WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Many of us have heard stories about people getting into stand-up comedy against their family’s wishes.
Often against daunting odds, the young comedian goes after a career in show business without a Plan B, which causes the family to worry.
A lack of familial support is an all too common theme for many who want to entertain others but the opposite is true for Hari Kondabolu, a stand-up comedian who returns to the Dead Crow Comedy Room in Wilmington for two shows each Friday and Saturday nights.
His parents’ love and support weren’t the only reasons they remained in his corner though.
“By the time I pursued comedy full time, I’d already had two TV credits, a manager and a master’s degree,” Kondabolu said in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview. “It wasn’t like I quit school to do it.”
Along with getting discovered at the HBO Comedy Festival in 2006, the Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Live at Gotham credits helped push Kondabolu full time into comedy, and some real challenges arose after he made the move to New York City from Seattle.
That’s also when his parents’ support, and some tough love, probably meant the most to him.
“During that time, it would have been easy when I wanted to give up a few times for my parents to be like, ‘OK, you gave it a shot,’” Kondabolu said. “My parents wouldn’t let me. My mom in particular said, ‘You don’t quit things. You should see this through, and when you’re ready to stop, you’ll stop. Why are you giving up? That’s not you.’ I’m pretty lucky in that regard.”
And comedy fans are lucky Kondabolu has continued bringing his whip-smart sense of humor to stages ever since.
In 2014, Kondabolu released his debut album Waiting for 2042. The album’s title refers to the year when white people are expected to be the statistical minority in the US, so it’s probably no surprise that race and politics are key components in many of Kondabolu’s jokes.
Another feature length album, Mainstream American Comic, followed in 2016, The Problem with Apu, a documentary about the East Indian convenience store owner on The Simpsons was released in 2017, and Kondabolu’s Netflix special Warn Your Relatives debuted in 2018.
Kondabolu, who first performed at Dead Crow in 2017, said he has been getting more personal in his writing and on stage, telling jokes about himself and his family.
“Those are the things, I think, that were a challenge,” Kondabolu said. “By pushing myself there, my whole act got stronger but it required failure. It required a little bit of pain.”
Part of that pain is trying new material with no guarantee audiences will like it, especially early in the process.
When asked if he agreed with a tip shared on Twitter by comedian Gary Gulman about bombing being beneficial, Kondabolu quickly co-signed.
“I think that’s great advice, and I think that’s the hardest thing for a young comic to accept is failure,” Kondabolu said. “You see comics, and they do well all the time, but it’s like, you’ve been doing the same bits for years, and you’re not willing to say, ‘That bit’s good. Let me move on to the next.'
“I think Gary is absolutely right. You have to be willing to take risks and fail because otherwise, you’re gonna go through the same areas over and over again.”
Another NYC comedian, Liz Miele, will be Kondabolu’s opening act this weekend. Miele has featured for Kondabolu on many of his tour stops.