For years, I've been a fan of Hari Kondabolu's acerbic, intellectually-charged, and occasionally whimsical stand-up. Here's what the comedian told in me in the lead-up to the recording of his second album with Portland's label Kill Rock Stars, slated for this Friday and Saturday at Mississippi Studios. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
MERCURY: Besides longstanding relationships with Portland audiences and your record label, Kill Rock Stars, why record the album in Portland?
HARI KONDABOLU: It's funny, actually. It's kind of the other side of the liberal city possibility. I recorded my first record in Oakland. It's pretty different. It was a very diverse audience. It was a loud, political audience. It was not one that was particularly timid.
In Portland the audiences I bring are the most diverse, perhaps, that a comic performing in Portland could bring. But still—it's Portland.
I think people will be raucous, but it's kind of evolved to: How hard can I push? How much race can I talk about? Or how much aggressive privilege can I talk about until they break? Will they break?
You do enjoy pushing.
I hate when people say I'm "not offensive," and that I'm "politically correct." I hate both those fucking descriptions because they're inaccurate. For a person who's "politically correct," I sure get a lot of groans.
And being called "non-offensive" by people who like me really upsets me. It's kind of an arrogance that they don't even see. I do offend people. I don't offend you. There are people who walk out of my shows. There are people that threaten me. There are people that yell. There are people who want their money back. They're offended. That's what offense is.
I think people don't understand: "Offensive" and "oppressive" are different things. I try not to be oppressive. It's hard, but I try. Being offensive, what the fuck? Of course I'm offensive.
Comedians like Amy Schumer are working to support Hillary Clinton. Are you ever like, "Hey Bernie! Let's make some videos!"
Comics and organizers have asked me to do more stuff but I really don't want to do that. I know that people call me a political comic. I get it. But I don't see myself as that.
I don't want to support candidates. I want to support movements. And those are different things. A political election is not a movement to me. Everything that's happening around it is the movement.
In a presidential election I'm going to state who I like, and state my point of view. But the idea of being part of a campaign, I don't want to do that. Especially when I have every intention of being critical of whoever is in power. I don't want to treat them like a demigod, then say, "What happened?!"
Any thoughts on the militia men in Oregon?
Oh, man. Part of me is like: just let 'em have the fuckin' refuge. Let it be their country. Let them have that little thing. And then they can't come back to America and would have their citizenship revoked. It would be landlocked within the US, with nothing really for them to eat or trade or survive with. And let it be that. Let them be arrested if they step foot on American land. If they want it, there—it's yours! It's all yours. What are you going to do with it?
If you have any bits on affordable housing, Portland could use them.
It's something that's always on my mind. I've been thinking about this thing for a while—and it's not ready—but it's a funny concept: just what it's going to look like when poor people live underwater.