Changemaker: Hari Kondabolu

Presenting the recipient of our 2018 Changemaker Award

This October, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC will celebrate our annual American Courage Awards, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate individuals, groups, and corporations for their commitment and contributions to civil rights.

The 2018 Changemaker Award is given to an individual, company, or organization who is a catalyst for change and whose leadership has inspired action that has led to change on a local or national level. Hari Kondabolu is this year’s honoree as the result of his intersectional activism on multiple platforms.

He was thrust into the mainstream spotlight with the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, but Kondabolu has been a fixture in Hollywood for quite some time. He has been featured on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and was called one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today by The New York Times.

Kondabolu holds a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and was a former immigrant rights organizer in Seattle. He has blended his experience as a South Asian American into his comedy through critique of the treatment of South Asians post-9/11 and highlighting comedic conversations with his mother. Kondabolu was formerly a writer on W. Kamau Bell’s Totally Biased and now cohosts a podcast with Bell called Politically Reactive.

After recording two standup albums, Kondabolu’s Netflix special Warn Your Relatives was released in April 2018. In the special, he discusses the current state of identity politics, especially around the South Asian American and Indian American experience. Kondabolu’s comedy is critical but informed by the post-9/11 treatment of brown people along with his experience as an organizer.

The 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu was hosted and produced by Kondabolu. In the documentary, he aims to start a discussion about how The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon perpetuates problematic stereotypes with real life implications. While a guest on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Kondabolu highlighted how Apu is not a singular problem, but rather a larger lack of representation of South Asian Americans in media.

Kondabolu’s continuous use of his multiple platforms in media and his constant willingness to be critical have and continue to inspire and AAJC is thrilled to honor him and the other awardees on October 4, 2018 at the American Courage Awards.