HARI KONDABOLU TALKS TOURING, HIS PATH TO COMEDY, ‘THE PROBLEM WITH APU’
Brooklyn-based comedian Hari Kondabolu has amassed an impressive reel of TV appearances, released two chart-topping albums, and been called “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today” by the New York Times. TruTV will release his Simpsons-centered documentary, The Problem With Apu, this fall. In the meantime, the accomplished and influential comic is touring the U.S. and Europe with a new hour of material that will soon wind up on his third album. Friday night, Kondabolu will come to Milwaukee to perform two shows at The Underground Collaborative.
Instead of interviewing him ourselves, we decided to ask someone with a unique knowledge of Kondabolu’s career to do it. Milwaukee comedian Greg Bach has opened for him on occasion, including a few shows in Wisconsin last year. Before they share the stage again this weekend, Bach (acting on our behalf) spoke to Kondabolu about his new doc, his relentless touring, and how his work in immigrants’ rights advocacy eventually led to a career in stand-up comedy.
Milwaukee Record: I wanted to start with the documentary you’ve made called The Problem with Apu. What were the origins of this?
Hari Kondabolu: I came up with the idea because I did a piece on Totally Biased, W. Kamau Bell’s old show, about Indian representation, and it did really well. I was surprised because, to me, all of this stuff was an old topic and that I had talked to my community about this forever. Finally, it became a thing where that other people were curious about, especially the part about Apu. I wanted to make a documentary talking about the character’s history, the history of the name, the history of representation of the South Asian community, and how representation works in this country, because I see this as a longer lineage of minstrelsy and exploitative images. So I pitched it to TruTV and they loved it. I still love The Simpsons, it’s one of my top five TV shows and I feel like it has an incredible influence on me, and this critique isn’t me hating it, because you can criticize something you love. If something you love hurts you or upsets you, you want to say something, and I think this is the first time I think anyone has publicly criticized The Simpsons like this.