Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Accidental Racism?

A friend recently sent me this picture after a trip to Japan with her partner. They took this picture in a clothing store:

Knock off "The North Face" jackets become "The Black Face." Incredible...and I'd like to believe, by accident.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mark Twain Tonight!

I've always enjoyed the writings of Mark Twain, particularly the short stories, so when my friend Sam's father Mark introduced me to "Mark Twain Tonight!" I was blown away.

Actor Hal Holbrook has been doing Twain for over 50 years now. So long now that he no longer has to wear a white wig and mustache.



I had the pleasure of seeing the show in an unfortunately half-filled Moore Theater several years ago in Seattle, and I can honestly say that it was amongst the best comedic performances I have ever seen.

Holbrook becomes Twain. He seamlessly transitions from one Twain piece to the next and is able to draw from a broad range of works in Twain's catalogue, even tailoring segments of the night somewhat to fit the current state of world affairs. In the middle of two wars, Holbrook focused on Twain's pieces on war and governments and religion and human nature. Incredible.

This is stand-up comedy to me. Well paced, well delivered, well written stand-up comedy. Truly inspiring.

Here Twain discusses Religion and Nationalism:

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Are you a sardine?

Last week, while in the passenger seat of a car in Seattle, I took a photo of the license plate of the car in front of me.

It reads "IMINOIL"

I'm in oil?

Why would this be on this man's license plate?

Does he work for an oil company?

Is it a deeper statement about the state of his life? He feels trapped? Perhaps by his own personal dependence on foreign oil?

Or could he perhaps, like myself, be a HUGE Stewart Lee fan?

This last question will make more sense after watching this video clip from Stewart Lee's 2007 Edinburgh set. This piece is about his mother's obsession with a standup performance she saw from former British gameshow host and current road/sea comedian Tom O'Connor on a cruise ship.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

MINORITYFEST 2009: This Friday Dec 11th at Glasslands Gallery in NYC!

Minorityfest 2009
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2009 @ GLASSLANDS (289 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn)
Doors: 7 PM
Cost: $7

Minorityfest 2009 is a ONE NIGHT ONLY multimedia event being held at Glasslands in Brooklyn featuring nationally-recognized artists of color in comedy, music and visual art. While some artists were chosen for the overt or subversive political value of their art, others were invited simply because of the value of their craft and what it brings to the festival. The goal is to highlight amazing and inspirational artists of color who perform in Williamsburg, bring artists to the area who deserve recognition, and hopefully attract a diverse audience to the festival that reflects the talent represented and the nature of this city's population.

The event was conceived as a means of showcasing and connecting various marginalized artists across many media, many of whom create art that serves to either discuss issues of cultural alienation and marginalization or else complicate popular conceptions about their culture by virtue of the very existence of their art.

The festival will begin with a panel discussion comprised of a racially diverse array of artists, academics, comedians and writers discussing what they do and issues they face as artists of color. The panel will be moderated by Himanshu Suri and Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist and will include Dallas Penn, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (of the Fader), Jay Smooth (of Ill Doctrine) and Sam Han.

This will be followed by a comedy show featuring comedians Ali Wong, Sheng Wang, Hari Kondabolu, Baron Vaughn, Victor Varnado and Kumail Nanjiani.

The night will continue with musical performances by POPO, Das Racist and Gordon Voidwell.

Rounding out the night are DJ sets from Sabzi of hip hop group, Blue Scholars and rapper Despot (Definitive Jux)
SCHEDULE: - (start times)
PANEL - 8:00 PM
MUSIC: 11:00
DJ SETS: 2:00 AM

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Lost" Night

I am pasting an apology that was recently sent to me regarding an incident that I was involved in last month in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC. I need to fill in all the details for you and promise to do so sooner than later. For now, you can chew on this apology and my reply. (I've withheld people's names.)

Her apology:

Hi Hari,

[Our mutual friend] shared a few of your comments with me and I hope you can accept my apologies for offending you. Never was my intention to put you in a box or stereotype. Naveen Andrews is an attractive man and I would have hoped you would have taken the resemblance as a compliment. Clearly, you didn't, but as a comedian hopefully you understand jokes don't always go as planned. Sorry again to have caused any harm.

[Name Withheld Because I am not a PETTY asshole]

My response:

Hello [Name Withheld Because I am not a PETTY asshole],

Let me start by saying that I have to deal with bullshit like this constantly. This is not new to me and I no longer blindly accept apologies from people who say thoughtless things and then backtrack when they are called on it. An empty apology from you on facebook, possibly so you can feel better about whatever you think happened or so you can appease your friend, will not cut it. I’m not sure if you and I have the same recollection of the night’s events, so let me personally share my thoughts and you can contemplate for a moment and know what you are actually apologizing for.

Let me first say that I DO NOT look like Naveen Andrews, regardless of how attractive you think he is. I do not look like this other brown man, just like my tall Black friend does not look like Lebron James regardless of how much the moron he works with insists that he does. That’s like me saying Renee Zelwegger and Charlize Theron…or any blonde white actress with shortish hair look alike.
Not only was what you said wrong, but how you chose to say it was fucked up. It wasn’t delivered as a compliment and I didn’t take it as such. You, without looking at or addressing your comments to me, said I was “The guy from Lost.” Me and this fellow from some television series are both just brown-skinned people with long hair. You saw those things first and thoughtlessly made your comment. When my hair was shorter I would hear the names of different brown-skinned celebrities that white people thought I looked like and now that my hair is longer, I’m hit with a new one.

Let me also remind you, that the “joke” you made was at my expense. It was NOT shared BETWEEN us. You made your comment before we had been properly introduced and I was laughed AT. We had not even made eye contact yet. You said it as soon as I walked in the door, and then you introduced yourself a little while later. If you had seen the look on my face when you made the comment initially, perhaps you would have known not to make the same joke again when you called me “Sayid” at the end of the night.

Let me say, that as a comedian…and human being…I try to be sensitive. I try to be deliberate about the words I choose and not make too many assumptions. I can take a joke and I can make one…but I am present when I talk to people and when I do say something that may hurt them, I try to apologize immediately.

In closing, the thought that kept repeating in my mind was “why can’t a dude simply get a drink on a Saturday night without some racist bullshit happening to him?” A very reasonable question.

Now that I have said my piece, if you apologize to me for racist things you said and not for offending me (the onus is on you, not on me), I will accept it, but not otherwise.

-Hari Kondabolu

P.S. I do realize the word “racist” might scare you. That being said, let me clarify that I am NOT calling you a racist. I do not know who you are or what you’ve experienced. However, I do feel what you said was racist and think you need to be called out for it. If you need this to be clarified further, here is a video from my friend Jay Smooth of the Ill Doctrine:

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