Hari Kondabolu Enters New Dad Comedy Canon with Vacation Baby

Comedy Reviews Hari Kondabolu
Hari Kondabolu Enters New Dad Comedy Canon with Vacation Baby

New parent comedy could be its own subgenre—one that can certainly be enjoyed regardless of whether or not you actually have a child—and Hari Kondabolu (known for The Problem with Apu) recently added to that hallowed canon with Vacation Baby

The last few years have seen some of Kondabolu’s peers contribute formidable entries to the new parent comedy category. For Mike Birbiglia there was The New One, in which he delved into his own trepidation about becoming a parent; Kurt Braunohler joked about trying to be a good dad in Perfectly Stupid despite not having a great role model himself; and Jena Friedman found many a barbed laugh in Ladykiller, grappling with the strange position of expecting a kid amid Roe v. Wade being overturned. And though the subject matter is the same, the perspective obviously varies from person to person; having a new kid allows these comics to explore self-growth, or our desire to outrun our parents’ missteps, or the feeling (and reality) of impending political doom.

Kondabolu’s comedic approach to becoming a dad falls closest to Friedman’s, as he tries to capture what it’s like to have a kid in a COVID-ridden world, when hope is often hard to find, even post-lockdown. (And, like Friedman, his special was filmed shortly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.) The comedian doesn’t endorse despair or unbridled optimism during his set, but finds humor in every situation, no matter how bleak. His main through line, that of attempting to find the perfect metaphor for having a kid during a pandemic, is just focused enough to keep Vacation Baby on track, while also giving him enough leeway to get plenty weird and go off on tangents.

And Kondabolu definitely loves a tangent. Some of the best parts of the special entail him ranting about one topic or another—Oreo “creme,” World War II supremacy, the existential crisis of being born, you name it—and building to a fevered crescendo. He even jokes at one point, “When did this turn into a TED Talk?” And sure, you learn something when Kondabolu’s on stage, but he has none of the pedantic banality of a TED Talker (is that the proper term?). Your attention doesn’t waver during Vacation Baby thanks to Kondabolu’s pacing; he understands the need for peaks and valleys during a set, and boy does he deliver.

Vacation Baby also benefits from Kondabolu’s superb use of language. From his hilarious redefinition of the word kraken to his breakdown of Curious George, Kondabolu knows how to maximize a moment by choosing his words precisely. Add to that his tendency to take situations past their logical conclusions into the illogical and hilarious, and you’ve got a writer who’s at the top of his game. Despite the clear craft behind it all, the New Yorker is incredibly natural on stage—even when he’s frantically asking whether or not we plan to replace him. 

After Vacation Baby, there’s no doubt that he’s earned his (self-appointed) title as the most famous Hari Kondabolu in the world.

Vacation Baby is streaming for free on YouTube.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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