Joking in a Dark Place With Hari Kondabolu

by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS

Why is it such a common occurrence for comedians who talk politics to be met with the dismissive refrain, “Stick with the comedy?” For as long as comics have been making audiences laugh, they’ve also been ferrying us through tumultuous times of uprising and conflict. They comfort anxieties while simultaneously drawing attention to important issues.

Hari Kondabolu is one of the best comedians around at striking this delicate balance. Though his material frequently tackles weighty subjects, Kondabolu makes laughing at serious topics seem effortless. Given the insane election season this country’s endured, a comedian like Kondabolu becomes essential.

“I’ve been saying this recently, that I feel like Nero,” says Kondabolu. “I’m making people laugh, I’m telling these jokes, and meanwhile everything feels like it’s on fire behind me. There’s a sinking feeling with what’s happening in the country, but (my) job is to make fun of the reality that’s there. And that’s really hard when you’re scared to death…I suppose, for me, some of the best stuff comes from a dark place. It always has. The things that hurt and cause pain—that’s what’s always been interesting to me.”

On Kondabolu’s recent album, Mainstream American Comic, the comedian finds material in racial inequality, the political establishment, abortion rights and those who insist on saying “all lives matter,” making even the toughest subjects hilarious and vibrant.

Though born and raised in New York, Kondabolu has deep connections to the Pacific Northwest, having developed as a comic for years in Seattle.

“The idea of having an audience that can let you expand your repertoire, that lets you take risks, that’s a really big deal,” says Kondabolu. “I feel like Northwest audiences have always given me that.”

Politically minded Olympians, meet your new favorite comedian.

What: Hari Kondabolu (with Elicia Sanchez)

Where: Capitol Theater,
206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia

When: 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2

How much: $8-$12

Learn more: 360-754-6670 / OFS

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