“Vacation Baby” Shows Hari Kondabolu’s Amazingly Intelligent, Socially Conscious, Self-Aware Sense of Humor Survived the Pandemic

Several comedy specials that have rolled out in the last year or so have been a varying blend of material that had already been worked out for years before lockdown, of how they fared during the pandemic, and, usually, attempts to get back to some sort of “normal” life. It can almost be considered its own sub-genre of comedy special with its tropes of surface level jokes about COVID-19 and being more divided than we have ever been. Of course, as with all well-trodden territory in comedy, there are still ways to be insightful, original, and, most importantly, refreshingly funny about the whole thing.

Hari Kondabolu, a comedian who is high-brow and socially conscious and, simultaneously, a meticulous joke-smith that aims to be as accessible as he is inclusive, delivers such work with his latest special, Vacation Baby. Kondabolu’s last special, Warn Your Relatives, came in 2018 on Netflix (and he also released albums that were compilations of older material during the pandemic) and was, again, the great balance of playing to the top of Hari’s intelligence and being chock full of hard punchlines. Vacation Baby, released last week, picks up, almost effortlessly where he left off nearly five years ago seamlessly connecting whip-smart material about Indian identity, socio-economics, and politics along with raising a child during the pandemic, staying relevant as an older Indian comedian, and a beautifully human story about ignoring e-mails from AOC when she first ran for Congress. Kondabolu taping it at veritable hometown venue for himself, The Bell House in Brooklyn, has the comforting feeling of unpausing from early March 2020 and enjoying the processed humor of everything that has happened almost until now.

For the more alt-comedy-ish folks out there, there’s a meta running gag throughout the hour that exemplifies just how much range Kondabolu’s comedy really covers. With all of that intact after everything we’ve all been through, Hari shouldn’t have to worry about relevance as a voice in comedy, part of great, vulnerable bit in Vacation Baby, for a long time to come.

Hari Kondabolu: Vacation Baby is now streaming completely free on YouTube at 800 Pound Gorilla’s page here. Watch and please enjoy ASAP.