New York standup comic Hari Kondabolu says that in a post-9-11 world, comedians of colour can get easily niched and stereotyped by mainstream audiences.
“You’re one of those 9-11 comics that have showed up,” is how some of them are dismissed, says the 28-year-old.
A 10-year veteran of the craft himself, he maintains that he has built a loyal following because of the strength of his material, which is deeply personal and sometimes polarizing, due to its focus on race, class and politics.
“I’m giving an honest point of view and I’m funny about it,” he said from Seattle, where he recently performed at the Bumbershoot festival.
His shows attract a diverse audience, ranging from social workers, teachers, students and human rights organizers. Mostly, though, “it’s people who believe passionately in the issues I’m talking about.”
Kondabolu will be performing tonight as part of Alt 101 Week at the University of Ottawa. He’s curious to see how the audience will react to his comedy and whether he’ll need to adjust his material.
“It’s hard, because it’s not really a conversation. It’s a monologue,” he said, referring to most standup routines. “But I can acknowledge what’s happening in the room. You have to mix up the game plan if it’s not working.”