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Getting vulnerable with comedian and new dad, Hari Kondabolu

Hari Kondabolu
Rob Holysz
Hari Kondabolu

When was the last time you went to a comedy show? Was it before the pandemic? That’s the last time political stand-up comedian, Hari Kondabolu performed on tour.

Kondabolu is known for cutting through polite conversations around all the -isms with topics that usually make people uncomfortable such as racism, sexism, and colonialism. He brings those front and center through jokes and personal anecdotes, all while still having a laugh, of course.

He is a frequent guest panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! and has a Netflix special called “Warn Your Relatives”.

Kondabolu will be doing several performances at The Laughing Tap in Milwaukee starting March 24 running through March 26. And for the first time, he’ll be bringing something new to the stage — his own vulnerability about being a new dad during the time of COVID-19.

Ahead of his shows, he shares more about being a new parent and what audience members can expect from his new found vulnerability.

"In some ways, this is a very different hour for me," Kondabolu says. "I know that when comedians have children, everything becomes parent jokes, that's not quite the case with me."

This tour, he says is open for all audience members, parents or not. Kondabolu says people in their 20s could even use his performance to preview or contemplate how life changes moving into your 30s.

Yet, it can be tricky balancing the line between what he includes in his performance and what he wants to keep private.

"If I'm teaching my child about these things, and I'm teaching my child about oppression in a way that's kind of funny, or if what I'm saying [about] the world is conflicting with what he's seeing and what he's being taught outside the home...I mean, there's something there," says Kondabolu.

Still, he tries to communicate with his family before he includes them in his stand-up and he trusts Milwaukee is the right place to share.

Most people don't think about how hard it can be for a comedian to be vulnerable on stage by themselves with just a microphone, he acknowledges. Being a comedian can be even more daunting when one considers the short attention spans that audiences across the world have acquired now with platforms like TikTok.

"It's an under-appreciated art form and it's an under-appreciated form of theater. Comedians are the workhorses of entertainment, and we bring it to the people. It is an incredibly hard thing and I'm proud to be one, to be a comedian," says Kondabolu.

Kondabolu says he was inspired by other performers after seeing them connect to the audience in a way he hadn't before.

"I think part of it is maturity, getting older and feeling less embarrassed about your life's experiences, and realizing that everyone has their things they're proud of, and the things they're not so proud of. That's OK to share. People can relate to those kinds of things and I'm not alone in that," says Kondabolu.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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