Hari Kondabolu may be waiting for the year 2042, when it’s projected that white people will be the statistical minority in the United States, but his 2014 was pretty great, too.
The 32-year-old Brooklyn-based standup released an album, Waiting for 2042; performed on the Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, and @midnight; and did “a bunch of radio things” on NPR, including a whole episode of Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
“I’m glad the year is winding down,” he told the Straight over the phone from his parents’ home in Queens the day before American Thanksgiving. “It’s been a good year but it’s been a really busy year with lots of travelling. I kind of want things to slow down for some stretch before they pick up again. It felt like one thing led to the next thing led to the next thing, which is an incredible privilege but it felt like I never really stopped.”
His upcoming trip to Vancouver is a bonus, though, not part of his exhausting support tour for the album. He’s visiting a friend in Seattle and thought it would be a great time to make amends to us.
“I was going to come up to Vancouver months ago and it didn’t work out,” he says. “I got so many emails and people saying, ‘How could you do Portland and Seattle and not stop here?’ The idea of going a whole year without doing a show in Vancouver seemed really wrong.”
All this work started rolling in after the show he was writing and performing on, Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, was cancelled about a year ago. He’d recorded Waiting for 2042 the previous summer, but had no time to edit the thing until his network-imposed freedom.
“It’s something I’d wanted to do since I started performing and finally I had the hour that I was proud of releasing,” he says. “I just didn’t have the time to do it. And when I did have breaks from work, the idea of working on the album seemed so daunting.”
Kondabolu talks about his tour as a campaign in support of the album, sounding not unlike a politician. Even on-stage, the London School of Economics grad with a master’s in human rights can get downright political. But he doesn’t plan on running for office anytime soon.
“I’m fairly blunt,” he says. “It’s not like I’m always being diplomatic. People might laugh at it, but I don’t know if they’ll vote for that.”
His diploma, as lofty as it is, didn’t find him work—not that he even tried. But it certainly informed his chosen field, so it didn’t go completely to waste.
“I don’t think knowledge can ever be wasted,” he says. “I was enriched. I think it made my arguments stronger. A lot of my standup feels like little essays. But if you mean as a degree in order to get a job, yes, it was wasted.”
Kondabolu, the son of South Asian immigrants, takes what he calls the Clash approach to standup (as opposed to the Sex Pistols route, which he defines as contrariness for the sake of it). The Clash way is “thinking about justice and fairness, which I think is part of comedy because we deconstruct the norms of people. And that then leads to you questioning fairness, which is what I do. Everything does get kind of philosophical with me. There are jokes. But a lot of it, also, is a person’s brain meandering.”