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HARI: Conan was my dream show. Like, Letterman wasnt even in the realm of possibility.

I just
didnt see that happening, so it wasnt like it was a dream come true. It wasnt even a dream. Im
still shocked by it. Conan was a dream come true. As a kid, that was the show, that and SNL
were the shows that me and my friends would talk about, so to be on Conan was a big deal. Im
proud of that set, but like, I was sick and nasally and it wasnt my best performance. I love those
jokes but I didnt do them justice.
Im proud of this second set. I felt like I was healthy and I was strong. I felt like after doing
Letterman, too, I felt like more confident. I just did what I wanted to do. So yeah Im proud of that
set because its just like, this is what I do, this is the range of stuff I do and this is how I do it.
NIA: Yeah. Youve also been on @midnight a couple times.
HARI: (laughing) Yeah!
NIA: Which is one of my favorite shows. And Chris Hardwicks finally started pronouncing your
name right! (laughing)
HARI: Right, right. No, its funny. It usually takes them - the only person who ever got it right the
first time was John Oliver. Maybe its because hes British and maybe its something about his
accent that fits or makes it work, or he just intuitively gets it, but its like, I remember the first
time I did John Olivers [New York] Stand-Up Show. It was, that was part of the shock was doing
a show with an audience that big and excited, was He got my name right! He doesnt have to
re-take that!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: So yeah, @midnights really fun. I love it also because I just get to be a comedian. I dont
know how to explain it. I just get to write jokes. Of course I love my standup and I love what I do
and I put so much thought into everything I put out and the wordings so deliberate and with
@midnight, I just get to write jokes. I just get to write jokes. And I think people forget that Im aNIA: When you say write jokes do you mean you prepare them beforehand?
HARI: Yeah.
NIA: Okay.
HARI: Oh yeah. Yeah, the shows not completely improvised.
NIA: It does appear that way. (laughing)
HARI: Yes, yeah. But I think people know theres editing because all of a sudden I have 300
points, all of a sudden I have 800 points, all of a sudden I have 200 points!

NIA: Oh no, its clear that theres editing. Its not necessarily clear that the jokes are preprepared.
HARI: Yeah. I mean, some of them arent, because some of them you just find a moment and
you go with it, but yeah its a lot of, its intense writing right before. So really its as close to
improvising as you can [get], because you still have to produce a quality show.
NIA: How much time do you have to prepare for that?
HARI: Like an hour, less. And you basically, you get the topics and you write, you write, you
write. Lindy West, I know, gave me a couple of lines before I went up there. Her fianc whos my
writing partner, Ahamefule Oluo, gave me a few things. My brother threw in a couple of things. I
wrote a bunch - so its basically like you set up a mini writing team and you just try to come up
with something and at the end of the day maybe you use one of theirs and most of it ends up
being yours because at the end of the day you know your voice better, but it was cool. There
was one that was Lindys. It was Soup, or Mario Brothers? And thats, Elderly Video Games
was the name of the thing. And that was Lindys line. Its really fun. So its like partly improvised,
partly written, partly youre in the moment, and youre trying to get as much done as possible.
You get to be a comedian playing a game and I feel like, youll see, when I do my shows, I love
my audiences and I think that there are certain expectations that come with that, which I
understand and embrace, you know, and it lets me be a truer version of myself, but this is fun as
a comedian who likes to just write jokes. I think people forget Im a comedian. They apply other
labels on me, and Im like, Im a comedian and a joke-writer. Thats, some people will say
things like, you know, Youre more than a comedian to me. And I appreciate that, but
NIA: Thats kind of insulting.
HARI: It is insulting! It takes away the value of comedy and the history of comedy, like, Richard
Pryor came from, this is his tradition. This is Carlins tradition. Theres a lot of people who are a
part of this tradition. There are people who have changed American history, and our big cultural
contributors and have spoken for people of color and the oppressed, and, first of all, they speak
for themselves, but reflect voices that dont get heard and thats through comedy, thats through
stand-up. I hate that, when people minimize what we do. I also hate the labels of like, activist
comedian or social justice comedian because its like, and Ive said this before, Im a comedian
and the second we start putting those labels on me, youve taken me out of the mainstream in
some way.
Well you could say, Well thats good. The mainstreams awful. And Im like, You think social
justice shouldnt be in the mainstream? You believe that your concepts and your ideas are for
you and your friends to talk about in Oakland?
NIA: (laughing)

HARI: What are you talking about? Thats not what this is about. This is about trying to reach as
many people as possible because these concepts are mainstream concepts. Like, when you
say the word activist, Im sure theres a large percentage of the American mainstream that
shuts off immediately, like, Ugh, feminists. Ugh.
Not to say that theres anything wrong with those words and they dont have incredible histories
that come with them, but if you say the same thing with other language, youre reaching people
Yeah, yeah this activist stuff is disgusting, right? But how about like, fair wages and your kids
having equal opportunities and justice?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Justice, what do you mean by justice?
Oh I just mean you dont get like thrown into prison unfairly and theres due process.
Yeah, I believe in all those things, this is America, yeah.
But if you throw in activist, youre done. Its ridiculous, and its unfair but a lot of this is
branding, right? This is how America works in particular. Its how words get branded. And I feel
like language and being able to communicate is so much more important than those labels.
Thats really what this is about. Were restricted by a few words. Were restricted by Twitter and
140 characters. Were restricted by these limitations that arent necessary all the time and so I
feel like these labels do us a disservice, and certainly they dont do me any favors, though I also
understand its a way of people that love my work to say I love your work and for me to
understand, theyre like, Oh, youre one of - youre me. Youre one of me. Were the same -
NIA: Were on the same team.
HARI: On the same team! Right. Were teammates. At the same time I feel like part of me
hates that because Im a comedian. Im not ashamed of being a comedian. Theres many
different - whenever people say, Agh, comedys oppressive. Im like, Please dont. You find
certain peoples voices oppressive. You find certain ideas oppressive. Comedys a reflection of
society, and thats also a reflection of societys oppression, like what we do. Comedy isnt the
Its like saying, I hate rap. Rap is sexist and misogynist and racist No. Rap has been coopted by corporate interests and racism, just like everything else is. Dont go after the art form.
Go after how its being used. Same with any art. It frustrates me to hear people say that about
comedy because comedy has also been part of my liberation and is part of my freedom. I dont
understand when people dismiss it. I understand why people dismiss it, but I dont think its fair,
and I think that we all have the ability to use any art form to
NIA: For good?
HARI: Yeah, for good, with anything. People keep saying, Well you cant use the masters tools
to destroy the masters house and Im like, Were speaking in English!

NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Youre telling me this in English! Youre telling me not to use the masters tools, using the
masters language!
NIA: (laughing) Yeah. You touched on so many things I want to talk about.
HARI: I lecture in this bizarre way. Its being overeducated.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Its stupid.
NIA: Well, we can talk about that. (laughing)
HARI: When I mean overeducated I also I qualify everything. But I mean going through formal
education and they teach us to speak in essays with, This is my thesis statement and these are
my points to prove it. Im not saying theres necessarily something wrong with that, but this is
how Im trained.
NIA: Mhm. Well Im really interested in the tension between how do I put this you say that
comedy is not a more oppressive form of media or art form than any other kind of mediums, but
I think there is sort of a thing in comedy, where youre free to say things that otherwise you
wouldnt be able to say, and because youre trying to get a laugh, I think people are more I
wouldnt say people are more forgiving, because getting laughs is hard (laughing) but I guess I
just feel like theres sort of this Say anything or Anything goes [environment]?
HARI: I think its more dangerous, which is part of the excitement of it.
NIA: Whats more dangerous?
HARI: I think comedy is dangerous in that you can say anything, and everyone feels it. The
audience feels it, the performer feels it, like youre playing with the edges of what you can and
cannot say. Its like when people say Im not offensive, and I get agitated. Im like, Im not
offensive to you.
NIA: (laughing) Do you take that as an insult?
HARI: I take that as somebody whos lost a sense of context. Im not offensive to you. You know
what the world is, and theres a lot of people who walk out of my shows because theyre angry,
because theyre offended. They can call me politically correct as much as they want to, but
theyre offended by what Im saying and thats why theyre walking out.
NIA: Mhm.

HARI: They dont like what Im saying, because - who knows why? Because theyre white,
because they NIA: Youre challenging their norms.
HARI: Because Im challenging their norms, yeah, and their worldview, and or maybe because
other people are laughing and they dont like that because they dont like to be on the side thats
laughing at, maybe its any of those things? But yeah theres something about comedy thats
dangerous, and thats part of it, but when I hear someone say something thats horrific - heres
the weird thing about it, I think people forget Im a comedian. Thats my ilk. Even the people you
hate, Im one of them. Its hard to admit that, and I admit that - its not hard to admit that, I am
that but its hard for people to hear that. I am that, Im from that, too. Like, these are my peers.
These are people I know. These are people I hang out with, and I might not necessarily like
what they say on stage all the time, but Im one of them. We do a very weird, specific thing that
other people dont do or necessarily understand. I dont always understand why I need to do
this. I question it all the time, like, Why am I I have a wonderful family and friends who love
me and a partner who cares for me, like what is this? Why do I need to do this? Why dont I just
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Nothing against teachers, but I can do other things that are probably more worthwhile
and maybe more powerful, like I do this, and I love it and I need it and
NIA: Have you come up with an answer to that question?
HARI: I need it, I love it, I need it. Theres something I get out of the experience that when that
first laugh happens or even when Im in a hole and I have to get myself out because I put myself
in a hole, how do I get out of this mess and I get out of the mess or I dont get out of the mess,
but the next time I get out of the mess, theres such excitement in it. Nothing makes me, nothing
makes me feel so happy when its working, when its clicking, when its on, like when a new joke
works. Oh my god, that cats are white people joke that I did last night, which I didnt want to
spoil but thats a
NIA: You already put it on Twitter.
HARI: I put a line on Twitter but then I turned into something else.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: The new material nights that I always do in Seattle, they always make that happen. I just
come up with these magical things. Im so excited about this piece. Im just so excited. I dont

mean its magical like everyone thinks its magical. I feel magic when I say some of these things.
Im like, How did I think of this?
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Because its something about the momentum of the audience and me feeling comfortable
and just getting it out and them trusting me, me trusting them. But yeah Im one of, Im a
comedian, and Im in that group, so I think people think
NIA: They think youre not one of them, youre one of us.
HARI: And Im both.
NIA: Mhm.
HARI: Im both. I come from a social justice background, and I read many of the same things
many of the folks I like read, and I care about many of the same things, and I have the same
points of view, and Im questioning myself constantly, but Im also a performer. My goal isnt to
make you think, my goal is to make you laugh. If I wanted to make you think, Id make you do
something else. Id do something that more people actually listen to and Id do it to make people
laugh. No disrespect to poetry, I think its beautiful and powerful, but I also know theres a
reason why comedy can move messages faster. Its not to say that comedy does it better, or
does it more clearly.
NIA: Its more accessible.
HARI: Yeah. It simplifies a lot more than poetry does, I think. It simplifies issues and messages,
because theres an expectation of laughter, and so youre restricted by the form. But I believe in
the form and I love the form, and the form is something I did before I called it a form, and
something that was very natural to me in that I did with my friends and family as a way of coping
and surviving, and it wasnt something that was formalized as a form, stand-up comedy, but its
how I talk. I communicate through humor. I cant help it. Its just who I am. So I think its Im a
comedian. So when people say, No, I hate comedians, Im part of that. Im part of that, and its
a very complicated heritage. I think the form is complicated and it is dangerous and not
everything you hear will gel with you.
Ive certainly said things Im not proud of, and I have certainly said things I regret and have had
to rewrite and rethink. And Ive certainly been called out, and sometimes I disagree with being
called out. And I still dont agree with some of the things people have said I should do or should
not do. Theres other things I think about and Im like, I hate how you said it but I will think about
it. You know, Im human, and I have the right to disagree, and I have the right to make
decisions that - Im not going to say Im questioning my right, Im not going to argue that - but
Im going to do things that maybe people on our side are not going to like, or find issues with.

And you know what? Thats my journey, and I have to figure that out for myself, but at the same
time Im appreciative of the people that have shared things with me that forced me to think
about my points of view. And ultimately as a person, it makes me a fuller person, and as a
writer, it makes me a better writer, because Im taking in a point of its certainly, as a
comedian, its like this is more interesting and exciting because Im expressing a point of view
thats not normally there. In addition to the righteous of the point of view, and my belief in the
point of view, its more interesting creatively because its not as straightforward. Racism is easy.
Sexism is easy. Like, creatively? Its just right. Its easy.
NIA: Because the jokes have already been written?
HARI: Its been done! I can hear it in a bar anywhere. If your racist uncle can say it, why am I
saying it?
NIA: (laughing) Okay. Again, so many things I want to respond to.
HARI: (laughing) Im sorry.
NIA: No, no. Its all good. One of the things I think is really interesting and youve, youre going
hard for comedy, and I appreciate that, as an undervalued art form. The one thing I okay, I feel
like this is really going to upset you.
HARI: Say what you have to say.
NIA: I feel like in a particular way, comedians are a little bit like cops.
HARI: Like cops?
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: Oh god. I want to hear this.
NIA: (laughing) In that, when one of them fucks up, all the other people in the brotherhood kind
of seem to have their back. Would you disagree with that?
HARI: I mean, I, I, I kind of agree with that. Not compl- I see what you mean, and I think thats
an interesting point, like the idea. The difference is that cops have power.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Cops have institutional power.
NIA: Cops have the state violence behind them.

HARI: State violence, but comedians, you can also you cant also boycott cops. Cops will find
Im not saying who to boycott, but Im saying you can choose not to. I think comedians get
very upset when therere slam pieces about slam pieces is such a shitty way of saying this
when therere pieces about them, or tweets about them, criticizing their work. To me thats a sign
that people are listening, and actually value your words and your language.
NIA: Mhm.
HARI: That means that you actually count. Because whenever comedians say, Its just a joke,
its like saying, Look, I dont matter. Dont you understand that my words dont matter? Really?
Then why are you up there saying them? And so Id certainly, Ive had been criticized publicly
and I dont like it, but thats part of well, you put yourself out there, what do you expect? Thats
part of it. So I wouldnt say, whenever a comedian says something fucked up and awful, like do
you see me backing Bill Cosby? Its not what he said. I mean hes said tons of things I dont
agree with, but like its not like, you know what I mean, theres a lot of comedians I dont like, I
dont agree with that point of view.
I can hear a joke and it could be fucked up and awful and oppressive, and as a comedian I can
say, Huh, that was written well. That was a really well-structured joke about something
horrendous, put in your horrendous, whatever that is and still hate the joke. Thats the
complicated thing. I could be a filmmaker and watch The Birth of the Nation and think Thats
some great editing. and hate it. Life is complicated. You cant just be like, Its bullshit, its an
awful film. Im like, Yo. You can use those editing techniques to make something anti-racist.
You can learn, you know what I mean? Like the masters tools, this thing, I understand, but in
some ways were stuck with it to some degree, with the masters tools. Whether its English,
whether its whatever. Were restricted by what were doing. Like, were using an iPhone to
capture police brutality. Its an iPhone. Do you know what Im saying? Its still an iPhone.
NIA: The masters tools.
HARI: Yeah. Like theres going to be restrictions, you know? Thats, were stuck to some degree.
Unless we get to Mars first.
NIA: We being people of color?
HARI: Yeah, build those rocket ships first and get up there first and figure it out, but come up
with a defense system. Theres really we have to do what we can do. So Im not going to
defend all comedians. Im not going to defend the brotherhood.
NIA: Brotherhood make it sound like were talking about Aryans.
HARI: I feel like, I think people critique in these ways and its like Im not going to defend it, but
Im going to defend the form, and the art form, and of course Im not going to say I defend
freedom of speech, which is stupid, because no ones attacking freedom of speech with

freedom of speech. Ive never had comedians say that like, My first amendment, freedom of -
Like, no. The PC police? Theres no such thing! Where are the arrests? Ive never seen the PC
arrests and the PC jails! What are you talking about?
And people talk as if theres a fear of like, your rights being taken away, just like anything else.
People say, Well then people will stop, boycott my shows! Well thats how it works! Thats how
capitalism works! What do you think? If people dont like what you do, they stop showing up.
Thats always been the case! Thats why some comedians make it up there because they get all
sorts of support from major corporations, and then some people dont. This is unfair!
Capitalisms unfair! And sometimes capitalisms used against you too!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: What are you shocked by? So no, Im not going to say I support all comedians. Its like
saying Im going to support all x. Im never going to do that. And even if theres a comedian - I
know a ton of comedians whore like, just because they say something thats fucked up doesnt
mean that I dont like other things they say. You know, thats the complicated nature of any kind
of discourse, any kind of discussion. I like that point of view. I think that point of views brilliant.
Ive never seen something like that be said about race and thats absolutely incredible, but this
other point of views incredibly homophobic! Do we dismiss this person as a whole? I dont think
we dismiss this person as a whole. We take what we can thats beneficial and we do what we
can with them. Ive made a lot of mistakes along the way to get where I am and I dont think Im
a perfect human. I love what I do, but I love a lot of other performers and people might find them
- and I hate the use of the word problematic, its an empty word its just away of saying I find
some of this shit fucked up.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: I mean I do think somebody said something on Facebook which I appreciate the
difference though between fucked up and problematic is problematic does pose it as a
problem that can be solved with solutions, which I do appreciate, but I do think its still
somewhat vague. You say you dont like it, that something bothers you but it doesnt say what
the problem is. But I think its important for the points of views to be out there, and even if its
fucked up, that fucked upped-ness is a reflection of society. Its a reflection of maybe certain
mainstream beliefs, and its an opportunity now more than ever, because of the internet, to
discuss it, to discuss it in a way thats never been discussed before.
And I also think comedians get a lot more, get it a lot harder than other art forms because its
accessible, because its straightforward, because its a human talking. But you know what?
There are things that I think are even worse because of the production values of film and
television. And because its a little more rapid-fire with images and what people show. I think
that actually is and I think its actually easier to go after comedians. Its a person talking,
theres a single accountable person in a certain way, versus faceless corporations. You know,
its not the actors fault. Its just an actor! All you can say [is], Oh the actor took that role! Thats

all you can say, Whyd you take that role? but ultimately theres a lot of money behind it,
theres a lot of writers behind it, theres a lot of other influence behind it. A comedian, you know
exactly who to target and discuss. And I feel like, I understand it, but I also think its, there are
people who have a lot more influence, a lot more major motion pictures are going to have
much more impact than Louis CK, just because of the numbers of people seeing it and the fact
that its going global.
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: Its not to defend all comedians. Its just to be like, Lets be real about what were doing
and why we choose to talk about comedians and not to say we shouldnt, Im just saying theres
a reason for some of this and I do think that its changing. And I do see more comedians of color
and comedians who have backgrounds in anti-oppression work sharing their voices. And I do
think that, Id like to think, that Totally Biased has some role in that and the fact that before we
existed, Id known nothing like us.
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: Yeah. Thats a lot, thats a lot, Im sorry.
NIA: I think the bigger, the cop thing, I wasnt trying to say you support all comedians or defend
all comedians when they say really fucked up things. I think what I was trying to get at was that
sort of, like
HARI: You being not me, but you being the, as a comedian. Or me?
NIA: I dont remember what I just said. (laughing)
HARI: Okay, yeah.
NIA: You personally were saying that you dont defend, for example, Bill Cosby.
HARI: Or, Im not going to defend, Im not going to defend its just weird. You hear each
statement as it is and you respond to the statement. Or with Cosby, its not a statement, its
something bigger than that, obviously. An accusation of being a serial rapist is not a statement,
thats like, Oh my god. and it reflects not only on him, but on our society thats allowed for this
for so long. And these voices are not new voices that have accused him. This is decades of stuff
that we just ignored until now? Which is, yeah. But Im not going to Cosbys not the greatest
example because its not like responding to a joke or an idea. Its a responding to something
much, much bigger. But I feel like I have the, I dont need to respond necessarily to every joke a
comedian makes and say how much I hate it. Thats not my role.
NIA: No.

HARI: My role is to go on stage and speak my truth and let my truth be the response.
NIA: Right, and I wasnt trying to suggest that was your role.
HARI: Oh no, for sure. Yeah, yeah.
NIA: I think stand-up is a really hard job. I think its really undervalued art form. I think its like
one of the only art forms where you get heckled. (laughing)
HARI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
NIA: You never see people at a museum saying, This is shit! and throwing eggs on it.
HARI: Well if someone walks out and protests at a play or something, thats a news story. That
potentially could be bigger. When it happens in comedy, Im like Eh.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: I mean thats what you get for being earnest!
NIA: (laughing) Thats so cynical! But I think there is this thing of like, because what you do is
really hard, that there is a tendency to be like, I might not agree with this dudes point of view,
but I respect him as a joke-teller, I respect him as an artist. Or just like, I respect that he can
get up there and tell jokes in front of a group of drunks every night for however long.
HARI: Right. He, or she, or they, right? I mean, and I will say they because I think its not just
straight white cis men anymore. The game is changing. Im proud of this Bay Area line-up. I
mean you saw the show last night.
NIA: Mhm.
HARI: This trans woman, I believe Elicia identifies herself as queer, bi. Im like a straight cis
dude, but Im South Asian American. So thats an incredible line-up. And you might say, Yeah,
youre playing in San Francisco. Im playing at a comedy club in San Francisco. Its a great
comedy club, and one that Ive always wanted to headline, but its still a comedy club, with the
comedy club norms, and so thats an incredible line-up. This weekend to me is like, What the
heck is going on? This is great! Things are like... Anyone who comes to the show with a certain
set of expectations of a comedy club and sees the three of us. Oh my god, Natasha Muse,
Elicia Sanchez, and me? Oh my god I love the fact that I saw an older white couple in the
audience that didnt move the whole, they just... It wasnt like the usual white people who go
NIA: (laughing) Are they the ones that the NPR jokes about?
HARI: No, no, no. It wasnt the NPR polite clapping smiles. It was the, What the hell is this?

NIA: (laughing)
HARI: I came to see straight white dudes! Wheres Jackie Mason? Uh, it was beautiful. So
yeah, I mean its certainly - the games changing. And I dont mean just comedy. I mean
everything, and quickly. Its so slow, but its quicker than it used to be, do you know what I
mean? It depends on your perspective. You could always it looks slow from a distance but
when you look, its just. I dont even know what Im saying, Im just trying to do something with
perspective and Im failing at it. But what Im saying is its a lot faster than it used to. Ten years
ago, change didnt happen as quickly. The Internet changes everything. Theres more voices
and accountability. I love it.
So yeah last night and this weekend in San Francisco, like, its different. It just feels different.
NIA: But youre from like the most diverse place
HARI: Queens, yeah.
NIA: Yeah, so with this line-up, you dont see this in New York? Is that what youre saying?
HARI: No, not like this. Because comedy is still comedy. Were talking about the industry of it,
you know? And also the number of voices of people like Marga Gomez? Thats a Bay Area
legend, lesbian, like wheres her voice in the mainstream? Shes been around forever.
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: Shes a Bay Area legend, but why isnt she a bigger deal? I was talking to Guy Branum
about this, and its like Margas a legend, but she came at a time period where she didnt get
those opportunities. But shes a legend!
NIA: Shes still here.
HARI: Shes still here, but shes not mainstream national in a way she couldve been if she was
someone else doing a different thing. Thats part of why shes amazing as well, but theres
something about like if she was in a different situation I bet you she would have been like
her today, I think, wouldve
NIA: Like if she was coming up today instead of already being a legend?
HARI: Yeah, yeah, it wouldve been different. Who knows? Hindsight is 20/20. But like I just feel
like theres so many voices that didnt get to make it that we talk about later and said like, That
was an influence, and well discover their work later. But now, you know, people are getting
chances to be on TV. People are getting chances to be on @midnight and be on late night that
werent allowed to before. And even without those mainstream gatekeepers, people are finding

a way to get their voices heard, in comedy and in other forms, through the Internet and other
things. I love seeing what Im seeing. Its great.
NIA: You sound almost hopeful.
HARI: I know, its off-brand, isnt it?
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Its off-brand for me! I am, though. Its funny. I was talking to my friend, Jay Kang. Jay
Caspian Kang? Yeah, we went to Bowdoin together. Small, rich liberal
NIA: Yeah, I have a friend that I think we have a mutual friend.
HARI: Whos your mutual?
NIA: John Knapp.
HARI: Which John Knapp? I know two John Knapps.
NIA: Its like the most common white guy name ever. (laughing)
HARI: There were two John Knapps who were the same year who knew each other, and
actually had a radio show called Knapp Squared when I was there.
NIA: Well, hes the tall white guy with brown hair. (laughing)
HARI: Oh! Big John Knapp, as I called him. He played Frisbee. Do you know if he plays
Frisbee still?
NIA: I dont know.
HARI: You see Little John Knapp always wore a tweed jacket and drank whiskey. And Big John
Knapp, might have drank whiskey, but he was tall and he played Frisbee with my best friend,
NIA: Okay.
HARI: Yeah, how do you know John Knapp?
NIA: He used to date my best friend.
HARI: Whos your best friend?

NIA: Lily Hoffman-Andrews.

HARI: Oh maybe No, I dont know, because I havent The last person John dated was
somebody I also knew at Bowdoin.
NIA: Yeah, this is when he lived in Worcester.
HARI: I know which John Knapp youre talking about. I miss John. Johns great. He used to live
down the hall from me in sophomore year. Hes great. But where were we going before this
John Knapp hey John!
NIA: (laughing) You were hanging out with Jay Kang.
HARI: Yeah! Hes an old Bowdoin friend and he had written an article about Serial.
NIA: Yeah, I just read this recently.
HARI: Yeah, he was just being critical of the fact that you have a reporter whos white, having a
white lens to discuss people of color and immigrants. Its going to be not quite right. And people
just got on him about that! And I found that such an absurd frustrating thing. Just like, one, its
hard when you criticize white people, they freak out, and if you criticize a thing white people like,
oh my god!
NIA: Especially liberal white people.
HARI: Oh my god, because then they have this, Look, Im already liberal, Ive already taken my
classes. Ive already read the stuff. You dont even have to read the stuff! Listen to me talk!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: No, but Ive read the stuff, I know what youre going to say. Its that arrogance, saying
that he said someone was racist or used the word problematic. Jay didnt say any of those
things. Youre putting words in his mouth. So me and Jay were talking, just about how well
Bowdoin prepared us for this nonsense.
NIA: For white demonry? (laughing)
HARI: For white demons, for liberal white people who dont listen to you and think they know
everything and dont respect your points of view and they claim they do. They talk about
diversity but they dont want to hear your voice. And its so arrogant and frustrating. Its like, We
know how to write articles the same way you do, because we went to the same demon school,
so why are you talking to us this way?

But were both talking about the fact that, we were both saying I think Jay would be okay with
me sharing this but just how theres a younger generation that doesnt take shit anymore. And
we took shit. And they dont take shit because of the Internet. They grew up having their voices
heard. They didnt wait. They grew up having the Internet, having power. With the Internet,
having power, they knew how that worked. And were talking about a generation thats only four,
five years younger than we are. Its not even that big of a break. And they dont take shit. And
we both said that, you know, that we were hopeful, and it was off-brand.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Its not like us at all! It really is a difference. I think folks who, South Asian folks who dont
get my bitterness maybe, and frustration, and it comes from growing up with just Apu, and it
comes from growing up with fewer voices being present.
NIA: You mean younger South Asian folks?
HARI: Younger South Asian folks who dont get it. I think theres a generation thats like, Yes! I
remember all this and Im still experiencing it. This generation I think maybe is somewhat like,
they see some brown people and they dont see the bigger issues because they have this
minimum thing they dont understand that things are still not fair, what the history of the country
is, and theyre somewhat
NIA: Sheltered?
HARI: Sheltered, but also theyre happy with something. With something, you know.
NIA: Mhm.
HARI: I think we can still do more. Im not just talking about South Asians, but in terms of voices
that reflect the broader experience of America or just media is so important, especially when
youre a young person and youre being shaped by what you see. The idea of watching a
romantic comedy, which young people do, and Im not even that old and Im saying young
people which is upsetting, but
NIA: Youre like 32?
HARI: 32. And just to, if I remember, seeing romantic comedies was everything, but I always
have to translate from the white person. Like this person is white and theyre talking about
different things and different experiences, but you know, love is something I can understand. I
want that feeling, Im brainwashed into this, but it has to be through the white lens, right? If
theres too many people of color in things, then you hear people go, Oh you need some white
people in this, otherwise white people arent going to watch it or get it. And Im like, Do you
realize how selfish and unfair that is? That we always have to translate, we always have to see
ourselves as the white person, but the white person never has to see themselves as us. They

cant do it. They are not willing to do it. That upsets them. Do you realize how We have to be
extra human. Do you know what I mean? We have to see humanity in other people that have
different experiences, for us to enjoy anything. And as a white person you dont always have to
do that. Unless you travel, then you get to see
NIA: You hardly ever have to do that.
HARI: Hardly ever! And even when youre traveling, youre still seen with this high regard. So I
see hope in that way that there are more voices and its not great, its not perfect, its not
everything, but its something and we didnt have something.
NIA: Yeah. Can we talk about Totally Biased?
HARI: Of course we can.
NIA: (laughing) What was the process on Ive always wanted to know what its like to write for
a TV show. What does the actual writing room like and the process?
HARI: I mean I dont know what every writing rooms like and Ive only written for one show, and
our show is a very unique show, and from veteran writers who were on our staff, its the most
diverse writing room theyve ever seen, ever. And things work differently on our show than on
other shows, so I dont really know.
NIA: How many writers to start with?
HARI: Uh, I think we had like ten, but I think we added a couple more when we went daily. I
mean, it varies. First season and second season varied, too. First season, wed pitch things,
Kamau would hear it, wed break up into groups and write, or wed write something and then
wed read it and people would add jokes to it. The weekly, certainly, I love the dynamics of that a
lot more because we had the scripts at the end of the week, wed see whats strongest and that
lasts. And sometimes Kamau gets inspired and that becomes, that takes precedence and so we
all wait for something from next week maybe. We used to like, I think he was best when he had
something he really loved that was almost an essay form, and when he had movement.
NIA: Okay.
HARI: A lot of people saw Kamau in kind of a stiff way when he was using the teleprompter.
When he was moving, and using the screen, whether it was Sikhs and Sheiks or the other
things we did that people loved, thats when he was at his best, because thats stand-up Kamau.
Kamau uses the stage better than any comedian Ive ever seen, doing the things that hes
doing, talking about the issues that hes doing, and still being able to use the stage that way,
hes a brilliant performer. I dont think America saw that part of him as much as they should
have. And the pieces that really hit the hardest were those pieces. Brilliant performer.

So if he got inspired, or sometimes, especially early on in the shows history, Dwayne Kennedy,
who doesnt use a computer, who just recently got a cell phone a few years ago and only texts
in all caps. (laughing)
NIA: (laughing) God, I love him so much!
HARI: Dwayne is such a case. Hes amazing. When Dwayne would be on a roll, in the writers
room, it became a show where Dwayne was starring and wed just sit back and write frantically
and sometimes he would write and act himself just by riffing, not by meaning to, it was almost
like he blacked out and was going and were like, Well, thats the show!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: We wasted a week when Dwyane just went off for 10 minutes and we wrote it. There was
moments of that, especially early on in the show. It was a magical writers room and the first
season especially felt that. It was just really special, really great dynamics, the freedom to say
whatever and not have to deal with the white gaze. Oh! Gaze spelled G-A- Oh boy. Oh no.
NIA: (laughing) Except for Guy Branum.
HARI: Imagine that. Hari said white gays run Ho No, I didnt say the white gays look, the
point of view of the
HARI: Yeah, yeah, G-A-Z-E. Oh my god.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Oh no.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Huffpo headline: Hari Kondabolu Has Issue With White Gays. No! No, you didnt, thats
not youre spelling it no! Done in by wrong word choice.
NIA: This will be transcribed for deaf access so Ill make sure that its spelled correctly.
HARI: Thank you. Thank you.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: God, that would be awful.

NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Career destroyed with the wrong word. But we had such a freedom, and we laughed so
hard in such a way that Ive never laughed. Its hard, like laughter with comics being on stage.
Really youre trying to top your personal experience laughing with friends, and thats hard
because honestly, Ive laughed harder with friends than in any other situation. Like, friends just
know you. Theres no context that needs to be given. Like, just one removed when youre at a
comedy show. Youre not one removed when youre laughing with your friends. You know what I
NIA: Mhm.
HARI: But that writers room was the hardest I laughed outside of laughing with friends. It was
pretty amazing. Just losing it because there were such brilliant performers and writers and I felt
so privileged.
NIA: Do you have any favorite things that didnt make it on?
HARI: Oh yeah. God, I cant remember them. There were things I wish had made it in that never
did, or lines. I cant remember, because you know, every day theres so much stuff.
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: The Redskins, the Washington Redskins stuff, there was a joke in there with a really
sunburned white person. That was one of my old standup jokes that Kamau used on the show. I
had this whole thing about Lets make it a campaign, lets do this whole thing. And we didnt do
it and Kamaus like, I dont think... I asked him after the show, Can I take some of the pieces
that never made it on, or pieces we never really did much with? Hes like, Yeah, do whatever
you want with whats left. And so I got to make my own Washington Redskins video.
NIA: With Brian McCann?
HARI: With Brian McCann, who was a Conan writer, but he was also a Totally Biased writer
second season, which, hes such a talent. There was just so much stuff that we didnt and
Kamau was like, you know, and I was happy to do that piece about the Washington Redskins
being rebranded as a severely sunburned white person. Like that was an old standup joke that
was then a brief Totally Biased joke, that became a campaign that I got to start, and so, theres
certainly things that I, with Kamaus blessing, Id be able to pick through old bits of mine that
made the show, or didnt make the show, that now I can redo stuff with.
NIA: When you were working with the show, were you then in the Writers Guild?
HARI: Yes. Yeah, it was a union show.

NIA: Okay. Are you still in the Writers Guild?

HARI: Yeah, I think once youre in, youre in, but you have to pay dues, and all that.
NIA: What does that get you? Im just really curious.
HARI: Health insurance.
NIA: Okay.
HARI: If you make a certain amount of money, and like you work a certain amount of quarters or
something, you get your health coverage, which is huge. Screenings to potentially awardnominated films. You vote for things. Some discounts.
NIA: (laughing) So even though youre not writing anymore, you still get health insurance
through the Guild?
HARI: Temporarily, I think until April, then I have to figure it out. But yeah, you get some
coverage, good coverage, good health insurance. Honestly, I think writers get a better deal than
actors do.
NIA: Huh.
HARI: For sure. I mean, its who owns the stuff, right? Who owns the tools, right? Its whoever
owns the stuff. Writers and producers own the stuff. Actors dont own the stuff.
NIA: I hadnt thought about it that way.
HARI: Its intellectual property.
NIA: Yeah, but how much do you get to retain the rights to the stuff you write?
HARI: You get residuals, you dont really own the rights to it. You get paid once its aired in a
way that actors do too, but not as much as writers. People who produce and write stuff get paid
better than, you know.
NIA: Im really curious about how that works, but I dont know if my audience is as nerdy about
showbiz as I am. (laughing)
HARI: I think actors have the glamour positions but really the smart move is the own the work
and to make, create the work. I mean, if youre talking about financial stability and stuff, and also
power. Its people behind the cameras who have the power, not the actors and writers. Its like,
whenever people go after an actor for taking a part, Im like, I understand what youre saying,
like Why do they do brownface? I get it, but sure. Particularly when its people of color who

make choices, but Im like, Youre going after the last line of defense. Somebody was going to
play that part, because its an institutional thing. Its about power and money. Youre going after
the smallest part of it.
NIA: So who do you think they should be going after?
HARI: Who creates it and a culture that allows for it.
NIA: That would be the writers, right?
HARI: It would be the writers or it would be the actual production, the actual people who put it
out. I mean, I dont know, its funny to -NIA: The network executives?
HARI: Sure! Its like were going after the smallest pieces of the chain. Okay, that persons out of
it, someone else is going to do it.
NIA: Yeah.
HARI: Shaming one person is not the thing. Its a bigger, cultural thing. Its creating new ways to
do things, creating, you know, you have to convince people theres other ways to do things,
other ways to make money, and also culturally do you think certain racist jokes are dont
persist because people had a conscience? No. If those things made enough money, wed still
have Amos & Andy on the air.
NIA: Oh, I see what youre saying.
HARI: Do you know what I mean? Its like all of a sudden weve shaped culture when those
kinds of things cant make money anymore, so they dont do it. This isnt about righteousness
and justice. Hollywood has made, Hollywood has done this and its shaped sure, but you also
knew that it can make money. This is about money. This is what this is about. So ultimately it
proves to be creating stuff that proves to be shaping your own You know, Awkward Black Girl,
I think its so cool that Issa Raes created her own destiny to some degree. And so Kamau did
as well. You make your own stuff and (background noise) Its the Illuminati in the background
if youre wondering.
NIA: (laughing) Were about to get whisked away.
HARI: As much as theres room for, of course we should be critical, of course we should call
things out, but make your own stuff. Im not saying that in the kind of nose-up-in-the-air, like, If
you dont like it, do your own thing. Im not saying that. Im saying that its more productive and
powerful if you make something that people love than things that people can hate with you. Do
you know what I mean? Its more powerful and its more useful. More than ever we control our

own destinies and I dont mean that in a weird libertarian way. I just mean that because of the
Internet, even with it being monitored, we have the ability to control that more than ever, and
underground art actually has a bigger following than it used to because of the Internet.
Yeah, sure, be critical but lets make some stuff. I feel like, make some stuff, let it be popular,
then we wont watch that crap, well watch our stuff. And maybe well get some money from
other places to make more stuff. And as much as people talk about Totally Biased masters
tools. Like we were on FX, owned by Rupert Murdoch.
NIA: Yeah. What do you mean as much as people talk about Totally Biased?
HARI: People love Totally Biased, and how much it means to them, and stuff, and its owned by,
its owned by like
NIA: Fox. Yeah.
HARI: Yeah. Its still TV.
NIA: Yeah. (laughing)
HARI: I mean it is what it is. I mean, Ive worked whenever you people are proud of
whenever Im on TV, Im also on TV and ultimately its owned by, what, four companies?
NIA: But you made it. Not like youre
HARI: Im doing what I do in those places. Im saying what I want to say and somehow some of
these ideas are going to more people through these places but its still through these places.
NIA: Right, but its like youre on of the ones that got in.
HARI: (laughing) Right, right right.
NIA: Issa Rae and Kamau, for every person that gets to where they are, doing what theyre
doing, theres lots and lots of other people doing what theyre doing.
HARI: Yes. Another reason why for the folks who make it through, its important for us to bring
other people with us. What Kamau did on that show, he got a lot of people on that show as
guests that didnt get to be guests in other places and got to share their stories in other places
and I mean, thats incredible, man. Im just his generosity. Im amazed by his generosity, just in
terms of he didnt need to let all his writers have pieces on the show. This is your first show.
He couldve been more selfish than he was.
Ill always be grateful. I mean, he was one of my best friends before the show started, and
certainly during the show, there were moments when I was like, I hate you so much.

NIA: (laughing)
HARI: I hate you. It is late. I want to go home. This stupid show is hurting all my relationships
with my partner, my brother, my parents, and my friends who I never get to see anymore
because Im working all the day for you. I thought you were my friend, and now youre my boss.
It doesnt matter, because once youre a boss, youre a boss. You know, nobody likes their boss!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: But especially looking back on it, dude let me be on TV. Who else let me be on TV? Who
else let me be on TV regularly and let me say what I wanted to say and push me to go? That
first piece on Totally Biased where I talked about the South Asian representation in media, and
Mindy Kaling and Apu, and how we got to Mindy Kaling and Aziz and what led to that, like, I
didnt want to do that piece! First of all, I was more nervous about being a first-time writer and
wanting to be a good writer, and Kamau, like towards the end of that first cycle of the show, I
think it was episode 6 or 7, towards the end of the cycle, hes like, You need to do a piece on
the show. Im like, Man, Ill just focus on writing. I dont want to write for me because Ive given
up that life because I want to focus on writing for you. Hes like, We hired you to do pieces,
too. Youre a great performer.
And Im like, Look, I know that, but I really want to support you. This isnt about
NIA: You didnt want to be on camera at all?
HARI: I wasnt worried about it. I just wanted to be the best you know, I wanted to keep this
job, and I want to be better at this. Hes like, If you dont do a piece, youre going to get fired.
NIA: (laughing) By me.
HARI: Yes, so Im like, Okay! So I write the piece and I find this angle, and I feel corny about it
the whole time, I just feel
NIA: Is that the one like, Now that there are more South Asian people
HARI: Yeah, I can be critical Yeah, and initially the piece was just talking about Apu and
that was a later angle of it towards while I was writing different drafts, which is another reason
why I like the weekly, because you can write more drafts of a thing. When you have the daily,
you have less time, so it allowed you to be more critical. Some of the daily pieces are great, but
some of them, honestly, if we had the week, it wouldve been even stronger than they were. A
week just gives you more time, more perspective, more feedback.
But yeah, I said, You know, this feels corny, man but Ill do it. Why am I talking Apu now? Hes
like, What do you mean, its corny?

Just, I feel like its been done.

It hasnt been done! Youve been talking about this with your friends forever. You, your family,
your friends have talked about how ridiculous this is that youve been treated this way. No ones
ever said this in mainstream America, like, this is actually new! and Im like, Oh my god, youre
So that piece came out and one of the things Im proudest of. That spelling bee piece, another
thing. I was like, Oh my god, this feels corny. No! No one ever said those spelling bee kids are
athletes and they should be respected and theyre being made fun of in this way where their
voices are being minimized. Like, to me its corny.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: But it wasnt. Its funny, I did more South Asian-themed stuff than I do in my act. My act
has a few pieces but not really, you know. I talk more about race as a bigger thing and as a
construct and colonialism. I dont talk about being Indian really. People think thats what I do
from the show. Thats not really what I do in my act that much. I talk about race as a bigger
thing, not about that. Its more narrow.
On the show, I did more of that and it actually I realize now that, whoa, theres a lot of people
who needed that perspective, who didnt have it. Also, me and Aparna [Nancherla] Aparna did
different things but the fact that we were both there, really, it was important that we both were
there, selfishly. People got to see a range.
NIA: Do you think she was the first South Asian woman to perform on Conan?
HARI: Yeah. And first South Asian woman to do standup on late night. Which is funny, I dont
know if thats true? But thats whats been reported, because I tweeted it.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Because I asked Aparna in the office, Are you the first South Asian to do a Late Night
standup set? And we went through the list of people we know and we both were like, I think
so. So I tweeted it in all caps, and then Jezebel cited me and my tweet, which was a tweet
which came out of me talking to her, and now its fact.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Thats how the Internet works.
NIA: Congratulations. (laughing)
HARI: I think thats true. Thats how poorly this has been researched. Like, South Asian
American historys not really so Im the source and the creator of the history.

NIA: Thats a powerful position to be in. (laughing)

HARI: Yeah, Im my own historian.
NIA: So you and Kamau have a really beautiful bromance. (laughing)
HARI: I mean, its such a good friendship, yeah.
NIA: How did you two meet?
HARI: Nato Green, who wrote for Totally Biased as well for the first season.
NIA: And hes a SF comic.
HARI: Hes a SF comic! And Na- great comedian, and his album is fantastic and is very much a
Bay Area album. Theres a certain voice that people talk about, like my album and
NIA: Whats his album called?
HARI: I believe its called The Nato Green Party.
NIA: Okay.
HARI: The covers him on a tank. Its perfect.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Nato has such a strong voice, and during the 08 elections, Nato wanted to do a tour
called, Laugh Out the Vote and he had me come down and Kamau as part of the tour, it was a
stand-up tour, and he wanted me to meet Kamau. He knew
NIA: This was before Laughter Against The Machine?
HARI: This was before Laughter Against the Machine. This is when we first met and he just
had a feeling we would hit it off, and we did, immediately. Immediately, oh my god, were friends.
And I just moved back to New York at this point, and it was very it was difficult because I was
used to stage time in Seattle. My best friend lived in San Francisco, so Id fly out to San
Francisco a lot to hang out with him a lot and do shows here, so I got adopted by the scene at
that time.
Kamau had even written an article before my Comedy Central Presents half-hour about how I
was a San Francisco comic and I was adopted, like how Chappelle isnt from here, but he was
adopted by San Francisco. It was the same thing, hes like, Hes adopted by the city and it was

just, coming from him, in this city, and this is his city, his Bay Area the Bay Area is his, thats a
big deal.
Yeah anyway, I used to come back here a lot and when I came back, I used to hang out with my
friend Juttin and do shows. Hanging out with Kamau became a big part of that. I was so excited
about our friendship. I have such a cool friend, and it made me feel like I wasnt alone, like him
and Nato were people who had voices that I hadnt seen before. It made me feel like having the
perspective I had, and having these anti-oppression training and also being a person of color
gives you some anti-oppression training to begin with, or being a queer person or, you know,
whatever else, like - whatever else thats such a dismissive way to say it, my god. Im sorry.
Im like language is restrictive but you know.
But you actually have some background rather than having terms and taking a proper training
and thinking about how you also play into oppression, you know, how you can be a person of
color and be oppressed and still say things like whatever else (laughing), but I think it made
me feel like I wasnt wrong in my choices, because I didnt have comedy in the same way. In
Seattle where I started, I used to hang out with like Blue Scholars, I used to hang out with like
Sabzi and Geo. Blue Scholars are an incredible hip hop group in Seattle and they just I had
community organizers, artists and poets, people I hung out with. This was different, because I
had comedians. I had my writing partner, Aham, whos a comic, Ahamefule Oluo, but Kamau
and Nato, it was different, it was comics who were working regularly and had these strong
perspectives. And getting to do Laughter Against the Machine with them and Janine Brito was
that was the first time I discovered The New Parish! I discovered the power of Oakland.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: I discovered that I wasnt alone and that our voices would be heard and could be very
funny and there was an audience for us. And I dont know if it was mainstream or not whatever
was in that audience loved what we did and that was very empowering. And thats why I
recorded my new album at The New Parish in Oakland.
NIA: That what I was going to ask you, because you have such a strong Seattle connection and
New York connection, I thought it was interesting you decided to record your new album in
HARI: New York is hard, I think, and I felt like I wanted to be in a place that felt more
comfortable. New Yorks always been hard for me to perform in. Ive had great shows there and
I had my Comedy Central Presents there and I had a standing ovation from that half-hour, which
was chilling. Like, Oh my god Im getting a standing ovation on TV in New York! But I also
know New York is harder, and Seattle is my strongest base. And I did the warm-up shows there.
And the reason I didnt want to record in Seattle was because I felt like everyone knew all my
stuff, because Im there all the time and I work out material there very regularly every few
months and so I wanted something fresh. And honestly the warm-up shows went so well, Im
like, maybe I could have recorded there.

And Oakland I felt like Im not in the Bay Area that often, and I knew I had a strong base that I
didnt realize how big it was until I got there and I recorded it because I think I hadnt been there
in a while at The New Parish and it was magic. I dont know why but its just a magical venue.
NIA: What is it that you like about it?
HARI: I dont its just. Everything! I dont know what it is! Ive been trying to figure it out. Maybe
because you feel like youre close to the audience and somehow maybe its the demographics
of the Bay Area, and specifically Oakland, and how diverse the audiences always are. Its like I
was saying yesterday on stage, like San Francisco audiences are good, but theyre also a little,
can be polite, a little whiter, also.
NIA: Buttoned-up.
HARI: Oakland, its you know, mixed. And hell, my friend Priya took a picture during my set of a
white dude giving a black power fist. It was so Kamau said normally that would annoy me but
something about the way he did it, its like no, this guy is down. It was like, he was not being an
asshole, it was like, I am with you.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Like, its such a beautiful its just that those recordings were beautiful. The timing of it,
also and Ive said this before but it was after the Trayvon verdict. I was in Seattle when the
Trayvon verdict came out. I was just about to go on stage, actually, which
NIA: Jesus.
HARI: The beginning of that set was me just screaming, and that audience was with me, but it
was really hard and painful, and I was yelling, and the other comics, I dont think really
understood why I was so upset because, you know, its like
NIA: Because they were white?
HARI: It wasnt even just because they were white it wasnt just they were all white comics
its, youre a comic and you dont know for me, when I say that Im a comedian but Im also a
person with this background. Im both these things, theyre dont need to be separate but also
like Im going to feel things as somebody who comes from I feel these things harder and they
mean more to me than maybe other comedians. I dont know, I dont know. Regardless of other
comedians, I feel these things and I have to go on stage and I have to think about what I just
experienced of hearing that verdict, but I have to be on stage, so I had to react to it in real time
in front of people, which is weird. So that was a really emotional performance. I was angry, but
Im glad I let it out before Oakland. Because I dont think I wouldve been able to do the show
properly if I didnt let it out in Seattle.

I remember even telling this old white British dude came up to me after and told me, I will
always remember this show because youre the one who broke that terrible verdict to us. It was
so hard to hear that and I was so grateful. It meant a lot for some reason. It was an elderly man,
too. I just remember him getting emotional really affected me, like, Ah! Just that kind of feeling
that there were people that were feeling miserable about it, too, and I got to make them laugh
after it, but that was hard.
But by the time I got to Oakland, a week had passed so I was still feeling that, as were a lot of
people in that audience, and Fruitvale Station had just recently come out, and there had been
protests, really not far from The New Parish, because my writing partner Aham was in Oakland
like, There was fire and cops! There was some stuff going down just blocks from The New
Parish and so, thats my audience. Thats folks who would come to my show and be people
whod been there.
NIA: Recently tear gassed
HARI: (laughing) Yeah, right! And that first show, there was a fire when I got out, where people
were just yelling and just like, Ahhh! that Id never experienced anywhere, ever.
NIA: This was a fire going on during the show?
HARI: No, no no. When I mean there was a fire, I dont mean literally a fire.
NIA: Okay, in Oakland you have to be clear. (laughing)
HARI: (laughing and clapping) Thats me clapping because thats hilarious. Youre right, when I
say fire, its not necessarily metaphorical when youre talking about Oakland and rallies, right?
Yeah, there was an energy in that room that was so magical that Id never experienced. I felt
amazing. Ive had amazing crowds before, but that one in particular was just. It was so beautiful,
I wish I could I just I got on stage and people were just so excited and there was a catharsis
before I even started talking.
Its a beautiful thing when you have the audiences trust before you even say anything, and I
have their trust, too. Though I will say it was frustrating because they were cheering so loud, it
felt like a rally and I just wanted them to laugh. My vision of it was just, Joke, laugh, joke, laugh
like any other comedy album. After I got off stage, and there was a point where I even you
dont see it because its audio, but I actually put my hand up like, Stop, stop.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Because they kept cheering, Im like, Stop, stop because you know, I cant set up my
jokes if youre cheering all the time. Im like, Look, Ill just use the second show primarily for the
edit and the first show will be what it was. Kamau was there as a surprise, he surprised me and
like, That first show was amazing, what do you mean? I was like, It sounds like a rally, man.

Its not supposed to sound like, comedys not supposed to sound like that. Theyre being
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Like, no!
NIA: I like that youre being mad at them for being too on your side.
HARI: Enthusiastic, yeah!
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Because its a comedy show, yeah! I wanted to hear laughter! Kamaus like, Anyone can
make a comedy record. Ive never heard anything like that. Why do you want to make
something that sounds like everyone else? Youre not like everyone else. You should do
something different. That show reflected who you are and what you do and the connection you
have with an audience and that audience in particular in that moment. Do your second show,
whatever it is, it is, and if you want to use the second show, use the second show. But that first
show has moments youre not ever going to get again.
And whenever Kamau speaks, I take it to heart because I trust him and hes like an older
brother and a mentor to me, in addition to a friend, and he always has been, in life and in
comedy. And when I did the edit, my friend Ahamefule Oluo did most, he did the first edit of the
thing, because I was too afraid to listen to it. I didnt want to listen to my voice, and also hearing
the first album, the cheering freaked me out. Aham actually did the first edit. I did the edits after
Aham. I wanted Aham to do it because I trust Aham completely. Aham said, That first show was
amazing, and you might think that second show, because you had a clear laugh-jokes, your
energy was better the first show, because you were feeding off the energy of an audience that
loved you and laughed harder and was with you more than you think. And the album reflects
both shows, definitely both shows, but that first shows energy, and the energy of that moment in
Oakland that I was fortunate enough to be a part of.
NIA: Yeah, well I hope you come back to Oakland soon.
HARI: Yeah, soon. Yeah, I was getting crap yesterday for doing a show in San Francisco.
NIA: (laughing) Always. Thats never going to stop!
HARI: Yeah, always. Somebody says like, Its killing us to be here.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: But we love you so much, were letting you kill us.

NIA: (laughing) Its true!

HARI: Like being here is painful. Please dont do this again.
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Im like, I was so excited about performing at The Punchline and its such a big deal to
me! Okay, okay. I get that but please do something in Oakland, alright?
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Dont do this to us. Not Berkeley, either. Just Oakland, okay?
NIA: (laughing)
HARI: Its sweet! But it was like I felt really bad! So it was great. Nia, thank you.
NIA: Thank you.
HARI: This was wonderful.