Hari Kondabolu: Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Demographics

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Hari Kondabolu onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
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With a political science degree from a fancy liberal arts college and a master’s in human rights from the London School of Economics, Hari Kondabolu might be running an NGO or giving TED talks. Instead, he’s doing stand-up.

“When [my parents] left everything behind to come to this country, this certainly was the plan,” Kondabolu tells Kurt Andersen in an interview. “I remember my father working seven days a week, sending me to college, and telling me, ‘Waste this. If you come back a doctor or a lawyer, it’s like killing me.’”

He’s still tackling big ideas, though: his most recent comedy album, Waiting for 2042, takes its title from the year demographers estimate non-white Americans will make up 51 percent of the population. Kondabolu thinks the media has made too much of the statistic. “Don’t freak out, white people,” he says. “You were the minority when you came to this country. Things seemed to have worked out for you.”

Things seem to be working out for Kondabolu, too — he was recently invited to an event held by Vice President Joe Biden. While there, Kondabolu says the Vice President complimented his hair: “He said, ‘If I had hair like yours, I’d be President.’ I’m like, I’m not going to say anything, because I don’t want to get droned.”

If hot-button issues don’t spook Kondabolu — and they don’t — he’s not without fear: he never wants his jabs to land on the little guy. “I’m fine with offending, but hurting people is never my goal,” he tells Kurt. “Everything is on the table, but it’s how you talk about it. A lot of my heroes did the same thing.”

Music Playlist

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    Artist: Joel Esher