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Behind the scenes of a Mask And Wig show (Mario Brothers, Where Art Thou?) Credit: Jong Hoon Kim , Jong Hoon Kim

When comedian Hari Kondabolu was invited to speak in the Hall of Flags, he expected to see flags representing different countries, but was greeted by Ivy League flags hanging instead — “So it’s actually the hall of the richest people in the world.”

The third day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week on Wednesday combined food, awareness and comedy, courtesy of Kondabolu.

The evening began with a showing of MANOJ, Kondabolu’s short film about a comedian named Manoj from India who’s known for his stereotyping of the Indian culture, and ended with a short question-and-answer session in which Kondabolu discussed how his comedic style has changed over the years.

“I was Manoj to an extent in college,” he said, explaining that his jokes mimicked Manoj’s use of stereotypes and weren’t from his own voice. “It wasn’t until 2005, when I was writing jokes that were from my true voice.”

Q&A: DP sits down with Hari Kondabolu

The show was one of the major events being promoted for APAHW in collaboration with the South Asian Society. “Hari has a very unique insight into the culture of Asian Americans and not only our interaction with other cultures, but our interaction with our own culture as well,” South Asian Society President Karan Dhruve, a Wharton and Engineering senior, said.

Kondabolu’s comedy in Houston Hall portrayed his views on society. “At this time, the word ‘American’ is still assumed to be someone white,” Kondabolu said as he discussed topics such as Sunchips’s recall of biodegradable bags — “They’re too loud? Well, it’s going to sound pretty loud when the world ends.” He also touched on his feelings toward the Pussycat Dolls — “If I was a 14-year-old girl watching them, I would feel like I needed to change myself — they’re like bulimic machines.”

Executive Chair for the APAHW Board Jenny Fan, a Wharton senior, explained that it was Kondabolu’s previous show at Penn during East Coast Asian American Student Union in spring 2010 that made the board decide to bring him back.

Fan believed Kondabolu fit the mission of the week by bringing awareness to Asian-American culture. “He doesn’t do comedy filled with hackneyed stereotypes and he brings up unique issues such as family relations, and media portrayal of Asian Americans,” she said.

Her opinion was echoed by many, including College senior Mili Mehta, “There’s a difference between racial jokes and deeper jokes about ethnicity, and I think he went deeper into his experiences and went further than the surface.”

College senior Sooreen Lee, a former member of the APAHW board, said, “This year APAHW drew a lot more from Asian-American pop culture, which is good to see.”

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