Ku­mail Nan­jiani

The stand-up comic and star of HBO’s Sil­i­con Val­ley talks about his new movie The Big Sick, an in­die rom­com based on his own un­usual love story

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

ESQUIRE: You moved to Amer­ica when you were an adult. Do you think that gives you a dif­fer­ent comedic an­gle? KU­MAIL NAN­JIANI: Yes, def­i­nitely. If you’re com­ing into Amer­ica from out­side, you’re hear­ing all the back­ground noise that ev­ery­one else has tuned out. It al­lowed me to look at Amer­ica from a lit­tle bit of an out­sider’s per­spec­tive, but also to look back at Pak­istan from a sim­i­lar per­spec­tive. ESQ: The Big Sick is about you jug­gling your Pak­istani par­ents’ ar­ranged mar­riage plans for you while you fall for an Amer­i­can girl, based on your wife and co-writer Emily V Gor­don (played by Zoe Kazan). Did you come to any re­al­i­sa­tions about your be­hav­iour while mak­ing the film?

KN: A lot. While we were writ­ing it, Judd [Apa­tow, the film’s pro­ducer] would ask me, “What was the plan? You were dat­ing Emily, your mom wanted you to marry a Mus­lim girl. So what were you go­ing to do?”

And I re­ally had no plan. It wasn’t that I was mak­ing the wrong decisions — I was just mak­ing no decisions. I went back and looked at some emails my mother had sent me about the per­fect peo­ple she wanted me to meet, and I felt like such an ass­hole. It was strange to look back and see how stunted I was emo­tion­ally.

ESQ: Au­di­ences get to see a snazzy pic­ture of a younger you sport­ing im­pres­sive Hugh Grant, Nineties-era locks. Is it true he was your idol?

KN: It’s prob­a­bly the most true thing in the en­tire movie. It’s so, so, so very true. And when I also say that I heard Hugh Grant in an interview say that he doesn’t like to smile in pictures be­cause he thinks it makes his face look fat, so I didn’t ei­ther, that’s true too. I was ob­sessed with Hugh Grant. Four Wed­dings and

a Fu­neral I’ve seen prob­a­bly about 50 times. Emily and I watched it on the day we got mar­ried. ESQ: There are some top­i­cal jokes in the film. What’s it like be­ing a co­me­dian in Amer­ica right now? KN: It’s re­ally freaky. If you’re not talk­ing about the big stuff, then it feels like a waste of time. Amer­i­can au­di­ences have this rep­u­ta­tion for want­ing mind­less en­ter­tain­ment, and I might be wrong, but I feel like right now they want to be en­gaged. ESQ: How did your fam­ily feel about you get­ting into com­edy?

KN: For years and years, it was just a hobby. My fam­ily knew I was do­ing it, and sort of got a kick out of the idea of it, and they were like, “Well, as long as you don’t quit your day job.” And then I quit my day job.

The Big Sick is out on 28 July

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