Comedian Hari Kondabolu on political humor, Matthew McConaughey and his new album ‘Waiting for 2042′


Comedian Hari Kondabolu used to write for “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” He’s also a Fugazi fan. (Kyle Johnson)

Though comedian Hari Kondabolu is known to talk politics, don’t expect him to get too wonky when he performs in D.C. next week. “I’m political in the sense that I talk about issues,” the Queens, N.Y., native says. A former writer/performer on the defunct FXX topical comedy show “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell,” Kondabolu, 31, just released his first album, “Waiting for 2042,” on venerable indie label Kill Rock Stars.

You’ve been doing comedy for more than a decade but to most people you’re still new.
In this industry, being treated like a fresh face is the best thing. It doesn’t feel too long, it feels like, OK, yeah, I am now ready for this. If you gave me Letterman three years ago, I don’t know how it would have went.

You wore a snazzy suit on Letterman last month.
It made my father and Dave happy. It’s funny because you get paid when you’re on these late-night shows, so the money that I got for Letterman really just went into the suit that I had to buy. So I got paid for Letterman with a suit.

You didn’t have a suit?
I didn’t have a suit that I should be wearing. I had an old-man suit — that’s what my girlfriend called it — and this [new] suit looked sharp. I could wear it to weddings. I’m happy that I was on Letterman, but great timing for the suit with weddings coming up.

Why did you release “Waiting for 2042” on Kill Rock Stars?
I like Kill Rock Stars. I loved Elliott Smith and Bikini Kill. Talking to Portia [Sabin, the head of the label], she said that in the early years of Kill Rocks Stars, a lot of that music was political and it was very blunt and that was part of their voice and there’s been less of that in recent years. She feels comedy has the ability to bring stuff up that wouldn’t get brought up in other forms, and she feels like that kind of ethos that Kill Rock Stars has could still live through comedy. So that was big.

As a comic, you don’t have to talk about social issues. Why do you?
It’s who I am. It’s hard not to be who you are onstage. That’s why you do it, right? To be yourself and make people laugh.

Does doing a show in D.C. make you want to call out politicians?
That’s never been my thing. My background is more in human rights stuff. I used to be an immigrant rights organizer. The issues were always the bigger deal — it was never the game of it. Politics and sports are the same thing in some ways. I like sports, I don’t like the sports aspect of politics. The conventions are basically the playoffs and the election’s the Super Bowl. To me it doesn’t feel important. Maybe I’ll throw in a few Fugazi references.

On the album, you have a not-so-flattering joke about Matthew McConaughey. Do you still do the bit now that he’s Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey?
It still works but I need to acknowledge the fact that this is pre-genius McConaughey. This was before he took whatever pill he took to make him a genius, when he was a blithering idiot and we all acknowledged that before the Oscars decided he was a genius. I love the bit, though. I think part of it is I just like saying, “All right, all right.” Part of me just likes that joke enough to justify the other six minutes around it.

U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW; Wed., 7 p.m., sold out, & May 1, 7 p.m., $15; 202-588-1880. (U Street)

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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