By Beth d’Aoust
VANCOUVER – Hari Kondabolu has made a name for himself in the space where comedic and political spheres intersect, offering impassioned insights on current affairs and social justice issues through a uniquely humorous lens. Kondabolu speaks from a measured, compassionate, well-rounded perspective, likely a product of his upbringing in the vibrant borough of Queens, New York. Having spent the majority of his adult life straddling the comedy stage, academia, and human rights campaigns, Kondabolu has crafted a keen ability to use humour to advance dialogues surrounding controversial and often uncomfortable topics.
Kondabolu has long been outspoken on the topic of gun violence in America. Several years ago, he performed a satirical bit likening a hypothetical “open-carry chainsaw lobby” to campaigns supporting open-carry firearm legislation in the U.S. Thus, on the topic of the #NeverAgain movement, led by the teens who survived the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Kondabolu has much to say when asked whether or not he feels this response has the potential to affect lasting change: “Oh God, yes. It’s a national mobilization of young people. And they’ve all taken a certain personal approach to this. This isn’t a topic they just care about. This is their lives and the lives of their friends, family. This is deep. And we’ve never seen that. With the children in Sandy Hook, you would think that would have been rock bottom, right? But there wasn’t mobilization after. There have been so many more shootings since then.”
“These kids in Florida are a very special group of young people,” he continues. “It’s almost like it happened in a place with was the right mix of people with passion, righteous indignation, and the desire to put this issue and the country before anything else. There’s something about an individual who’s willing to break the monotony. This could be any other news cycle: another shooting, and you move onto the next thing. [Emma Gonzalez] and her classmates stand out. They’re the difference. Just in the same way as the images of the little girl, naked and running from the napalm [in Vietnam] – these are things that shocked the system. They broke the monotony of the day to day.”
Kondabolu qualifies that he doesn’t expect to see legislative change until the influence of the movement causes elections to be lost, rendering gun lobbyist money immaterial. He does, however, view the recent defeat of two NRA-backed politicians, Roy Moore and Rick Saccone, as evidence of changing tides. So while he remains hopeful for change, Kondabolu continues to use multiple platforms – from standup to social media – to urge the public against desensitization in the midst of media saturation. Kondabolu cautions that, in this current climate, “there’s so much media, and because you can see the most horrific things online, we’ve lost some of that [ability to shock people into action]. I think part of it is to just remember our humanity. There’s something about seeing strangers as part of this larger community and being connected to you. We’re all human. I think we can never lose the ability to see ourselves in other people and see their pain in our pain.”
With the pursuit of introspection, unity, and recognition of our common humanity underscoring his body of work, Hari Kondabolu encourages us to reach across the aisle in a continuous quest for understanding.
Hari Kondabolu performs at the Commodore Ballroom on April 28.#neveragain, Gun Control, Hari Kondabolu, stand-up comedy