Starting Friday, April 27 Hari Kondabolu kicks off a string of Seattle-area performances that culminates on May 8 when Netflix releases his new standup special Warn Your Relatives, which he filmed at the Neptune Theater in December. He told the Seattle Times that he shot it here because “the city—and especially his old neighborhood, the Central District—helped shape him." Before he took to comedy full time, Kondabolu spent two years here (2005–07) doing standup at night while working as an immigrant rights organizer by day.
The comic has been making national waves all month, though. Last year Kondabolu released The Problem with Apu, a documentary arguing that the character of Apu on The Simpsons is a harmful Indian stereotype—and a case of persistent minstrelsy since he’s voiced by Hank Azaria, a white guy from Queens. The Problem with Apu got enough traction that The Simpsons responded earlier this month with a sort of shrug: “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge said, breaking the fourth wall. “If at all,” Lisa added. But Tuesday night Azaria appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and discussed the controversy, saying he didn’t agree with The Simpsons' response and that he’d be willing to step back from voicing the character.
That admission feels like a win for Kondabolu ("Thank you, @HankAzaria. I appreciate what you said & how you said it," he wrote on Twitter Tuesday night)—who has been slicing through stereotypes of race, class, and gender at least since his Seattle days. On his 2016 comedy album Mainstream American Comic he laid into white people who wear Native American–themed Halloween costumes: “It’s not even one tribe, it’s like a Mr. Potato Head of indigenous cultures…. If you’re going to do an impression of Native Americans, at least do it right. By being unjustifiably killed at the end.”
Since leaving Seattle, Kondabolu has appeared on Conan and Letterman, been a correspondent and writer for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, started a podcast with his brother called The Kondabolu Brothers, and released a couple comedy albums on record label Kill Rock Stars (based in Portland and Olympia).
Even if we can't really claim him as our own, the run of shows should have some local hero vibes and general goodwill. “Seattle is a place I’ve lived only a couple of years," he told the Times in 2014, "but I feel like I’ve been adopted by this city.” Here's the list of stops:
Friday, April 27 Kirkland Performance Center 8pm, $29
Sunday, April 29 The Wild Buffalo (Bellingham) 8pm, $20
Monday, April 30 Theater Off Jackson 8pm, $15 advance tickets, $20 at door (Kondabolu Brothers podcast taping)
Tuesday, May 1 Theater Off Jackson 8pm, $15 advance tickets, $20 at door (Kondabolu Brothers podcast taping)