Standup comic Hari Kondabalu sold out two shows at the Creative Alliance last night, packing the corner theater space with audience members of all ages past midnight.
As a longtime standup enthusiast, I felt inspired to catch such a fresh presence in my own city, where good, cutting-edge standup is sometimes hard to come by. Kondabalu, 32–a Queens native whose background and experience as a South Asian American, and the son of immigrant parents, fuels his show–trains his gaze on racism and human rights. He’s not interested in sugarcoating the set, not for a second. People often ask him, he said, why he doesn’t use Indian accents when he portrays his parents onstage. “Because…fuck you,” he said going on to explain that things have been hard enough for his folks in this country, so why reduce them to stereotypes. Some of my favorite moments included a two-person scene—both sides portrayed by Kondabalu—featuring God and St. Peter watching rapt as some gay guys have sex below the clouds on planet earth. “Don’t look at me!” God shouted at Peter as he became aroused.
“Creative Alliance was thrilled to host fearless political comedian Hari Kondabolu,” says Josh Kohn, the theater’s performance director. “What was even better was seeing Baltimore come out in support of Hari, who has never played in this town before. He sold out two shows in advance, and probably could have sold out a third. This show proved that Baltimore is willing to support such courageous and hilarious voices. Expect to see more national comedy coming through in 2016.”
Discovered in Seattle by the HBO Comedy Festival in 2006, while working as an immigrant rights organizer, Kondabalu has been featured on Conan, Kimmel, Letterman and NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “Waiting for 2042”—“the year whites will be in the minority”—Kondabalu’s first album was released on the Kill Rock Stars label in 2014. The world’s changing, and Kondabalu is intelligent proof. Watch for his steady star to rise fast.