Comedian Hari Kondabolu will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Comedy Attic.
Kondabolu is known for his Netflix stand-up special “Warn Your Relatives” and his documentary “The Problem with Apu.” The documentary discusses some of the issues with the character Apu from “The Simpsons” and other characters in American pop culture that stereotype minorities. In 2018, Kondabolu was named one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch.”
For his upcoming shows at the Comedy Attic, Kondabolu said he will discuss issues such as racism, sexism and homophobia.
“Most of my stuff historically has been about oppression and uneven distributions power,” Kondabolu said. “That’s kind of the thing I find most interesting as well as constructions, like things that are made that aren’t real that we believe.”
He also said he is trying to talk about more personal topics such as family and relationships.
“Most of my stuff historically has been very topic driven and I want to get more personal,” Kondabolu said. “I want to be able to share more of who I am, and so I have definitely written a lot of stuff that kind of reflects that.”
Kondabolu never imagined he would be working full-time in stand-up comedy.
In high school he hosted a comedy night in his high school gym, imagining he would never continue to pursue stand-up after the event.
“It was one time, and I thought I would do it, and then I’d be done with stand-up, and I just would get it out of my system,” Kondabolu said.
When Kondabolu attended college at Bowdoin College in Maine, he said he felt like he was being watched because he was a person of color on a campus with mainly white students. In order to combat this, Kondabolu said he participated in comedy as a way to change the way in which people saw him.
“It felt like it was a way for me to express myself and be an individual,” he said. “On that campus, as a person of color who stood out, I wanted to be able to control how people saw me.”
When Kondabolu moved to Seattle to be an immigrant rights organizer, he said he continued to do comedy at night as a way to destress and participate something he really enjoyed. After a while he gained stage experience, built a following and was discovered in 2006 by the HBO Comedy Festival. In 2007, he performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“I have always kind of done it, never thinking it would be something that lasted until it did,” he said. “It almost feels like I stumbled into it in a weird way.”
Through the years as Kondabolu has practiced has comedy, he has made changes and adjustments to improve his material and discuss topics he believes are important. The most notable difference is the way race was represented in his earliest comedy versus now.
Kondabolu said when he did his first stand-up act, he used the Indian accent and was playing with stereotypes in order to gain laughs from his audience.
“I was just trying to get laughs because I was 17, and what world did I know?” Kondabolu said. “I hadn’t seen anything yet, and I knew from ‘The Simpsons’ an Indian accent was funny, and that would get me laughs.”
Kondabolu said as he grew and began to learn, he also began to see the problems with race in comedy, and he gradually stopped using the accent and started talking more about difficult topics, becoming more confident in himself and his material.
“I think as I became the person I wanted to be my material changed and the way I talked about race changed,” Kondabolu said.
For his shows this weekend, Kondabolu said his audience can expect a funny, personal, political and honest show that has a lot of hills and valleys.
“I’m proud of the new material, I feel like some of it certainly feels like a step forward,” Kondabolu said. “It’s harder than old stuff, and it’s more complicated, and I am really proud of where I am going with some of this stuff now."
Tickets for this show can be found online at the Comedy Attic’s website and are $12 for students and $15 for general admission.