Hari Kondabolu: Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Demographics

Interview + Performance

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hari Kondabolu onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Hari Kondabolu onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Richard Termine)

With a political science degree from a fancy liberal arts college and a master’s in human rights from the London School of Economics, Hari Kondabolu might be running an NGO or giving TED talks. Instead, he’s doing stand-up.

“When [my parents] left everything behind to come to this country, this certainly was the plan,” Kondabolu tells Kurt Andersen in an interview. “I remember my father working seven days a week, sending me to college, and telling me, ‘Waste this. If you come back a doctor or a lawyer, it’s like killing me.’”

He’s still tackling big ideas, though: his most recent comedy album, Waiting for 2042, takes its title from the year demographers estimate non-white Americans will make up 51 percent of the population. Kondabolu thinks the media has made too much of the statistic. “Don’t freak out, white people,” he says. “You were the minority when you came to this country. Things seemed to have worked out for you.”

Things seem to be working out for Kondabolu, too — he was recently invited to an event held by Vice President Joe Biden. While there, Kondabolu says the Vice President complimented his hair: “He said, ‘If I had hair like yours, I’d be President.’ I’m like, I’m not going to say anything, because I don’t want to get droned.”

If hot-button issues don’t spook Kondabolu — and they don’t — he’s not without fear: he never wants his jabs to land on the little guy. “I’m fine with offending, but hurting people is never my goal,” he tells Kurt. “Everything is on the table, but it’s how you talk about it. A lot of my heroes did the same thing.”

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Hari Kondabolu

Comments [4]

John Metcalf from Michigan

@ peter from western Mass.

I'm not sure I was listening to the same bit as you were. Maybe the podcast version was edited differently.

Jun. 24 2014 12:25 AM
Brian T. Carney from Wheaton, MD

Great monologue, but I think he may have the math wrong. Majority is over 50%; whites are now the majority. Plurality is the largest bloc; whites will be a plurality in 2042.

Jun. 23 2014 11:17 AM
peter from western Mass.

In the current fashion of "white bashing", made acceptable in no small part because of "white" efforts at getting past racist stereotypes such as those expressed here by Hari, Kondabolu regrettably chooses to perpetuate such stereotypes rather than taking the higher road of trying to heal through humour. It's a shame that he chooses to use the racial epithet "white people", rather than the more accurate "European-Americans" say, and that he commits the cardinal sin of all racists by assuming that we all - (yes I am Scottish-English-Canadian-American - see how absurd this stuff gets!) think the same - I suppose he thinks we "whiteys" all look alike too!

I was surprised that Kurt didn't call him on this hypocrisy. He could have asked Hari to comment a bit on his own cultural baggage - like how privileged he is as a result of his family's oppression of the lower castes in his ancestral homeland of India. We all have skeletons somewhere if you poke around enough and it's more endearing as a humourist to poke fun at yourself before pointing your self-righteous finger at others.

Jun. 23 2014 07:40 AM


Jun. 22 2014 12:25 AM

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