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Hari Kondabolu, Soho Theatre review - from politics to papayas | reviews, news & interviews

Hari Kondabolu, Soho Theatre review - from politics to papayas

Hari Kondabolu, Soho Theatre review - from politics to papayas

US comic with an original take on all manner of things

Hari Kondabolu addresses the big subjects such as racism and colonialism, but also Nativity scenes and identifying fruit

As openings go, the first night of Hari Kondabolu's standup residency at Soho Theatre was pretty memorable, so get to American Hour in good time as he is trying to pull off the same trick when he can (no spoilers, but it involves quite a bit of planning for each performance, so he may not). It's a clever spoof on the “all Asians look the same to me” trope so beloved of white racists.

Racism is something Kondabolu, a chatty and assured American whose parents emigrated from south India to the United States, knows about, and he starts with a riff on how people (mis)pronounce his name is so telling. He is best known in the UK for his Netflix special Warn Your Relatives and his documentary The Problem With Apu, his response to the recent controversy over the fact that a white actor voices the Indian character Apu in The Simpsons, a show that Kondabolu loves and has watched since its inception.

He briefly references the Apu storm, but in a conversational hour that covers a lot of political territory, he breezes through big subjects such as sexism and colonialism, but then talks with some passion about the relative values of mango and papaya (and confusing one for the other at the supermarket). Kondabolu also has some original takes on what may appear to be unpromising subjects for comedy. He upends vegans’ assumption about his eating habits as a Hindu, while his take as a non-Christian on Nativity scenes – “A creepy diorama of a family in happier times” – makes one think anew on the subject.

There's the occasional trite US-comic-in-UK-notices-differences observational gag but he appears askance that even if London is in the midst of a spate of knife crime, at least we only murder people one at a time… Kondabolu has worked at making much of the show relevant to British audiences, and mentions Brexit. But as he points out, coming from the country that elected Donald Trump as President, he holds no bragging rights.

The show's lack of a theme as such – although a thread, an examination of racism, runs through the tight hour – means that segues between elements are sometimes clunky, but Kondabolu disarmingly points that out himself. Not all the jokes land but this is an entertaining hour.

Kondabolu has worked at making much of the show relevant to British audiences


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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