Politically minded comedy can be a tough needle to thread, with some of the best stand-ups finding that perfect middle ground between proselytizing and plain ol’ joking. Even better are the comics who offer up their material with an acid tongue and a fire in their belly. All of the above applies to the first album by New York-based stand-up Hari Kondabolu. The former correspondent and writer for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell leaves no political affiliation, gender, race or sexual orientation behind in his exploration of our fucked up and wonderful modern age.
What’s best about Waiting for 2042 is Kondabolu’s continuing meta-commentary on his own jokes. Take, for example, his long riff on being the old guy at a Weezer show that starts off strong and ends up dragging a bit in its final minutes. Cue Hari: “The end of that joke was very disappointing…The beginning of the joke had a couple of good punchlines and then it plateaued for a really long time. You might be wondering, ‘Hari Kondabolu, why would you write a joke like that?’ I’ll tell you why: I wanted to write a joke that echoed the trajectory of Weezer’s career.”
Another pleasant surprise is how the momentum of this nearly hour-long set doesn’t flag for a moment. Just when you think it starts to lose steam, Kondabolu sideswipes you with another cutting punchline or pointed rumination on racism. It helps that his audience sounds, at times, rabid for his humor. The Oakland audience is so riled up that if, mid-set, they decided to storm the streets of San Francisco after hearing Kondabolu’s plan to harvest internal organs from the rich to give to the poor or his digs at the “math equation” that whites tend to give when talking about their heritage (“I’m 1/3 German, and a 1/4 Irish…and 1/40th Native American for college applications…”), it wouldn’t come as a surprise. And don’t be shocked if you find yourself ready to join them in their protest.