Published Jul 26, 2016There's no working comic who can seamlessly blend personal and socio-political comedy as substantively and satisfyingly as Hari Kondabolu. He's been pigeonholed as a race-oriented or political or angry comic — the kind of reductive assessment that takes place whenever a public figure actually and rightly questions and threatens the status quo.
But Kondabolu, who is, yes, an uncompromising scrutinizer and a self-described "killjoy who does comedy," takes the stage purposefully, recognizing that the time we have to make a difference in the world is precious. As it happens, he's also a preternaturally great comedian — someone who can weave stories and jokes together that shock, surprise, and overwhelm his audiences.
On Mainstream American Comic, there are number of instances where the Portland crowd gasps and groans at some of Kondabolu's seemingly cruel assessments of drone strikes and pro-life proponents. Quickly, he questions their reactions with facts and reality that are harsher than anything he can conjure in a club.
He can discuss his hilariously blunt mother and upbringing with as much endearing vigour as he does in relishing his takedown of Bobby Jindal or telling us about his meeting with Joe Biden. And the abstract art bit is an ingenious critique of pretentiousness.
Kondabolu, like many of his peers, clearly pays closer attention to social norms and questionable cultural trends than many of us do. He deconstructs a vast array of subjects and provocatively highlights their questionable and occasionally harmful, counterintuitive, big picture dangers. Most strikingly, Kondabolu stands out because he's just sharper and more dedicated to his craft than most, and he is decidedly harsh at a harsh, tumultuous point in history.
Mainstream American Comic is the pointed blast we need right now but, perhaps most importantly, it's the biting comedy masterwork we deserve. (Kill Rock Stars)