabolu’s work. It includes hilarious jokes and stories about racism, sexism, homophobia, politics, environmentalism, slavery, breastfeeding, and typecasting.

Those who haven’t been to a show, or aren’t too familiar with Kondabolu, will get a great feel for his work through this album. The environment, other people laughing obnoxiously and the occasional mistake or improv, aren’t part of the album experience, but it features Kondabolu’s jokes at their very best. Kondabolu is very involved on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. He has a majority of his jokes on YouTube from various performances. But many of those aren’t his best performances or feature loud audiences or weird audio. There are many jokes featured on the album that are not available through YouTube.

“And that joke
answers the question: Hari Kondabolu,
can you write a
feminist dick joke?”
— Hari Kondabolu

For fans, like me, who have seen his work, the album is a mirror of his recent routines. It is a great way to revisit his best jokes and not be afraid to laugh uncontrollably in the safety of your home. You can laugh maniacally about a black woman telling a white child his name is Toby (Roots, anybody?) without knocking a cup of ice water out of a server’s hand, sending ice and water flying all over the stage and interrupting Hari Kondabolu’s set (I’m still embarrassed).

One of his best jokes is “A Feminist Dick Joke.” He starts off talking about how we’ve never had a female president in the U.S. The reason for that, he says, is because there are men in this country who are so sexist that they think if we elect a woman, once a month she’ll get her period and go crazy and ruin the country.

Kondabolu continues: “There are men who actually believe that a woman, because of her biology, has her judgment impaired once a month. Well, I’m a man who happens to have a penis and testicles, and my judgment is impaired, like, every five to seven minutes. And I’ll be honest with you, I wake up some mornings with my judgment impaired. And that joke answers the question: ‘Hari Kondabolu, can you write a feminist dick joke?’ Yes. It can be done.”

Kondabolu continues this joke with an imaginary reaction:
“’But can’t you write a joke that doesn’t reinforce gender binaries, Hari?’

Look, I’m doing the best I can, I mean, I did say ‘happens to have a penis and testicles,’ which implies that not all men have a penis and testicles. I mean, perhaps I could write a postscript at the end of the joke which acknowledges the trans community in some small way. Maybe, perhaps in the future I could write a joke that truly is more inclusive.

‘NO! It’s too late! You were my favorite comedian, and now I hate you! I hope you die!’

Look, I’m doing the best I can. Please stop yelling at me, please stop yelling at me, imaginary Tumblr conversation in my head.”

Kondabolu’s comedy career took off in Seattle, where he worked as an immigrant rights organizer. Serving as a home base, he frequently comes back to perform and even tests out new material on loyal friends and fans.

Kondabolu even shot the cover of “Waiting for 2042” in Seattle. The cover features Kondabolu on a rickshaw, ordering a white man in a business suit. A couple days before the shoot, Kondabolu took to Facebook to ask his Seattle fans where he could get a rickshaw on short notice. Within minutes, several different people had suggestions. Kondabolu commented that of course Seattle would respond so hastily to such a request. A fan from Portland jumped in, declaring that in Portland, he could already have had three rickshaws outside.
The title of the album references the Census figure that suggests white people will become the minority in 2042, representing 49 percent of the population.

“Don’t worry white people, you were the minority when you came to this country. Things seemed to have worked out for you,” Kondabolu jokes with astute commentary. “Here’s the bigger point: 49 percent white doesn’t make you the minority. That’s not how math works. 49 percent white is only the minority if you think the other 51 percent is exactly the same. It only works if you think ‘well, it’s 49 percent white people and 51 percent…you people.’”

Though Kondabolu was born and raised in Queens, New York, and currently lives in gentrifying Brooklyn, he truly is a Northwest original.
“Waiting for 2042” is available for digital download through Bandcamp or iTunes and the physical CD is available through the Hari Kondabolu and Kill Rock Stars websites.