Kondabolu provokes audience: Comic uses humor to raise cultural, racial and environmental issues

Posted by Gia Vaccarezza

On March 4, stand-up comedian Hari Kondabolu entertained the crowd at the Spa in Case Center as a part of HAYAT's comedy fest.

Kondabolu is not just your average Indian comedian talking about rice and curry. He has been on Comedy Central and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

His stand-up routine began with a short video about a fictionalized comic, "Manoj," whose jokes were self-deprecating.

One of the funny segments included a list of "Hin-dos and Hin-don'ts."

Manoj explained, "Sex after marriage is a Hin-do, eating a beef sandwich is a Hin-don't."

He made many references to Hindu culture including the goddess Durga. "I just flew in from India and boy are my 8 arms tired," the fictionalized Manoj said.

There were interviews with Manoj fans that were followed by a commentary given by Kondabolu himself. He criticized and reprimanded Manoj for making jokes at the expense of his culture.

When the film ended, Kondabolu stepped onto the stage and revealed to the audience that he played both Manoj and himself.

He then continued his routine by asking the large crowd in front of him, "So I'm guessing there wasn't anything else going on tonight?"

Kondabolu instantly brought up the controversial Racy Reader concerning masturbation and self-love.

He spoke of his confusion when hearing that the flyer made a college employee feel uncomfortable. Kondabolu asked, "What's a more suitable place to put a poster about masturbation than a bathroom?"

"I've read about the things that go on at Skidmore. Get the fuck out, masturbation only scratches the surface!" he said.

Kondabolu's focus shifted from light-hearted comedy to jokes that made political statements.

When he encountered negative feedback after making a joke about wealth and religion at college, he recovered by responding, "Sure you were fine when I made bad jokes about race, but insult my college? Oh hell no."

The topics in his material covered a wide range. "We're treating the planet like it's second semester senior year," he said raising the issue of environmental concern.

He included other matters like immigration. "I don't see anyone trying to deport Superman. He's an actual alien, And he's taking all of our jobs! For free," Kondalobu said.

Kondabolu identified contemporary culture's obsession with ethnicity and its ties to food. He reminded the audience that just because a person being Indian will not necessarily mean that they will know about the Indian restaurant down the street.

About halfway through the show, Kondabolu paused and directly addressed the audience, asking why they weren't laughing so hard. From the upper level of Case, a male voice yelled, "Tell a joke man, you fucking suck!"

A silence followed while Kondabolu gathered himself. He then responded with full force, calling out this anonymous voice, demanding that they should be more responsible and confront him directly.

Kondabolu was clearly disappointed and upset. He singled out the anonymous voice, condemning his refusal and fear to talk about topics that really mattered.

Despite the discouraging comments made by the anonymous audience member, the audience rallied Kondabolu on and the rest of the show ran smoothly.

After the conclusion of his routine, Kondabolu opened the floor for a question-and-answer session. Kondabolu talked about provocation in humor and the difficulty and differences between entertaining live and studio audiences.

The exchange between Kondabolu and the anonymous attendee remained a concern for students like Keisha George, '11 and Natalie Alvarez, '11 who assured Kondabolu that not every student was as ignorant. They promised him that his final impression of the college would not be a bad one.

In return, Kondabolu assured the crowd that he actually found the situation comical and would probably create new material from it.

He also emphasized the importance of creating characters that speak to the truth. His jokes aim to act as fodder for a bigger discussion.

Kondabolu's strategy includes pushing the audience to see how uncomfortable he can make them and then follows up by reeling them back in.

This tactic definitely helped his show succeed. His performance left students talking about it all over campus for the remainder of the weekend.

HAYAT mentioned the possibility of bringing Kondabolu back to campus so that students who missed the first performance could get another chance to experience his thought provoking stand-up.

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