Hey guys, I’m back. The last time we chatted I was hosting a few podcasts and getting started on Silicon Valley (https://redd.it/32ciu8). How time flies. The past few years I’ve been finishing The Big Sick, a movie I co-wrote with my wife Emily V. Gordon about how she fell into a medically-induced coma while we were dating. You might have a few questions about how that worked, and so ask me anything about it. Or about cats. Or cheese. Also, I have a great joke about bananas and corn if you want to hear it.

Proof: https://twitter.com/kumailn/status/900467437056937984

The Big Sick trailer: https://youtu.be/PJmpSMRQhhs

EDIT: That’s all the time I have for now! Thanks for all of the questions, Reddit. Especially the one about my booty in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. And make sure to see The Big Sick if you haven’t already! It's in more theaters this weekend, so check and see if it's back in your area.

Comments: 1680 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

PatchesCanadaGoose3514 karma

Hi Kumail!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this! I absolutely love you on Silicon Valley, and I’ve been dying to see The Big Sick, but I’ve been putting it off, because it’s a situation that hits very close to home for me.

I’m a white female, currently dating a Pakistani-American man. I love him very much, and he loves me, but currently, the outlook for the future from my perspective seems bleak. Our relationship is a secret from his family and Pakistani/Muslim friends, and he’s expressed to me that he will never be able to tell them about us (and does not want to), because he’d be disowned by his family (immediate and extended). Essentially, from the start of our relationship, it’s been painted that we will inevitably have to break up, but we cared too much about each other not to be together for whatever amount of time we have.

I was hoping you’d be able to share some advice from your and Emily’s experiences. He’s someone I could picture building a future with, but I feel completely powerless, because ultimately, he gets to dictate what happens to our relationship. Sorry for the long explanation! I was wondering:

What advice would you have for women who’re in a situation where they’re seriously dating/are in love with Pakistani-American men?

What advice would you have for these men dealing with being torn between family/culture and personal relationships?

Knowing you and Emily got your happy ending has been what’s deterring me from seeing the movie, because I’m not confident I’ll get a happy ending myself. All the same, I know when I do watch it, I’ll laugh, cry and hopefully find some sort of resolution. Thank you for everything you do, Kumail!!

kumailnanjiani4841 karma

Obviously, it's your decision, but I think the movie might give you confidence. These things are very complicated, and I can't speak to the specifics of your situation. But I will say this; I didn't give my parents enough credit. I thought they were rigid and the people they were always going to be. I hadn't considered that my parents, like everyone, are growing and evolving and changing. They're not "cooked" yet. Nobody is. So I'll say: I was terrified of what would happen. And it was very scary. But, ultimately, love won out. Love between me and Emily, love between me and my parents and, ultimately, love between Emily and my parents. I kind of have to hope that love wins out. I don't know how else to live.

All that said, you both should listen to each other and talk about this stuff. It ca n very easy to just not discuss it. I'm sure he's scared. But the more you talk, the more you'll understand each other's situation. It can be very hard for an outsider to truly understand the cultural context a person is from. So... talk!

And good luck. Rooting for you two.

Phillyfishy12343 karma

Hey Kumail!

Saw your stand up a couple years backs and at the time you had a string of jokes that still make me laugh. It centered around replacing TV show names with the word horse. Just wondering what the best one you came up with was? My favorite was Desperate Horsewives.

Btw any chance we get anymore of The Indoor Kids?!

kumailnanjiani2262 karma

I like: Who Wants To Be a Horse.

You know, I hope we get to do more The Indoor Kids. I keep thinking we'll have time, but it keeps not happening. Emily and I have been so profoundly busy. This movie , The Big Sick, has been our lives for the last two years. It's winding down now. But we are enjoying playing video games for extended periods of time, and not having to play every new thing. Playing a bunch of good ones right now that we are getting some time again!

locotxwork2118 karma

In Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates . . .was that really your booty or was CGI involved?

kumailnanjiani5937 karma


chrisjcon1688 karma

Your movie is fantastic. Dinesh is fantastic. Your Harmontown presence is fantastic. You’re adorable on talkshows. Do you have any pets?

kumailnanjiani1942 karma

Thank you!

I have a cat named Bagel!

samsaq1011226 karma

What's your most embarrassing high school story?

kumailnanjiani3961 karma

Well, in Silicon Valley, there's an episode where I get a gold chain and everyone mocks me mercilessly. That's based on a true story. I got a silver chain and it was a BAD move.

officialminty1126 karma

I don't know if I'm supposed to be asking about the big sick (which I loved and made me cry multiple times) but I have a Silicon Valley question: Are there any backstories you have in mind for dinesh that influence the way you portray his character? Or generally anything you have used outside of the script to flesh out Dinesh?

kumailnanjiani1639 karma

Yes. I have a complete backstory for him. Where he's from, what his family is like etc. Hopefully we get to explore it sometime. I've told the creators the entire backstory, and sometimes they'll pull from it. Like, the storyline with my cousin.

quipkick995 karma

Hey Kumail!

You seem like a nice guy, hope you're having a good day. If you could get paid handsomely to do anything (other than your current job), what would it be?

kumailnanjiani2412 karma

I can't choose a better job than this. I get to live my dreams, meet my heroes, and make stuff I can be proud of with people I love? Doesn't get any better. I feel very grateful and privileged.

That said, I'd love to be a chef. I think that would be fun and creative. And giving someone something that literally becomes a part of them? Very exciting and intimate. Also, now that I'm rereading it, sounds very creepy. But I'm not gonna delete it. This is reddit. I'm far from the creepiest thing on here. ;)

cfullhouse930 karma

Really loved the movie. There's a point where Bo Burnham talks ironically about how it's hard for him because he hasn't struggled at all. This is something the real Bo has talked about publicly (he felt guilty that he didn't pay his dues in clubs as a struggling comedian).

How did this make it into the movie? Was it written in or did Bo bring it up himself?

kumailnanjiani948 karma

That was improvised by Bo! a lot of the stuff with my comedian friends was improvised.

arabscarab867 karma

Hi Kumail! I adored the movie. But doesn't it feel like a huge missed opportunity not to have incorporated The Smiths' classic "Girlfriend in a Coma" into the soundtrack? I mean, that just seems like a gimme.

kumailnanjiani1247 karma

We talked about it! We even talked about naming the movie that! But we felt like it might be too jokey to do that. The biggest challenge with this movie was: how do you write a comedy with a woman who is in a coma? How can you keep that reality level, while still keeping it funny? And we felt that song might be tricky.

Mr_Stitches689 karma

I'd like to hear the joke about bananas and corn?

kumailnanjiani1225 karma

Oh man. I will never escape this joke. Here is the entire saga: Couple of years ago, I did a really dumb tweet. The joke was that it wasn't funny. The joke was "Corn is just a banana that takes itself too seriously." It makes no sense. I tweeted it. Here it is:


You can see JOnah Ray, my co-host at the time on Meltdown, hating it. Then, whenever I missed Meltdown, he'd make everyone in the audience retweet the joke. So I'd be in some other part of the country,a nd see my twitter blowing up. And I knew what it was. And then he did this:


And then there were spinoff jokes. "Corn bread is just banana break that takes itself way too seriously." Etc.

jasmineabdul587 karma

How similar was the heckler scene to what happened in real life?!

kumailnanjiani1068 karma

I have been heckled like that plenty of times, especially during the beginning of my career. They'd reference Taliban instead of ISIS, but we updated the references. Hasn't happened in the last few years. But nobody has ever been there to help me. We crafted that scene, out of my experiences and an experience Holly had.

claire0552 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! I am a huge fan, I especially love you on Portlandia. Any funny/fond memories from the show you can tell us about?

kumailnanjiani1687 karma

I mean, that show changed my life. It really did. I started getting jobs after I played the cellphone salesman. I was completely new in the industry at that point, and they really took a chance on me. I've been on every season. It's one of the things I'm most proud of in my life. About to fly to Portland to shoot my last scene ever, and I truly don't know how I'm going to keep from sobbing the entire time. In previous scenes, people always catch me almost laughing. This one, you'lll see the opposite.

Fred & Carrie are two of the funniest and kindest human beings I know, and I hope we continue to be friends post-Portlandia. Postlandia. I should be a comedian.

jkd43510 karma

What else is left on your bucket list now that you checked off "Be in an X-files episode"?

kumailnanjiani971 karma

Oh man! I don't know truly. I mean, I met Hugh Grant, I did X-Files, I was in Mass Effect. I'll have no dreams left soon.

Legilimensea413 karma

I think you're absolutely hilarious and when I saw you were doing an AMA I actually made a note of it on my calendar (which I don't even use when I'm supposed to for work). I guess I should probably ask a question so:

What was your favorite scene to film in Silicon Valley and why was it the middle out dick algorithm scene?

kumailnanjiani542 karma

Ha! The middle out dick algorithm was actually pretty difficult to film. Took us 14 years in tiny hotel rooms.

I like any scene where we are all in the room together. It's fun to shoot with everybody. I really loved doing the RIGBY scene with Martin Starr too.

ReginaPhal2358 karma

Hey my name is Rafi, and my family is Muslim. Could you give me advice with compromising with my parents?

kumailnanjiani686 karma

I think you ultimately have to decide how you want to live your life. I think talk with them about it. It's difficult. One of the toughest challenges that almost everyone faces is expectations of parents vs expectations of self. You have to find the balance and know, ultimately, you're the only person in the world who is living your life.

doctor_haos337 karma

Hi Kumali! Did you guys from Silicon Valley get any programming lessons for the show? Do they usually tell you what all the tech terms mean?

kumailnanjiani535 karma

Yes. They tell us. There is a tech consultant on set every day, whose job is to tell us exactly what everything means.

Lawant328 karma

Hey Kumail,

I'm the guy from the Rotterdam Q&A that asked the first question, a brief update, The Big Sick is my favorite film of the year including porn.

So, question time: how has your personal circle reacted to the movie? Have both if your parents seen it by now? How about your friends? Have you gotten a lot of "oh wow, I never knew that"?

kumailnanjiani631 karma

Ha! Hi! I remember you!

My friends and family are all thrilled with the film. A lot of them didn't know the events of the movie, yeah. We moved away from Chicago right after all this happened, so a lot of our LA/NY friends don't know it. It doesn't come up. "I'm sorry you have a cold. That must suck. Emily was in a coma for 8 days."

First4MetallicaLPs305 karma

Big fan. Is there a recorded version of the Happy Birthday Thank You Very Much song that you know of?

kumailnanjiani407 karma

No! I've tried to find it, but it's VERY tough to google. It's burned into my brain tho. And now, if I google it, the only thing that comes up is my story! So, I've kinda boned myself on that one.

quickreplyl293 karma

What was it like to work with comedy legend Ray Romano?

kumailnanjiani472 karma

He's the best. Super funny in person too. And very nice and grounded. I know his whole family. And I text with him all the time. He's super great.

SplodyPants275 karma

Have you ever heard Snoop Dogg say your name? Many times when i say it, I do so in a Snoop voice. It lends itself well to his particular dialect. If you aren't already, you should be friends with him.

kumailnanjiani477 karma

I met him once because I did an Old Navy commercial with him and Julia Louis Dreyfuss. It's funny, in case you haven't seen it. I met him and introduced myself, but I don't remember if he ever said my name. Super nice guy. And shockingly funny.

eggcountant218 karma

I found the movie very entertaining. Congratulations. Was there something in the movie that got cut for artistic reasons that you otherwise wish had made the movie?

kumailnanjiani409 karma

Yes! Plenty of stuff. But there was one scene between me and Ray where we talk in the bathroom. It's actually the first conversation we have. I'm in the stall, he's at the urinal. And he's pee shy so he's having trouble. He's just standing there. And we start talking for the first time. Super funny scene. But we had to cut it cuz the movie worked better without it. It's a deleted scene on the BLu Ray.

dukefrinn195 karma

Hi Kumail! Love you on Silicon Valley and Harmontown. I was planning on watching Big Sick anyway but when my mom called me about "the best movie ever" I got tickets right away (and it's truly fantastic).

My question: how was it working with Bo Burnham? It was interesting to see him in a relatively relaxed supporting role -- a real contrast to the persona in his shows. Any interesting stories there from behind the scenes?

kumailnanjiani393 karma

Bo and I have been friends for a long time. He was the first person cast in the friends group. It was great having him there, because the shoot had the potential to be very stressful for me. I'd never been the lead of a movie. I'd never written a movie. We were telling the story of our lives. So it was good to have someone there who I could just go to and say "Hey I'm getting intimidated. Let's go for a walk." And we'd just talk about random bs and I'd feel better. He's one of the smartest people I know. And he's directing his own movie right now!

neogreenlantern184 karma

Who would win in a fight. One Dinesh size duck or 20 duck size Dineshes?

kumailnanjiani347 karma

20 duck sized Dineshes. They're crafty, man.

100891174 karma

Hi Kumail, I loved the movie, I saw it twice with different people. How is your relationship with your family now?

kumailnanjiani253 karma

Very good! It's been ten years. We're all very cool now.

macbalance167 karma

Will the X-Files Files restart at some point?

kumailnanjiani522 karma

I think so! I just need to find time again.

On a different note, I just texted with David Duchovny and he said shooting is going GREAT.

And, yes, that was mostly just a way for me to brag that I text with David Duchovny!

kimmel0r157 karma

Who was your celebrity crush in high school??!

kumailnanjiani400 karma

Oh man. Cindy Crawford was tough to escape. Aishwarya Ray. Madhuri Dixit. The latter two are two huge Bollywood stars. Madhuri, especially, loomed large in my mind...

Danestrada149 karma

Hey Kumail, I'm a big fan of yours since I saw your Beta Male standup. Have yet to see Big sick, but my parents loved it.

Anyway, A few months ago I played Titanfall 2 with you and Thomas Middleditch for a promotion of sorts and thought it was a really cool experience. Do you have any plans on doing something like that again, with a different game perhaps? Also, I cant wait for some new Indoor Kids episodes if you and Emily every get the time to record some more!

kumailnanjiani141 karma

Actually, I'd love to do something like that again. I hope we get to. I think we might.

And The Indoor Kids... yes... I keep thinking we'll do it and then we lose time.

amccon4142 karma

How did you like being on Broad City?

kumailnanjiani255 karma

LOVED it. Those two are great. The directors are great. Everyone is great. That was a really fun shoot. It's a very low budget show, so we had to move quickly. And improvise and all that. It's very run and gun. Portlandia is similar. And, on the day I shot, Amy Poehler was on set! So I got to just go up to her and be like "Do you have any funny ideas for stuff I could do?" Just... the best.

jalcalahr116 karma

Love the movie, seen it a few times already. Any plans on writing a horror film?

kumailnanjiani433 karma

I'd love to! Have a couple of ideas. The issue is, so much of the industry doesn't take horror seriously. I hope GET OUT has changed that some.

robdenir283 karma

How did you keep yourself from getting intimidated when you were starting out in comedy?

kumailnanjiani203 karma

There's no way to not be intimidated. You just have to do it. There's no shortcut. I remember I'd go to open mics in Chicago, sign up, and then, right before I went up, I'd almost walk out. I was so nervous i could puke. But then, I'd stay and do it. And it slightly easier each time. But, ever so slightly. You'll barely notice it getting easier. But, for me, I felt like I had to do stand-up. I had no choice. Like, I just needed to do it. So, the super scary part was scary, but not as scary as not doing it. You just have to deal with it.

Schabizzle76 karma

What food could you eat everyday for the rest of your life?

kumailnanjiani279 karma

Biryani with extra potatoes.

topsyturvybk73 karma

Do you keep up with what's going on back in Pakistan? The PM just resigned, it was all over the news.

kumailnanjiani228 karma

Yes. I do. But the instability of Pakistan's government has been a reality my entire life. I mean, we had a dictator for the first few years of my life. I remember exactly where I was when his plane crashed under completely non-suspicious circumstances.

Tho the font stuff is crazy. Google it.

chokapick72 karma

Did you ever write a line of code?

kumailnanjiani277 karma

Yes! I studied Computer Science in college. But I was very bad! That's where the stereotype breaks down.

buckjay570 karma

Whatup dawg.

If Dinesh and Gilfoyle both got high on PCP and fought to the death, who would win?

kumailnanjiani238 karma

Dinesh has rage within him we have yet to experience.

bulldog025665 karma

Was it difficult to act in a movie based on something that happened to you and Emily, but with someone other than Emily? Was some/alot of it awkward?

kumailnanjiani146 karma

It was actually less awkward than I would have anticipated. Zoe and Emily and I became super good friends, so that helped. I wasn't trying to recreate the relationship I have with my wife; I was trying to portray a separate one on screen with a different person. i think that helped.

stinsonlegend63 karma

Hi Kumail, fellow South Asian here. I love watching you on talk shows. Who is your favourite talk show host? And when is the Big Sick DVD releasing?

kumailnanjiani152 karma

I love doing all the talk shows, but I will say that Conan & Andy are the reason I started doing comedy. The Big Sick is out on Blu Ray on September 19th!

readerforlyfe62 karma

What's your favourite superhero and why?

kumailnanjiani172 karma

You know, I loved Doctor Fate. He was my favorite when I was a kid. Loved the costume and that he was a goddamned sorcerer! That kicks the shit out of being able to climb walls or whatever horseshit these other so-called "superheroes" are up to.

Schabizzle61 karma

Hey Kumail!

I'm a big fan of Silicon Valley! Dinesh is one of my favorite characters on TV right now:)

I saw The Big Sick recently and really enjoyed it, it was incredibly funny and an amazing story. How were you guys able to create such a great balance between comedy and seriousness (is that a word?) in this film? Was it difficult to hit that balance?


kumailnanjiani163 karma

Hi Briana. The balance was very experimental. I was actually surprised at how many more jokes we were able to put in. I thought, leave comedy out of serious scenes. But I was wrong. I was listening to the commentary for Tootsie and Sydney Pollack would be like "We just had a serious moment, so now we need a joke." So that's how we decided to structure it. Never keep a joke too far from a serious scene. And comedy and drama enhance each other. Laughing opens people up, and you can blindside them with an emotion. And jokes can really release the tension of emotional scenes. It's great and I'd love to work in this tone again.

gwynethpluv60 karma

What's your fav rom com of all time??????

kumailnanjiani134 karma

Four Weddings and a Funeral.

michaelchondria49 karma

What's your favorite Genesis game?

kumailnanjiani131 karma

AAAAGH SUCH A TOUGH QUESTION. So I'll list a bunch: Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi, Comix Zone, Streets of Rage, Sonic 2, Strider, Quackshot, Moonwalker, Gunstar Heroes AAAAAGH I'M OVERWHELMED

mvartan47 karma

You're in a dank dungeon. You've just entered through the south door. there is a torch illuminating the room and it appears to be empty. There are three additional doors; one north, one east, and one west. What do you do?

kumailnanjiani63 karma

West door.

motherfuckingsharks45 karma

Would you rather fight five Jian-Yang-sized Erlichs or one Erlich-sized Jian-Yang?

kumailnanjiani92 karma

Five Jian Yang sized Erlichs. Erlich is scary, but what you see if what you get. With Jian-Yang, there is a tempest within that we only glimpse. I don't know what darkness lurks in there. And I'm scared to go up against more than one of that.

doug34 karma

What video games you playin' these days, Kumail? Any mobile ones you find particularly addictive? (Loved you in TWD S2)

kumailnanjiani66 karma

Hellblade is AWESOME. Observer is AWESOME.

KalimacBrandagamba26 karma

Gillian Anderson and Wasim Akram are both tied to train tracks, with a train rapidly approaching. You only have time to save one. Who do you choose?

(The Big Sick is amazing btw)

kumailnanjiani51 karma

I plead the 5th.

PlasticJesters10 karma

I loved The Big Sick! It was sweet, poignant and funny! Congrats!

How involved were you with the casting? Did you know who you wanted for the parts as you were writing?

kumailnanjiani25 karma

I knew I wanted my dad to be Anupam Kher from the very first day of writing. He's a legendary Bollywood actor, and I'd grown up watching his movies. And he looks kinda like my dad. And I'd written the part of Chris for Kurt Braunohler. After that, the first person we thought of to play Emily's mom was Holly Hunter. The rest were all Judd or the director or producers or auditions.

SteamJusticeWarrior6 karma

have you watched amira & sam?

kumailnanjiani5 karma

I LOVED IT. I moderated a Q&A for it.

Terry_Carlton675 karma

Not naming names, is there someone you've seen that is less talented/funny be successful because they're a good looking white dude?

kumailnanjiani37 karma

Comedy is very merit based. Someone may get a shot, and they may not deserve it, but if they aren't funny, they'll go away. Laughter is such an involuntary response. If someone isn't funny, that's it. Nobody can pretend to be funny.

emaalsubhani3 karma

Hey Kumail! Fellow Pakistani here! Absolutely loved The Big Sick, went to go see it twice! My partner and I recently founded a Fashion Brand that revolves around the Desi/American experience. It's called IMLIDesigns (on IG and FB.) i believe you would be the perfect fit to represent us and help us grow. I would be thrilled to see you rock our tees. If you're interested please send us a message on IG and we'll send you some from our newest collection?

Big thanks! IMLI

kumailnanjiani4 karma

Sounds awesome!

thediverswife-1 karma

Why couldn't you write a woman of colour as a love interest? It's the same with Master of None, we're alright as background but never presented in our own right as worthy of love from a leading man

kumailnanjiani1 karma

This specific story is the true love story between me and my wife, who is caucasian. I would love to see more stories about women of color. I genuinely would. And if I'm ever in a position where I can assist someone in bringing their story to life, I would love to. We need stories from all different points of view and, yes, there is a tragic dearth of stories from the point of view of women of color. I hope that changes soon.