Folks, if you're ever stopped at a railway crossing and the signals are flashing and you don't see the train or it appears to be moving slow and you're thinking maybe you could get across the tracks before the train comes, think about this.
Even if the engineer sees you and applies emergency brakes right away, it can take a train over a mile to stop, a mile to stop. By that time, it's too late and the resulting crash will be deadly. It'll be a mess. So stop trains. Can't you dig? Lock the gates.
All right, let's do this, how are you? What the fuck is what the fuck buddies? What the fuck? Nix what's happening? Marc Maron, this is my podcast, WTF. Thanks for tuning in. How's everybody holding up? I want to say a special hello to my Instagram live crew who hang out with me in the morning.
I seem to regularly, regularly and take all my speech impediments.
And one thing except for the voices, I seem to regularly get on there in the morning and meander for nothing, for the poor, for my own sanity, for and for that, for that the sanity of others.
I do the Instagram lives usually about an hour when I get on there and just kind of free form it answer questions.
It's been a lot of a lot of good people.
There seems to be a community forming there around the the sort of morning coffee business.
And I'm good. Helps me. Helps me riff it out like I do here on this, Mike. But even more free on that, Mike and I got be careful. No editing on the IG. I don't got Brendon keeping things in check. So I got to keep my own self in check.
But it's sort of serving the purpose of your getting me engaged with my brain, which is generally how I generate ideas, material things. And it's helping me because I'm not doing standup. So in the morning I get up and do that business and, you know, sparks new stuff. I don't understand the Farsi, Arabic, Russian troll on SWAT. I don't know what's going on with that. But I do know there's a lot of and just regular trolls, not too many, but mostly more than anything else, just people looking for a little bit of relief, a little bit of distraction, not unlike you people listening to this.
A guy I've known for a long time is on the show today, Hari Kondabolu. He's never been on for a one on one show despite being on one of the very early live WTF. You may know his stand up from Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me or from the documentary the problem with APU, which he created.
He's got a new standup special on Netflix and his podcast with W. Kamau Bell, called Politically Reactive, is now back on the air back back in the downloadable zone. But he's a smart, funny guy. He's an intense guy, and he's a guy that I've known since he was a kid almost.
I remember when Hari Kondabolu was coming around comedy clubs, sort of intense and seemingly aggravated, maybe a little sweaty when he was in college trying to figure out how to do stand up before he did standup. And I talked to him about that, which was kind of interesting. I have very clear memories of this guy. And I and I think I feel like we were sort of he was sort of a kindred spirit in the sense that he reminded me of me in a different time, just intense, you know, angry, you know, looking for a way not to alienate people, but still kind of wanting to alienate people.
Smart. But he figured it out. His new special is actually very good. I believe it's called Warn Your Relatives. But it's funny. It's smart. It's I think it was shot in Seattle, which is one of my favorite places. But so I'll talk to Hari in a few minutes.
And those of you who watch the IG live know that a lot of people already bought these things, but we're selling these T-shirts, the too close Marrin T-shirts to close, which has become sort of a hook of some kind.
Whatever the case, people are enjoying the T-shirts. All right. I guess people are looking for reasons to get some merch while the days get shorter and our isolation persists. So you're in luck.
We did some sort of a run of T-shirts with some nice art on there of me. And you might remember that last year we did a special edition line of posters to celebrate the first decade of WTF. So a couple of months ago we put out a special edition line of merch to celebrate the first ten years of WTF. Artist Johnny Jones did some new designs for us and we had some T-shirts, pins and notebooks that are still available at Pod Swag, Dotcom Slash WTF.
He also did a limited edition poster design that sold out very quickly. So we've got two more of those two more of the posters and they're available now, all signed by me. There's only one hundred each. So check them out, folks. We'll put some pictures on Twitter and Instagram as well.
Go get this stuff at pod swag, dotcom slash W4, go to WTF pod dotcom and click on the link for the new two closed shirts and all the other stuff. All right.
So if you know me, you know that I have a sort of love hate relationship with food and myself. That's just my nature. I don't know if you can relate to that, just that's just who I am. So I generally take care of myself, but it's a it's a struggle with food because I like to eat things that are very satisfying.
And if I could, I would eat cake and ice cream all day long, every day.
But I don't.
And one of the issues with having an addictive personality and the physical nature of the effect of sugar and carbs on the fucking system is that when I put a little in there, it takes me like two or three weeks to pull back. Not that I'm going crazy and fucking shoveling pasta into my face, but but I got the craving.
I got the Jones, I got the I got the sugar monkey on my back.
So somewhere after going through a few pints of ice cream, the pattern Oswald had sent to my house, I got a bug in my brain about this goddamn Kentucky butter cake. That's the other problem. If I if you got the if you follow New York Times cooking, I'm fucking Instagram. You're getting pictures. You're getting pictures all day long. Fucking food.
They were it was Kentucky butter cake. Some recipe from 1963 won a Pillsbury award. And I'm like, it's in a bun Pan Am. Like, I got a bun pan. I'm going to fucking make a Kentucky butter cake. No, I'm not. I'm alone here. I'm dealing with the weight of isolation, of quarantine, of plague, of the possibility of the complete economic and political collapse of the country I live in. We're being sort of driven into the ground by a narcissistic second tier demon.
And now I've got it on my brain. I got to make a perfect Kentucky butter cake, so I'm going to do it, but I got no one to share it with, really. I got a couple of friends come over. But Buddy Kit. Maybe she'll have a fucking slice, but then what? Well, am I going to do drive it over to Scharpling, am I going to drive it around? What am I going to do? So I went and got the supplies, they got the bowl buttermilk, I got the butter, I got the sugar, I got the flour, I got the vanilla extract.
And all I want to do is make this thing correctly, make this thing perfect, and then maybe have a slice and then get it out of my fucking house.
It's really about the process, the meditation process of creating the cake, doing it correctly, looking at it, eating it, feeling the high of eating that piece of cake, fighting with the urge to eat the rest of the cake and somehow getting it out of the fucking house, knowing that I succeeded, had the meditational therapy of cooking and the fucking buzz of eating a bunch of sugar and butter and flour and eggs.
So I did it, I set out to do it and I fucked it up and it didn't go the way I wanted. The recipe wasn't specific enough about preparation, so I made the batter, I buttered the pan, I poured the batter in the pan, fine, no prob put that in the oven cooked at the right amount of time.
Then here's the idea with the Kentucky butter cake. It's just basically butter, flour and sugar sponge in the pan. And then you create this butter sugar syrup that you then pour over the cake that you've poked holes in.
So the cake soaks it up like a sponge and you let it sit for three hours and then you turn it over and get it out of that bundt pan.
So I pulled the cake out of the oven, I poked the holes and I'm making the fucking butter syrup. Didn't put enough water in. They said, don't let the sugar dissolve all the way. So I, I thought it looked a little lumpy and I didn't have a good feeling about it, but I thought I'd done it right. And I poured it over the bundt cake. And it wasn't I didn't put enough water in it because I fucked up.
I put two teaspoons in instead of three tablespoons. I don't know why. So now I know that I fucked the entire thing up in the last goddamn leg of the recipe.
I fucked it all up. So now the sugar is basically just a glaze sitting on what's supposed to be the bottom of the fucking cake. And I know it's going to be fine for what it is like.
How is it not going to taste good?
It's just butter and sugar and flour and eggs and buttermilk and vanilla. It's going to be fucking what it is, but it's not going to look like it's supposed to but might not come out of the pan like it's supposed to.
It might not.
It just isn't. Right. OK, it's not right, so now beat myself up because I fucked it up and I'm looking at this thing, it's supposed to sit for three hours. I'm looking at the glaze. It's supposed to be syrup hardening on the top of what is the bottom of the cake.
And I'm angry. I'm just sitting there going to throw it out, man, throw the whole thing away, throw it away. That's how I even said in that accent, throw it away from Queens, throwing away what's the matter with you? But I sat in that for about an hour and a half, about half the time it's supposed to sit. I went in, I tried to shake it out of the fucking mold, and I broke a plate trying to shake it out of the mold.
And I got another point, I kept shaking, it was it come out of the mall, so maybe the cake was fucked up too. Whatever the case, about half of the cake came out of the bottom. Half of what? It's a top. It's supposed to be the bottom half. So now I've got this broken cake with this hardening sugar glaze on it in pieces with the other half stuck in the fucking pan. And I'm fucking pissed, man.
And I just take the pan over the garbage. I take out what what's left in the pan. I throw it in the garbage, I throw the pan in the sink. Now I'm looking at these fucking jagged, fucked up pieces of cake and glaze on this plate and I just shovel them into my mouth, probably two slices worth quickly. And I just it's so fucking good. How could it not be so I'm just chewing that angrily, angrily shoving this broken up piece of unsuccessful cake into my face.
I throw the rest out.
And the thing is, is that not only was I angry at myself for fucking up, but, you know, after I ate it. It was so good I had eaten just enough of my fucked up cake to feel shitty about eating it. Job well done. Shame intact. Went to bed, just sweating buttar, worried about diabetes, wondering if my heart was going to clog and whose fault is this? You know whose fault it is? Fucking Donald Trump's.
That's a lie, I can't hang that on him. This is not a. The political problem, I have to say, at different points in my life, I've done the exact same thing as I did with that cake.
But the catch is, is that usually I made the cake correctly at the exact same steps unfold afterwards.
So my guest is Hari Kondabolu, a very intense, very smart, very funny man.
His podcast, Politically Reactive with Hari and W. Kamau Bell is back with new episodes every week. He also has a standup special on Netflix called Warn Your Relatives. Very funny shot in Seattle. And his documentary, The Problem with APU is now on HBO.
Max, which was kind of it was informative for me. Maybe you'll enjoy it.
So this is me talking to Hari Kondabolu, who I had a profound influence on when he was a younger man.
Kondabolu, how are you, buddy? I'm all right, how are you? Don't don't pretend like you don't know me. No, seriously, though, how are you? I'm all right.
Yeah, well, you mean with the with the thing, of course, you know, today was not great, but it's been it's getting easier. You know, it's getting easier. But it's you know, I don't cry as much in front of strangers or people I haven't seen in a while. Right.
I was surprised you went right back to work. Did you take some time off at all?
I did not. OK, I just found it to be. Fitting for what I do like, I really had to figure it out whether or not to to have that thing publicly, would it be helpful in any way to anybody? And you're right with the mike stand, which yeah, I'm just suggesting it.
It's funny because it's only been a few months since I've regularly used a mike stand and I feel like I'm out of practice, which is very embarrassing.
But that does that's a bendy one. That's not the straight one, is it? No, no. It's a bendy one. It's one of those Musea those. But those are those.
No matter how good you are at standup up, the one thing you don't want to see when you get on stage is the bendy one.
People don't get it, but it's just awkward. Also, if you want to use the mike stand, you can't anymore because you're fucked up.
Yeah, it's going to it's going to do it's going to do what it's doing to you right now in the middle of your show. I don't really understand.
Why do they why do musicians need this? What is the purpose of this? Why they you play the guitar also. It's going to be next. The guitar. Is that the idea? It's actually for the room.
No, they have room like it.
So like if they're standing there with the guitar so they can write, uh, what was I going on?
Oh, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, I started working. Immediately, because I just thought that was that was my relationship with my feelings, so I shared them and I think they were helpful to some people.
You know, how people, when they have tragedy say like this is what they they would have want me to have done, especially athletes say that all the time, like, you know, my grandmother would have wanted me to play. Did you ever have a thought like that, like Lin would have expected me to continue to to do what I do and not stop? I don't know, you know you know, you're in an awful lot of shock, so I don't like I just was I knew I was having these feelings that were profound and unlike anything I've experienced before, and I couldn't control them.
And I think I was surprised at that. And the sort of genuine I mean, like anybody would have had it.
But like, I don't think I'm one to acknowledge how deep my love is when people are alive or in general.
So I don't know that I thought about what she would have thought, but I tried to to respect her.
And and I felt on some level in retrospect. I think some there's like obviously she has family, she has people have known her longer than me and all this other stuff, and I didn't want to be disrespectful for them either. But this is what I do.
So I thought if anything, on some level, it might have been a little jarring for the people that have known her all her life to have this new guy who none of them knew that well, you know, crying publicly.
Oh, so. It was a little tricky, but speaking about what go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.
No, you. Yeah, I just want to you were you were at that stage where you would have met all her closest people soon, like it. Was that right? Right. That stage where this is a real thing. Right. I'm going to be with this guy.
I want everyone I know to know him and love him like it was that stage right before that, you know, it's like a little you know, we'd known each other a long time, but that hadn't really happened yet. I'd met her parents in passing before they knew we were a thing. Right. And but no, I had to meet everybody. Um. Through, you know, telling them she was in the hospital. It's terrible, yeah, but speaking about life and death, you were pretty well, and I assume it's because you have a baby, but I feel very tired.
Thank you for saying I look very well. Yeah, I've I'm incredibly I've never been this happy and tired before.
How old the baby. A month. A month old. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And you have a wife. A partner. Yeah. A partner. Not a wife. Yeah. No we're not married.
Was the baby a surprise. The baby was a surprise. We love each other very much. We both want to be parents like a child is a blessing, especially when you're in your mid to late thirties and you want a child. Yeah. You know, if it wasn't a strong relationship, you know, with someone who, like I imagined I wanted to be with almost from the moment I met her, like, you know, with this would this conversation wouldn't be happening.
But like, if we felt good about that and I think marriage was something that was on the horizon. And now all of a sudden, it's like, what's more important right now, you know, like it to me, having a child with someone in theory is actually the bigger bond. Right? Because whether or not you're together, you always have this child. You always have to deal with each other. You're always in each other's life. And committing to that is so much bigger.
Sure. But but adds a little extra umph when it's harder to leave.
I don't know, man, I mean, I know and I do like get get I mean, you don't have kids, though. You've never been in the situation of wanting to know why on earth I have seen, like, you know, it's like the beautiful thing that you said just then about commitment revolving around this new life that you will you will always have to be in each other's lives because of the children. I've heard that said with such bile in my life.
I guess I'm yeah. I'm certainly not saying it with bile. I'm saying it. Oh no.
I'm talking about guys in the middle of a divorce, but it's like I got to fucking see that bitch, all right. Because we got the kid and I got to figure out how to get time with the kid now. So I got to say these things. I gotta give this money. There's a different there's a different tone. Exactly what you said to me.
It's like, well, this kid, you know, is going to have two loving parents regardless of what happens. And that's that's what we're doing it.
And I think that's probably true what you say. You can only hope I'm older than you and I've seen some bad shit, but I have faith in you. Well, I mean, I'm thirty eight.
I've seen some bad shit. Mark, it's not. Yeah, but you know, you got better friends than I did, you know. Yeah. You think you might get a little more well-adjusted.
You do you think he turned out better than me. I'm talking like you're my brother. I still remember that that night I met you when you were kind of intense and angry and sweaty.
And that was that was years like fourteen to thirty two.
I know we've talked about this before. I think we talked about it the one time that we talked on the show. So it doesn't matter.
But but I just remember and I want to sort of course some stuff up because I feel like for some reason when I see you and I'm watching the stand up, like I always know, we knew each other and I always knew that I was one of the first people you talk to about stand up well before he really started doing it.
But then I always I always felt that there was a slight bit of tension between us.
That's true with everyone, you know, isn't it, like you're making it sound like this is unique to me? Yes, I'm a person you've met. No, I'm a person that's known you for over a year.
Yeah, that's true. That's not true. They're they're they're all. Yeah, I think there is. I think well, one, the power dynamic initially as like when I first spoke to you, I think I was 19 or 20 years old.
I was you graduate student. You know, I was in college. I was I was a junior. I went to Bowdoin College, but I spent my study abroad year in Connecticut at Wesleyan University, where I took this pop culture class. And I used that as an excuse to write a paper about stand up comedy.
Oh, that's right. You were writing a paper. And which is a stupid essay people are still writing today. But anyway, so I use that as an excuse to contact comics from their Web pages because it was that easy back then. In 2003. I just emailed you from your Web page.
Now it's even easier because you just have to tweet at somebody, something offensive and there's an 80 percent chance they'll respond.
So I interviewed you and Stan Hope and I went to the cellar interviewed like Greg Giraldo and Hood and Jim Naughton and Tom Papà. There was a whole Ted Alexandro like there was a ton of people. And we we spoke initially on the phone. And like I was I just I still have tapes of our phone calls.
Do. Yeah, yeah.
My parents place an old cassette tape. You know, I haven't listened to them in years. I remember, like, obviously you and I in very different places back then, like I'm a kid really desperately wanting to do standup, but being too afraid to and use this as an excuse, this academic exercise as an excuse to talk to real comics, to understand what this business was, trying to get some courage. Exactly.
And you were at a stage where you were unhappy with where your career was.
You I remember you getting really upset.
I don't get seemingly out of nowhere. And you mentioned Dane Cook.
And I'm like, I don't know why people like that guy. I don't understand that. Like, I don't I don't get why I don't I can't fill a room. I don't I don't understand. Yeah. And I'm like, you know, I'm 19 or 20. I'm like, I like you.
I don't I don't know what to say. It was like a terrifying turn of events. Can I help this man? Yeah.
It's like it's this is a grown man telling me how things didn't work out. And I'm trying to convince myself to do standup. And it's like you're warning me. And I did not pay attention when I should have. You were warning me. Don't let this happen to you.
Did it happen to you? It didn't happen to you. What?
You didn't get bitter and mean and awful? Oh, yeah. I guess you kind of I don't think I made it worse for you. I don't think I ever got bitter or mean or awful. But I certainly wanted to stop a few times.
You know what it was? I think this is why I think that probably if there is any stress or but I want to hear about one, because I remember sitting down with you at the shower, and that was the second time.
Yeah, but you were making me you almost made me nervous because you were so intense and so filled with this sort of strange what I thought was like defensive, angry energy. But you were just you were just uncomfortable with everything about yourself.
Yeah, well, I was again, 19, 20, 21. You know, I, I loved stand up so much and it was the only art form I could see myself doing. And I had done it through college and in high school. And I just loved it so much. I was uncomfortable. And I was thinking about is stand up a place for me? And I also like, you know, I would go down to the the cellar, you know, when I was 18, 19, 20, because back then the cellar was desperately looking for people to fill the seats during the weekdays.
So you could you could get this coupon online, you'd get two sodas, and that's all you had to pay. And you could watch comedy on a Monday or Tuesday all night free. Yeah. Yeah, it was it was incredible. And so I used to go to those shows where people were working stuff out and and all that.
And I would also see there was a certain there was like you were a little more hardened than I you know, you're a Capcom, you were working clubs. It was like Patrice and Jim Norton and Voss and all these comics and Robert Kelly. And I'm seeing like people work in the crowd and it's rough nicked Apollo. And I'm thinking, oh, I can't I can't do this.
I'm not built like that. I'm not built like that. Those guys. And and to this day, by the way, it's you know, I still haven't played the seller. Still too afraid to do it. I feel like I've gotten to do all these incredible things I'm proud of. And that's the one thing. The one thing because.
Oh, my God.
And I know Chris Rock said he would vouch like I had different people say they'd vouch. And I'm like, that's all right. I've opened for Chris on the road in the US and Europe. And the thing I'm afraid of is playing the cellar.
Dude, you know, I don't I I'm still afraid of it. I play Italy, but you don't know what's going to happen. There are guys who fucking live there. You get to a point. The thing about the cellar, it's not unlike the Comedy Store original room is that for some reason, if you show any real fear in those rooms, yeah, you will fail and it will go.
And it'll be it'll be hard. It's unforgiving. You can't you know, you can't be open ended about things. You have to have a complete comfort about being on that stage or else will crush you and you will feel it.
So I think that's also why I. Your stand up in particular at that time really hit me because I'd watch, you know, all these incredible comics, but you were different because you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And I remember just thinking, like on this stage in particular, it stood out. It was so different. It wasn't jokes. It wasn't just jokes and stories. It was like you were talking about painful things. You're making people uncomfortable by being so open and honest.
And, you know, some sets were amazing and some said, you know, you were clearly working stuff out.
But like the fact you would like I had never really seen that before.
I used to make those. I used to make my peers leave the room.
I'd be like, I can't get out of here. Let me try to do this, please.
Can I do it without you sitting there?
About what? It's so funny to me because, like, you know, you were playing that and you were playing like Luna Lounge, like you was.
I was at the cusp of what you know what I think you ultimately created you.
You know, like there was this there you know, there was those places enabled me room to sort of take chances and work out in a way that you couldn't at the Comedy Store because you had, you know, Manny walking into the room and panicking and looking around and looking at you and seeing if they were laughing and you'd be like, I don't know.
And you like, fuck, you know, so. And then I could just go to Luna Lounge with all that, oh, fuck energy and just blow it out.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it was weird because we were all a lot of the people that were over there that started that were, were club comics. But, but then that world became, you know, not this alternative world but. And an alternate option.
Yes. Yes. I mean, I certainly think that that space was, I think, more conducive to to what I do now. But, you know, I started really seriously in Seattle and I was doing the clubs there and I was the underground shit.
You were living in Seattle? Yeah. I mean, after I graduated from college, I tried to do it in New York and I was like 21. And I'm like, I don't know. So I went to Seattle to be an immigrant rights organizer. That's that's actually what I plan to be. And I worked at an organization where the executive director was Pramila Jaya Paul, who's a congresswoman now from from Seattle. And she was my mentor. And I did standup at night at the underground and like the growing old scene there.
And it was a hobby. And so I just kind of developed it there and it kind of took off. But, yeah, the Seattle is still the city that, like, I will go to the most the original area with Alraune down there.
Yeah. Yeah. Do they move. Oh yes. The original underground.
That's right. With the little bullpen in the back basically where the comics are waiting they go up.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The stinky downstairs underneath that other bar right where you could see some of the original Pike Place market before the city had burned down square pinus country ago. Yeah that's right.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'd love that club. My guy, I mean that's, I mean it was a great place. It was a great place.
I mean that it's not quite a road room, but you know, when a rough late Friday show anywhere is still a rough.
But it was a great basement. Low ceiling. Yes.
Perfect. I mean, great. I mean, it was a great place to develop, certainly. So I think that and the art scene there and then, you know, I kind of stem from the but I still look, I'll rent a little theater in Seattle and work out my material there.
Like I'll do an hour of stuff mostly new and just like do I'll find a way to work it out, kind of the way the British comics would do with with Edinburgh, like they do all these London preview shows before they'd beat themselves up to get ready.
Yeah, sure. And I got that out of San Francisco when I went out there, too. I mean, I've done I developed in a lot of different places, but I don't think I knew about that. So you went to college.
So comedy was not the thing, what you you know, you were focused on on immigration rights and.
Yeah, I mean, I'm I'm one of those, I think, young brown people that came of age post 9/11 and was politicized by it. And so, you know, I think that I was motivated from 18, 19, 20 on by like trying to make the world better, whether, you know, that's human rights broadly or specifically in immigrant rights, because post 9/11, with all these hate crimes and detentions and deportations and all, you know, I think people like they talk about how bad Trump is.
I think people forget those years right after 9/11 when everyone was pretending the country was united, a lot of people were scared to death constantly. It was like being doubly traumatized because you're scared of our terrorists. You know, going to bomb something again is another plane going to hit? And I'm a New Yorkers. That's scary. Plus, ah, my fellow Americans going to beat the shit out of me for no reason. So, like, I think that very much drove the kind of work I wanted to do.
Like I wanted to support, like communities of color. And I still did stand up and I loved stand up. But this was like 2001, 2002, like there were no brown stand ups that were making it, you know.
And how much of your act. I really like at that time. Because I like how much of your act. Are you ashamed of now? Oh, when I was 18, 19, 20, like almost all of it, I was a kid.
I had no life experience. The only thing I was thinking about is make people laugh, the laughing. I did a good job and that's it. And I knew that like an Indian accent was funny because The Simpsons proved that to us. And I'm like, oh, this makes the people laugh. If I do the funny voice, I'll do the funny voice. The jokes were well structured, well written, but they were empty. Like they didn't really say anything.
Did you mean on did you self mock, did you mock your were you culturally self mocking. Yeah, I think so.
Now the not the worst case scenario that certainly I knew that I had that in my back.
My I guess my question is like after watching the problem with poo is because it's curious to me how we learn about things and there's always room to learn about things that I learned from watching that documentary, some things. And there are things that we know as comics and we tolerate his comics that you eventually have to question and that continues to happen.
So I just wonder, because I think some of the more interesting stuff in that in that in moments in that documentary is how the other incorporates their otherness into accepting the dominant paradigms, view of them. Right.
Yeah. So so like when you were younger, it was like you already knew what you wanted to do with your life and what fight you wanted to fight for, for people of color.
Yet you couldn't quite see you had a slight blind side as to how you were stereotyping yourself or you just lived with it.
Well, I mean. First of all, I was doing standup before I ever started thinking about the world because the first time I did standup, I was 17 in high school on my high school stage, and I did through college. And so to me, it's like that came first. Right. And so this political awakening happens after, you know. So at that point, the idea of like, oh, you can say something with your stand up and have meaning and make people uncomfortable and you can still be funny.
Yeah, that was a lesson. I mean, I probably learned that lesson a little bit from from you from David Cross' double album. Shut up, you fucking baby. Yeah. Which is also the reason I started cursing so much. And Paul Mooney. Sure. I saw Paul Mooney do standup in Washington, D.C. in 2003. That's a long show.
Oh, my God. The servers were so angry. The wait staff was furious.
I for him in Sacramento once. Oh my God. You Middleford promoted how. What was that like?
Well, I learned an important lesson about racism, but it's not the one you would think it is. The lesson I learned from Paul about racism because of the nature of how he keeps antagonizing white people.
He always right.
But like and you know, like in a place like Sacramento, it's mostly a white audience. So you go in there thinking you're not racist by hour to go find it in hell.
I love it, though. I love no, it's genius. It's you know, obviously in D.C., it was a mostly black crowd, some people of color. And you have white people walking out. To be fair, some white people walked out because it was entering the third hour of a set. But like for me, it was incredibly cathartic because I didn't know that you could make an audience uncomfortable. And yet I never laughed harder before, like the idea that something could be for me.
Right. It was was new like this. And I'm going to need to I'm not even a black dude, like as an indie, but and this is the closest we got. I'm like, oh, this this doesn't need to be for white people because everything else was meant for white people. And then you have to interpret their experience and compared to yours to be able to to you know, because if I'm like, well, I'm not going to watch this white shit, what am I growing up watching you?
And I mean, you you have everything is made for white people and you translate it so it fits in your life because you're an American. You're born here.
He he made something for people of color, black people specifically. But it was like, this is fucking great. You can say what you want. Not everyone's going to like it. But who gives a shit?
It makes it better. Know. Right. And I think that the point about some of the more mind blowing things that, you know, I had to reckon with is somebody who claims not to be racist, but accepts a certain amount of white privilege, obviously, because it's where I come from as a Jew white guy. But just the lack of representation culturally, I don't think I ever really thought that through until relatively recently.
Sure. But like, you know, when I was watching the APU doc, I was like, I never watch The Simpsons. I never watched them. So I have no point of reference for that picture. And I don't really have a point of reference.
I, with convenience store for my association with Indian people, has always been at restaurants and it's very Indian restaurants. And I was always with reverence, you know, like like four years. I just I would I thought I said it to Mindy Kaling, who I think I offended, you know, dramatically.
But I was like, you know, I just want to go to India because they have such great food and, you know, like but I don't I don't know anything else about the culture. Right.
Right. It's not a stereotype.
I feel like the the most important takeaway from that documentary is that, one, people should have the right to represent themselves. Yeah. To I think more representations are always better because also I think you get better stories. You know, there's something that accent and that character is hackey. It was hackie back then. I think I read a Simpsons interview where they were saying that when that character was created, we already knew that was a was a stereotype and a cliche.
So we didn't want to do it until, you know, Hank Azaria did the voice and we started laughing.
And the Indian voice has been around forever.
I mean, but the thing is, like, you know, the thing about any kind of racism or a lot of these, like simple racial jokes is they're like they're hackey, like just creatively. They anyone can do them. They're not particularly clever.
And so why didn't you talk to Jerry Badenov? Oh, God, Jerry bad.
Now, I mean, that's to be fair, Jerry. Now that's like the Proteau, like he's way back. That's like would he have been the first Browns South Southasian comic?
Probably, right. Maybe. Yeah, maybe he would have been. I can't.
Because then, you know, I'm thinking after that I would have been like Russell Peters and Aladdin and all these other folks, Veejay Nathan. But like he would have been well before that.
Yeah, he's he's not like ancient, but he's you know, that's the first wave. Second. Yeah. It's like Cabarita stand up.
Like if you've seen Pat Murray, it was a great up but like he used to call himself the hip nipp.
I mean that was his. Sure, his thing, you know, this stuff was very stereotypical, there's also, I think, a difference between playing to your own and playing to a mass audience to like, you know, Russell does lots of accents. Russell Peters. And he and he certainly he's he's certainly a groundbreaking South Asian comic. And I think a lot of us owe him something for what he's done. But like, you know, people are very critical about how he does so many accents.
But if you look at his crowds like they're mostly South Asian and Asian, he's basically open standup markets around the world. People have started doing standup because they saw him perform in Dubai or India or wherever, like wikis.
What's interesting about him is that he kind of covers the expanse of the non African-American brown experience somehow. That's very interesting.
Yeah, that that his audiences are diverse within the spectrum of brown non African-American.
Yes. That's I think that's very true. And he's global also. Right. For that reason. I mean, there's lots of comics like that, like they have really important cultural roles, like Rex Navarrette, like he is, you know, to a lot of Filipino folks, he's their guy. Yeah.
You know, there's a lot of guys I think one of the great punch lines in your last special was the mango podcast Punch Line.
When you said you don't think anyone will listen to that, how about a billion people, which I thought like then I felt like he's probably right.
I mean, he's probably right. Do you know who doesn't agree?
Is everybody I pitched that idea to in the podcast world like they're totally wrong. It would be so huge.
You would just have to you'd have to somehow introduce it into that market. And people really underestimate the sort of like loyalty and need to support their own.
Yes. There's not enough of us at this point to like I mean, there's enough of us now where we can hate Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, right? Yeah. But there's not enough of us where, like, you know, I completely hate Hari Kondabolu.
It's like he's he's he's annoying and he complains too much. But for him, like, they're still like, that's interesting how.
But what is that politically? You know, because how do you I mean, because politically you are of a certain ilk, you are progressive and outspoken, leftist even. And, you know, when you see someone like Nikki Haley, you're like Bobby Jindal. Do you do you see that as fundamentally tumming in a way because that, you know, their approach to the American experience is something it's extreme in the other direction?
Um. That's that's a good question, first of all, I'll say it regarding my leftism, I think it's taken a hit since I had the baby. There's something about a baby that turns into a capitalist so quickly so that. Let me start there.
It's OK. It's OK. You can like money. And the second thing, um, to a degree, I think that we all have different ways to deal with being an outsider in a place and what fitting in looks like. Yeah. And, you know, and for some people it's like do whatever it takes to succeed, you know, assimilate as opposed to like I'm about integration. But I also grew up in New York City so that places everything all at once, constantly.
It's constantly changing. There's always a bunch of different languages. There's always a bunch of different cuisines. You might not know everything about your friend, but you are familiar enough because you went to school together like like they grew up with South Carolina, North Carolina, like whatever the Louisiana like. I'm assuming their experience was very different. But I also think, you know, once they realize, OK, this is also something that, first of all, I have assimilated into this culture.
These are some of the mainstream beliefs and this is the easier stance to take or this is the stance I've learned to take from growing up here, like they've kind of run with it. And to me, it's not completely genuine. I know Bobby Jindal, like, certainly hit up south like like Hindu temples and other South Asian centers for money when he was running. So as much as he can say, like, I don't play race, it's not about race.
It's like, well, when you need the money, you certainly were into it.
Well, it's interesting. I wonder what they're like. Like, you know, that whole second generation, you know, with a vengeance American kind of thing. Yeah.
You know, that there's like I would assume there's a desire to pass, but there's also a desire to overcompensate, you know, in terms of like strange jingoism to to command respect from the people that would have usually hated you.
I think there's some there's some of that. But there's also like, you know, my home to me, it kind of comes down like at a certain point in South Asian American political circles. There's Dinesh D'Souza and there's Vijay Prashad. All right. Dinesh D'Souza worked for Reagan. He's saying stuff about like Indian cultural superiority and talking about black inferiority and how it's cultural and all that. And he's just just playing into this whole model minority thing. And you have like Vijay Prashad, who is a Marxist who's like who wrote the book The Karma of Brown Folk playing off of Wehbe, the voices, the souls of Black Folk, who is saying that while the voice asks, like, you know, why are black people posed as the problem of America?
You know, you know, Parishad saying Asians and South Asians are seen as the solution to the black problem, like the ultimate sin of slavery all. And you push that aside and say, well, it's black people's fault because we have these other dark skinned people, these other people who aren't white, who are succeeding. So so there's something wrong with you. And there's you know, he's America's been able to use that racial triangulation to consistently keep us as non black minorities, as outsiders while keeping black people as inferior, but still American.
And so, God, God, that while I'm saying that I'm like, God damn, I'm in the wrong profession, that is a waste of an education and health.
But also that triangle lets white people off the hook somehow. Mm hmm. But but. Yeah, but no, but I mean to Segway from that idea that, you know, that your education or what interests you or what causes motivates you. You know, you know what you do. And what I've struggled with at times more so at different times. But in my last two specials, a little more than the one before that is integrating these ideas into comedy that people can understand.
I mean, your Tracy Morgan joke on the last show about him telling you, you know, you're too smart. And you know what would be hilarious is if a guy that looked like you and sounded like you said, you know, I was working my girlfriend's asshole or whatever, which he's right, by the way, objectively, that that would be effective.
Now we do it. You do it. I mean, it's like, you know, you're the smart guy. But, you know, you also your appreciation for the comics that you appreciate enable you, you know, to be filthy, you know, in a moment that in in a selective way that that doesn't you're not a filthy comic, but you know how to use the device confidently, even though you even though you you call yourself out on it, which bothered me.
But like, you know, you know, why did it bother you? So a bit of a wuss move. I thought, you know, just jerk off you, OK? You can just jerk off.
Just jerk you be. To me, that wasn't a wise move. That's me. Like, because, you know, I'm a huge the biggest comedic influence in my life outside of Margaret Cho. That may. We want to do stand up when I was 15 and Paul Mooney, who told me that, like who showed me that you can make people uncomfortable. Stewart Lee fuck, I'm obsessed with Stewart.
Right. I remember that. Yeah. I remember you being remember, I'm the one who kept telling you you should interview Stewart Lee, and I gave it to him. Yeah. Yeah. And I got you.
I remember you emailed me and I gave you all this like info on him, like clips to listen to such a huge fan of him and his ethos. And like I mean, he's one of those guys who's like, oh, there are no rules.
Like whenever comics like when people are going after Hannah Gadsby and saying it's not stern but doesn't kind of stand up. And it's like, where does this this purist nature of standup come from when it's like it's the lowest production values? It's a person, a microphone. It can be anything you want it to be. I know I've known comics who've performed on pool tables and, you know, I don't know.
But I think that came with, you know, that that ultimately me what happened with all comedy and the sort of I think the produced show movement and then with TED talks is that comics felt like they were losing turf, that, you know, we paid our dues in this particular context and now there are these infiltrators. So I think it comes the purist mode comes from the old idea of dues paying and club work.
And then, you know, they sort of charge on those lines.
I think it's that simple that that doesn't work anymore. Of course. Especially, you know, people are complaining that that said, though, I did pay my dues and you did pay your dues.
I have audio evidence of you talking about paying your dues, actually, but not when I was only halfway through the dues I hadn't even hit the hard part of the is when you talk to me.
But what I'm saying is that you do honor your education by doing the kind of shit that you do. And at what point did you realize you could do that? What joke was the turning point for you where you realize like this is a political joke, it's effective. It makes people look at what what they take for granted differently. And it opened up a window because usually, you know, the moment there's two bits.
One of them was this joke about the Kohinoor diamond, which is the diamond that the British stole from India and the probably the 17th hundreds maybe.
Right. And how it's on, it's like one of the British crown jewels and it's on you know, it's on one of their crowns. And it was a bit about like reading. I haven't done it in forever, but like a museum exhibit that says that it was found in India in the seventeen hundreds like, yeah, it was found there wasn't taken from India, it was found like we were just eating them. We didn't know what they were, you know, we were making a diamond biriyani till the British showed up and, and they taught us how to use our opposable thumbs and they took those diamonds away.
So there was a bit I did about that. That was like, OK, this is about colonialism. It has a bit of anger, which I think I had to learn gradually that anger was the place that I guess my comedy comes from the most.
You know, I think I I think that's why you and I might have had tension and what I saw in you that I related to and resented or that there's a thing we have in common.
Yeah, I think you and Lewis Black, especially Lewis Black is Lewis Black screams but he's cartoon like he's figured out how to do it.
Right, right, right.
But I definitely think that release of anger and frustration is funny. I think you definitely were, you know, influenced me, particularly that first record which I listen to obsessively. Like I was not sold out.
Right. Oh, the 9/11 record. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember you opened by talking about how you had a cold sore.
Yes, that's right. Yeah. That's not sold out. And that has the bit about thinking that the FBI's watching me, that I want to see my file.
Yeah, that's my favorite joke.
Got it. Yeah. Right. We know he's a big masturbating again. He's been crying and crying for no reason.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
There's a few bits I think the bit on there that. I think for me, I had the most impact and for a lot of awful reasons, but was the one where you talk about suicide and where you say, have you ever gotten so depressed? How you think about suicide, not because you actually want to do it makes me makes you feel better.
I mean, just I like I still kind of talk about that joke, like, I don't want to do it, but it just it it just makes me feel better knowing I can if I have to.
Yeah. Oh. That that thing stayed in my psyche probably way too long because I think it's still in mine.
I mean there is a part of me, I will say before before the kid that saw the end of the world in the same way. Right. Like like a nuclear annihilation or this think, oh, thank God this whole thing's over. But there's that relief in the same way. Is it going to be good for everybody? Oh, thank God. We're finally like we're all in it together for the first time. Yeah. Done. Which all of a sudden feels different having a kid.
It's like, well, I want him to at least experience something.
I want him to at least experience a horrible authoritarian, racist culture that he's going to be growing and ice cream.
Yeah. So OK, so the first kind of aware bits were about colonialism, which oddly to me.
Yes, was something I didn't even take. I like only recently took into consideration because of a trip to London where where I realized like that the the people of color experience in Europe is completely different than America. But I was not educated that way. But I went to an art exhibit at the gallery. I can't remember which the Hayward and I, it was all a reflection on colonialism.
And then all of a sudden my mind just blew about that. Like, I'm still I'm a 57 year old man who's relatively progressive and fairly open minded, but I never really kind of absorbed the idea and result of colonialism properly because I didn't grow up in it and I didn't study it.
I mean, my parents speak English. Do you? I mean, and there's like English is still one of the official languages of India. Right. Like, it's it's also the administrative language in addition to Hindi. So, you know. Yeah. I mean, like, it's certainly. It's very strange being in a colonized country coming from like whose family came from a place that was colonized. There's something weird about like we got them to leave and now we're going to another place they went and they took over.
I mean, we're all like, look, I'm benefiting from it, too, by being here and living off this land. I'm also like the you know, I have caste privileges, you know, like a lot of like the Indian people that are in this country. You know, they came from upper classes, especially that first wave with visas. I mean, you know, they were brought to this country, you know, with educations to get more educations to support the U.S. economy.
And they come from an upper caste background.
You have your parents come. My dad, my dad's sister, my aunt came. I think she's a she's a nurse. So her and her husband, who's a doctor, came, moved to Kansas, then brought my uncle and my dad and sponsored them. And then my dad eventually moved to New York from Kansas, from Kansas. He spent his first year in Independence.
Kansas is a very small town where he was once asked if he was Chinese because nobody knew what to make of them. But then he moves to New York, lives with some friends there, and then eventually my mom and him got married in an arranged marriage in eighty one and then my mom comes over.
So it was arranged back home. Back home. Yeah.
My mom, you know, it was interesting, my mom I mean, I think it speaks a lot to my mom's really unique experience is that like she was a doctor as a South Indian, which is very conservative South Indian woman in her like late 20s with her own practice, like she never learned to cook. She never had to do any of the domestic things that a lot of young Indian women, especially of that time, are taught to do and how marriage is ultimately the goal.
My mom had her own thing. And, you know, I mean, like, she she's oh, she's told me like, I love you and your brother, but if I never got married, I'd be fine being a spinster, reading books for the rest of my life like that I find, too. So, you know, I think she actually, you know, took the the the biggest hit, like to me, both my parents stories are really interesting, but I think my mom sacrificed to me that's like the real the real story.
If she wanted to be a doctor here, she would have had to go to medical school again.
She would have had she had to take an exam and it wouldn't have been automatic. It didn't automatically transfer over. I don't know what the rules are now. And between raising two kids and my dad, so technically three kids, it was it was difficult, you know.
Yeah. Your dad gets sort of like he takes a couple of hits in the special, too.
And my parents always take hits, but like, well, having seen, like, the idea of an arranged marriage, I think to me and to a lot of people is sort of like, well, that sounds horrendous. And how do you remain committed to that, you know, when they didn't have to do that in this country?
Right. I mean, one, I think that it's not always terrible. You know, there's enough stories of arranged marriages that work out. And it's a lifetime of I learned to love someone. And this is an incredible partnership I've shared with some person. There's also this is a terrible marriage. And thank God I got out and then there's the I'm in it because of the social and societal pressure to stay. And at a certain point, you have to accept that.
They were figuring things out to and I think my dad certainly like was falling in line with what he expected, you know, a wife to be in my mom, you know, it was falling in line with what she was told that she had to be.
But she she knew otherwise.
And and eventually, you know, my mom's a brilliant woman. She again had her own practice in in, you know, in a small town in Andhra Pradesh, southern India, like her life, was so different than the life she's lived in 40 plus years since 40 years since. So, you know, I think that, like, there's lots of stories and I think a lot of women have these stories. You know, it's not just South Asian women, it's not just Indian women.
There's a lot of women that have stories of, like expectation's ruining or affecting the course they were on and changing, you know, what they expect. There's a lot of tragic stories like that.
You know, they're like they all have that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, we certainly have our share.
And, you know, I think my mom certainly is incredibly forward thinking and thoughtful, brilliant woman and is beloved by people who meet her. And at the same time, I think she's this idea of duty. And what is your duty as a woman?
You know, that's something great men that doesn't go away. Why? That's not again, I just want to reinforce that's not just various Indian cultures. I mean, that's everywhere. And that's just how it looks in our scenario and in our context.
So is your brother still in the band now? That band broke up eight years ago. What's he doing? A lot of things. He's been yeah. He has a I think he's sold something to Spotify.
He has like the band was Das racist. Das racist. Yeah. He was the hype man. LDAP Well yeah.
Yeah. But he's still in the music racket. Nah not really.
I mean he has a show called Chillen Island and he like does his own thing but it's not now he doesn't act, he doesn't play music. He never played music, you know. Right.
So it sounds like he's still in the area. Yeah.
We're developing our own things together and we're pitching things together. Which are you. Yeah. Which is always like a dream thing. Like I've always wanted to work with my brother. He's my best friend and he's definitely the smartest, the most creative person I know.
So. So that's nice. Yeah. No, I think we as a team have always been kind of. Yeah.
I think, I think the other thing I'm trying, I keep trying to figure out like what it is about, you know, our dynamic. Me, you. It's also the thing of having to accept and I think, you know, we both I think maybe Stuart Lee made it easier for us in the sense that, you know, he he told me, you know, when I talk to him, but we had to accept that we're not for everybody and that's a benefit and that there's nothing we can do to be for anybody.
Not that we want to, but it's not even available to us as an option. Yes, because secretly, you know, when you think about other people's success or the size of other people's success, or why can't what I say be as entertaining and as far reaching as that other motherfucker is? There is part of your brain that does that. But then you realize like it's never going to be.
Oh, I had to put that away a long time ago. Like, we've all gone through that right where you start comparing yourself to your peers or how come I don't have that, you know?
Well, yeah, I still get that sometimes. But I'm talking specifically. Still got that.
Sure. Really? Well, sometimes because. Because I see myself a certain way. Right. Like like if I look at my last special, I'm like, I'm not going to get better than that. I'm not going to get better than 10 times fun or the one before it. I'm not my everything I ever work towards is in there. Everything I've ever done to make me me is in there. All right. And they did fine. They did well.
The timing of the last one was precent and fucking weird, you know, because it was there was a prophetic element to it, but it didn't blow up, you know.
Did you know they didn't get me an Emmy nomination, but it's really the best I can do. So there's part of me that thinks like, what is it? I mean, I couldn't have been more accessible. OK, fine. Mike Pence blows Jesus at the end, I still couldn't have been more accessible.
So there's there's like that's that's the thing. It's like how how is this not for everybody? Why aren't there more kids at my shows, you know what I'm saying. But so I still see. Oh my God. This is the conversation we had 17 years ago.
Why are there not more people at my shows? How come how come I don't have an Emmy? I don't date. I don't know what does Dane Cook do it. I don't know why people like that guy.
Yeah, I don't even like that guy.
OK, ok. All right. But the truth is, is I know I have a tremendous, beautiful fan base. I know I, I sell out the places I go to and I know all that.
You're a top 100 American comic all time, without question. Good. Yeah.
No, I agree. I agree. So like in the sense that I, I get it sometimes it's not real, but I want to know where you you don't want to know where you rank in the top 100.
They'd rather not. OK, all right, but but because I don't know who makes those lists, sometimes I at Rolling Stone.
No, I was I was talking about an imaginary one in my head, but. All right. All right. I'm just I'm glad I made the cut. So it could have been a top 20. Would have been nice 100. Sure. OK, well, thanks.
Yeah, but but but what I'm saying is that there's about about self ownership and about knowing that like it's OK. You know, once you find your your place and you find your people and you find your voice, you know, it's a very comforting thing. And then to accept that like it isn't for everybody and that's OK. And to sort of make fun of that, which I do as well, is is great and to sort of have the power to sort of make people look at things differently, which is really why I got into comedy, which is what comics did for me, which is they would frame things in a way that I would understand and also to, you know, make me think about things differently and we can do all that.
And the fact that you were able to figure out how to do it, you know, around politics without seeming too strident, which I think you had to work through to anger, that you had to work through and balance it with mango jokes, you know, you know, it takes time to do well.
To be fair, that mango jokes all also about colonialism. No, I know. I mean, I think a lot. I mean, I'll say that I'm.
All those things are and I appreciate that, thank you, but I feel like my my goal is still I still think about you on a Tuesday night at the Comedy Cellar dying and talking about things like, you know, I remember like to me, like you like, oh, this is what Pryor did.
Like, this is what you're supposed to do. I've never completely gotten there. I've never shared the stuff that hurts the most.
I've never I have when you when you think about that in particular, when you say that, you seem to know what that is. What is that? What is the area of that?
In you, depression, anxiety, like mad fuck, I didn't I didn't expect to be alive five years ago, but I wanted to be done like this is not you know, that's why I like the idea of, like, I'm happy. I'm happy and tired because I have a kid and I'm still around. But like for me, it's funny because I'm saying, like, at one hand I'm saying, like, I would love to talk about the stuff on stage and I'm saying it to you.
So I guess it's already kind of happening right now. But like, you know, to be able to share that, like what it feels like to not want to be alive, to be depressed, to be anxious, to have panic attack after panic attack, after panic attack in a hotel room in Australia at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I had that.
Well, you had what you want to call the comedy festival.
And like I said, I got sent home from Australia.
Australia was your Australia to like you had to say, it was way before the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It was just like I just I bombed so badly out on a five week run that they sent me home after the first week. You got to listen to me tell that story at some point. But OK, so what was your panic attack about in Australia?
It was I don't know, man. It was everything. Everything was terrible. Yeah, certainly. Like, it's a mix of what am I doing with my life and I'm sick. Why am I on the road constantly and I'm alone and I'm depressed. And this this this sucks. What the fuck am I doing with my life? And I'm in this you know, I'm in this room. They put you in the same room. You're there for two weeks.
And for the three doing a one person show, I was doing the headliners thing and it was with Wyatt Cenac, Mike Kaplin and Cristela Alonzo. And so, like two depressed guys, a math guy.
Well, the thing is, like, I like I had to go and say I'm pretending like I wasn't feeling well, like just I was sick, generally speaking, in addition to being the person. But I'm pretending that everything's OK.
What did you do today? I just went around and saw stuff and I'm like, no, I was in bed having panic attacks and being tired and passing out and then waking up. And I'm like, oh, where did I leave off? Oh, yeah.
And then another panic attack like that. That's what I that was what Australia was to me. And then probably drinking too much good coffee, which doesn't help the anxiety. So no, I mean, at a certain point I ended up like cancelling six months of shows, telling my reps that I just wasn't feeling great. Yeah, I was just I just feel kind of sick, you know.
But meanwhile, I'm like, I don't know if I want to do this anymore.
What do you what do you think it was? Was it was it fear? I mean, was it like do you think it's clinical depression? Because was it just like anxiety?
I had been depressed for years and, you know, definitely refusing to to medicate in any way because fuck that. Plus, you know, I think a lot of South Asian cultures, the idea of, you know, sharing your personal life with someone else is very taboo to you. And I mean, like, it's not something.
I get it. I get it. You've got to keep you've got to keep it to yourself because we're trying to make it here.
Right, exactly. This is this is for this is us. And so that's you know, you don't and plus you don't let outsiders know you're shit. Right. And to break through that, to accept therapy to begin with, then medication is felt like a weakness. Right.
And, you know, I'm a homebody that shows a really weird job for a homebody. Like I'm a well traveled homebody. Yeah. And so that's anxiety. Yeah, it's anxiety. It's being alone. It's like what value of my adding to the world. It's, you know, stuff at home that I don't want to get in, but it's like a lot of that that's building. And it was not it was not good. You know, it's funny, I was talking to come out Bell the other day, come out.
Bell is one of my best friends. He's a mentor. He's a brother. Like he's like he's I owe him so much as a as a friend.
But, you know, I was talking to him about this the other day and he had no idea any of this happened five years ago. And I just assumed I told him. But like it was one of those things where, like, you know, I think about my life in terms of five years ago. Everything is really five years ago. Like when people talk about this documentary, about this UPU documentary, to me, it's like it was a pop documentary that for me was like a side project I thought was interesting that turned into this whole global thing where people in Brazil are sending me death threats and Portuguese like, you know, when was that?
When did you make that?
The thing came out, I think in twenty eighteen the Puttock and like to me, the APU. The thing that I'm proud of is the fact that that was one of the first things I wrote a pitch for after I came out of where I was like it was one of the first things that, you know, that I actually decided to make like I'd like that kept going, you know, like that and that. And my second record, I'm like, this came out of a bad.
Period. To me, everything from this point on is fucking gravy, like I know you made it through the show. So when I asked you originally what got us here is like, you know, that you feel like you need to you that you don't address that on stage. Well, you know, maybe you don't need to.
I feel like being able to addressed as both as a human being, but also as a performer, being able to address the most difficult things and turn that into art. Yeah, that's what the great performers do. And I feel like people who like my stand up, they know who I am through what I am saying and through what I believe. But they have no sense of any of that. They have no sense of the context that creates those feelings.
So, I mean, my suggestion is I would definitely punch it up a little bit.
You don't think the, uh, you don't think that you think the suicide would have been the bigger punch line? Right. If I if I had done it, that would have been the bigger. No, no, no.
I'm just saying that like that.
Would you think that with which you were explaining it, you know, this you know, this feels like when I first talked to you, that was that was the energy that you had when I first talked to you at this hour.
So, buddy, I'm sorry, what's the name of that clown that everyone talks about, the one Pagliacci. Yeah, sad clown. Yeah, yeah, that's who we are. Yeah.
That's funny though, because I don't I can't, you know, I can't see it. I can't see it in you anymore. So maybe like I don't I don't see it like you see.
Right. The anxiety, the depression, anxieties, anxiety.
I feel like I'm in I feel like I'm in a very different place than I was. I think I put a lot of work in and I don't think I understood the work I put in. I also don't I don't think I understood the impact I was having and other people, you know, I don't think I was I understood and I'm still working on that selfish choices I made and think, you know, when you're depressed, when you're miserable, you know, you're dragging everybody.
When you're drowning, you're dragging everyone down with you to keep yourself up. And I was doing that like, I. I feel terrible about it. I know that the version of me that did it isn't the me that's talking to you now.
But like, you know, to me, like, you know, it's funny, like hearing people talk, but that's the guy that wants to kill the cartoon character. And I'm like, I don't give a fuck about me.
Yeah. But like, see, like, I didn't really know about all this.
So so in after the this is after you got through the Depression, you made the APU doc, which is basically an argument, you know, founded in, you know, the the stereotype that sort of because South Asians were so not represented culturally in America that Apu became this sort of this this identifier for almost all white Americans.
It's a few things. One, it's that it's the idea of this is how a stereotype carries how this particular stereotype was grandfathered in, because The Simpsons is the show that's lasted longer than anyone could have expected. The impact the stereotype has also it's a singular example which is useful to look at minstrelsy in general, how it's worked historically. You know, we got Whoopi Goldberg to talk about the history of black minstrelsy and kind of kind of the the legacy of that, the impact that has.
But ultimately, the journey was to for somebody to take fucking responsibility for UPU and what it put you and your Indian compatriots through as a stereotype.
I think that's I think that was the way to to sell the documentary. I mean, I think the documentary I wanted to make had no voiceover and was just edited between interviews. But I was doing it for true TV and we had to account for commercial breaks.
But I thought it was very effective and provocative. And you talked to a lot of the right people. And I thought that the lessons about, you know, you know, not people not being represented culturally is a big it's everything.
It's a very good one on one. And I think, well, what's hard is that if you're somebody who knows this stuff, like for brown people, for people who it's like this is old man, this is like shit. So for me, it was like, I know the only thing that was really interesting and it was to be able to talk to other brown people, you know, and also be able to talk about like Satyajit Ray and the history of the the APU.
You know, I wanted to go see that those movies again. I only saw the first one.
I mean that to me, it's like the film, like I made a short film in 2006 called Manoj that covered the stuff that's in that documentary in twelve minutes. And to me, the documentary is saying more than showing.
And I guess what I didn't understand or what I didn't know about was the the the backlash, you know, that I thought like I'm such a fucking dumb idea.
Was progressive person or open minded enough to think like, well, Hank, you know, he's not going to do the voice anymore. They might not have the character anymore, you know, victory. You know, we move on. But I didn't realize that there was a global movement against you for for ruining The Simpsons and for people who didn't even see the documentary because the documentary was only available in the US for more than a year.
So people are reading what they think it's about from different articles. You know, it's still not available in South America. Yeah, I don't know why all these deaths in Spanish showed up, but that's the way, because at a certain point, it's a template, right? It's not it's not actually about what the argument is.
It's the idea of anybody questioning something, becoming this politically correct, you know, crusade to destroy everything we love versus. No, I'm a Simpsons fan. I'm talking about the complications of art and how art and culture interact. That's what this thing is about. It's not about hating a thing or not. And what I wanted, you know, I was hoping for a nuanced argument about representation. And instead I got like nonsense.
Like the idea of making a movie about a cartoon and then having extra security, it shows is fucking absurd. Right. And then having to tell, like, the the security guards, why did they hire me? It's like because I made a cartoon movie and people liked the car. It sounds fucking ridiculous.
You had to do that. You had to hire extra security. Yeah. It's like you want that.
If you're saying Lenny Bruce type shit, you don't want that when you're talking about that cartoon, Bob. Shows me like, who wants that, like it's stupid. There was credible death threats, you think, against you, who know?
I don't know what credible means. I know, but it was enough where people are sending things to like schools or venues or you have to, like, get security.
My God. So we had to deal with that. And it's stupid for against something that was a a nice side project that I thought would be fun to do on Tru TV.
You just gotten through your depression and now this. Yeah.
Which honestly, it was a there was a part of me like you're trying to kill me. Like I just two years ago, this would have been perfect.
There's your job. There's the punch line. You were.
Yeah, we got it.
Where were you two years ago?
I just wanted to start living two years ago. Not now. I just had my epiphany. Yeah.
So you could but so but all in all, Hank Azaria never talk to, you know.
But, you know, I've heard that he's done a lot of his own work on race and he's like read a lot. And he studied a lot and he's done his own. And to me that's kind of what I was hoping other people would do. I just wanted this to be a spark point, I thought, for having this conversation.
And it looks like the only person that had it was Hank, which is like a fucking bummer. Well, if the movie is honest, it seemed like that's what you were gunning for.
I was trying to get a larger fucking conversation import like I.
I appreciate that guy for actually I mean, I get why he didn't speak at the time. And I'm you know, I was annoyed at the time. But the fact is, dude did the work. That's what you hope.
Like I can do that. Please do. I think it did do that. I think a lot of things are happening even in the shadow of this dismantling of our government that may or may not take is that there have been a lot of proactive events and movements going on that clearly are having an impact, I think, to to to to deny that that thing was provocative. I mean, I watched it. It was I was provocative to me. And, you know, and I'm a fairly, you know, like I'm old and I'm but I obviously it would resonate with me, but it definitely got in there.
And I learned a few new things. And so I don't think you should discredit in any way just because a bunch of fucking monsters, you know, came at you.
But yeah, but also, keep in mind, like as a stand, what do you want? What do you want people to see? You want them to see your standup. Yeah, I know.
But dude, you know, I you know, what made me famous was a goddamn podcast. So I was going to shows and I had my twin listeners saying to each other on comment boards, we should go support Mark.
I'm like, what do you mean support? I mean, doing standup. Twenty five years. I need an audience only fucking a support group.
And then when I then people then people will be like, I really like your stuff. And I'd be like, well what do you like?
Like people come up to me after the show and fucking tell me about what you want to be really like yours.
I really like your stuff. I've been doing this over two decades. I didn't know why they knew me. Why did you know me? It took me years to integrate the two to where they became one thing and it didn't matter.
Oh, but there are still people that see me on Gwo and they don't know that they do anything else. But when the crazy dude. But they're going to want to.
Do you like they're going to come to you stand up. If we ever have stand up again. Like they're going to come to the gigs obviously. I mean like that's fine, I get it.
But they're all surprised. Like I just know you from God. I never knew you did this mean how could you not know.
I've been doing I've been pounding my head against the wall for thirty fucking years. I've done fifty Conan O'Brien's. I've been performing in nondescript basements for thirty years. How are you not why have you not heard in the loop. I'm on Twitter. Do you have Twitter. Me.
But the way to look at that are from a guy who put it into perspective is she herself is always discoverable.
Hmm. Yeah that's true. I am gullible.
No, but I mean literally people can find your shit and be like, who's this guy. Right. Let's go check him out. Right.
But you're OK now. Would you do you take medicine or you didn't.
I'm great. No, no. I mean. Yeah. I've been good, I think, the last five years, you know, it's always up and down, but it's not living in the down and it's the idea that, you know how when you're really depressed, it's the same day for years. It's just the same day. Like being able to wake up in the next day, being the next day is remarkable because your perception is fucked.
Yeah, I in retrospect, don't believe I ever had actual depression. I think I suffer from paralyzing anxiety, future thinking, and I get to a point of dread that causes a type of paralysis that feels like depression, but it's actually at its core anxiety. So if I treat it as such and I and I can get back into the present and sort of reconfigure how I'm approaching the day, I have some success at that where whereas I think depression is paralyzing no matter what you do.
That the level of dread I can experience and also the level of a lot of times it has to do with me not necessarily doing what I need to do to feel better or like, you know, there's this I think there's a thing like if I could like I think I don't think it's a South Asian thing, but I think it's I think you and I are very hard on ourselves and that the expectations we have on ourselves are sort of hard to meet, if not impossible.
So when you said that, right, when you set that up for yourself, you're only in the state of self punishment and eventually that's going to become exhausting and you're going to disappoint yourself and fall into a hole somehow.
So I think that's true. I think there's a great deal of self flagellation and that just is exhausting after all.
Yeah, yeah. And eventually, you know, you just it has to do with, you know, faulty self parenting, you know, expectations that were unmet or whatever you're projecting.
It's a it's a it's a deep wiring thing. But I think what I'm saying now is that I think your success and maybe the baby, but also that, you know, your your comedy coming like a lot of these things that that that we didn't have self-esteem before. But you do stuff where you kind of can't deny it after a certain point where you're like, I feel better, you know, like, why do I feel better about myself? Because you've done some amazing shit.
Yeah. You can take it.
You can't even take that. I think part of it, you know, in this right now, as you say this, I am twenty again and I'm just kind of taking it in like mark things. I've done some good stuff.
Kaari think he did some good stuff. Can't we get Hari to think do like the special.
What was the special. Funny. Right. Yeah it was good. It was good. It's good. Right. Yeah it was tight. It was good. It was funny. Everything landed in Finland. Yeah. I could see it. Put the work in. You wrote the word jokes. You ran that shit for at least a year. Some of it.
That's correct. That's absolutely right. You did good man.
Thanks. So when's this podcast so come out? Bellin I have a podcast called Politically Reactive that we did before the last election and continued a year into the Trump presidency. And then we stopped doing it and we just kept getting emails and tweets and people after shows coming up and saying, hey, when are you bringing the podcast back? And it's like, it's been three years. I don't think we're bringing it back. And we decided, you know, between covid and the demand for it, that it was time to bring it back.
You know, it's definitely it's it's a political podcast. But more than that, it's a it's an activist podcast. I mean, we certainly you know, we don't have politicians on as much as we have people that are working on the ground who are organizers, academics. You know, what's cool about it is that we can talk about something like gerrymandering, which we did, and I think one of the first seasons and that can be used in college classes and high school classes, which wasn't the intention.
Or we could just be like, you know, goofing around like we did with, like Cousin Manaj or, you know, Aasif Mandvi. We're having Ilana Glazer, Aansoo. And like, you know, the cool thing about the podcast is that we're able to be to be light, be be ourselves. I mean, we're great friends. So that definitely lubricates the thing and still be able to talk about stuff that maybe would have been seen as wonky otherwise.
And it's forward moving like it's not really this isn't a what are the Republicans think address. Both sides know it's a podcast with a very clear agenda to it.
And then also I with you at this point, you know, people need you know, people are isolated and they feel alone. They feel crazy. And, you know, those you know, your voices and your ability to see things, the two of you and be light, be heavy, kind of run the gamut of emotions, be funny. It's very helpful to people who are or who are not able to get out much anymore.
Also, I mean, I think it's a very good friendship and I think that's really what drives it to it's like these. Two friends who care about like the same things, who are both comedians, who have this incredible dynamic and who are very inquisitive and very thoughtful. I mean, I think that's part of what drives it. But also, I mean, come out. And I used to be on the phone and we'd have these amazing calls like this should be a podcast.
That's kind of what we want this thing to be. We want that, except with a bunch of brilliant people also teaching us stuff. Great.
All right. Well, I'm excited that you got it back up. And, you know, and I look forward to the the new hour about depression and anxiety.
Thanks. Thanks. I got to work on that. I'm glad that we did some workshopping today. I haven't been on stage in a long time. So that was. That was good. That was good.
You tagged it, man. I got a real good tag out of that.
Thanks. Thanks, Mark. One quick thing. I just want to say that I love my father very much, and the man worked very hard. And in case he's listening to this and he will be. Dad, I love you. You're a good dad. You're going to be a great grandfather. And I just want you to know that.
Nice. So, yeah, you might want to maybe call him to give him a heads up.
Mom, I know, mom, you are a very strong person. I don't want to make it sound like you were purely a victim of fate that didn't have your own autonomy. You absolutely do have your own autonomy. But I do think the weepie immigrant story sells better, Mom. And you know that. Good.
So I'm glad you got me. Maybe I'll do that with my parents if I can figure out some nice things to say.
Do you like the copout deconstruction at the end of this interview?
No, I think it's a great closure and I think that's how you're going to cause your anxiety depression show.
Do you think Stewart Lee will like it? Because ultimately that's what this is about. I think he'll like it if you you can have to pay a little slower and more deliberately.
OK, take care of. But. Yeah. It's great to see you. Take care, man. All right, that was Harry again, vodcast politically reactive with Harry and come out so you can get that back, you can get that you get podcasts, especially on Netflix, Warn Your Relatives is up. And his documentary, The Problem with APU is now on HBO. Max and amputee's a good reminder for everyone. If you're ever stopped at a railway crossing and the signals are flashing and you don't see the train or it appears to be moving slow and you're thinking maybe you could get across the tracks before the train comes.
Think about this. Even if the engineer sees you and applies emergency brakes right away, it can take a train over a mile to stop over a mile to stop. By that time, it's too late and the resulting crash will be deadly. So stop trains can't now enjoy the failed butter cake blues. Boomer monkey love Fonda. Liv.