If you had told me 11 years ago that the quiet guy in the condo Shane Mauss let me crash in during the final HBO US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen would turn out to be comedy giant-killer, I may never have believed you.
But I’ve enjoyed watching Hari Kondabolu’s comedy and career blossom in the years since we first met in the middle of a blizzard. He really began to come into his own when W. Kamau Bell hired him as a writer/correspondent on the FX/FXX talker Totally Biased. And Kondabolu has taken center stage both directly and indirectly in our new era of patriotic protest. You’ve likely seen his jokes quoted verbatim on protest signs. And you’ve certainly heard a lot more about Apu on The Simpsons ever since Hari’s documentary premiered on truTV.
Now comes Hari’s big splash on Netflix. Despite its title, Warn Your Relatives is a great piece of socio-political humor. Which is not the easiest thing to pull off in any climate, let alone America circa 2018. But as I wrote in my review for Decider:
Kondabolu isn’t one of those comedians attempting to hide educational material within his punchlines, as if he were a parent tricking his/her kids into eating their vegetables.
No, he’s much more skilled as a comedian than that, capable of making his points with joke after joke after joke. Sometimes it may come by a simple comparison of the psychobabble applied to mass shooters versus suicide bombers. Other times, he’s weaving a fantastically surreal horror story to solve the American health-care crisis. Or noting that one of President Trump’s most infamous quotes sounds more like a line from a video game. Or repeating one bit four times to try out alternate punchlines. Or acting out the idea of a “devil’s advocate” to illustrate just how unnecessary it is for anyone to be one.