FINAL EDIT: Thanks everyone! These questions were so fun and thoughtful. I appreciate all the love (feels like I spent the day with friends which feels so nice). Hope to do another one of these soon. If you'd like to get my book (You Can't Be Serious), you can order it at your local bookstore, Amazon, or any of the great booksellers linked here. Thanks for making me smile today. :)

Yo! I’m Kal Penn, actor, writer, producer, sometimes college instructor, former White House aide, and author of YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS (a memoir in which I share some hopefully-funny, awkward, maybe consequential stories about life as the son of immigrants growing up in New Jersey. I’ve worked as a farmhand and telemarketer before becoming an actor who smoked fake weed with a fake president of the United States before serving the country and advising a real one.) AMA! Proof:

Comments: 2549 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

gagelish4499 karma

Hi Kal, it’s Gage!

You and Italia Ricci were my incredible partners on The $100,000 Pyramid, and right before you helped me crush the first prize round I had mentioned that my fiance and I were planning a wedding in Vienna, and we wanted to use any money I won towards that.

Well, after a few pandemic related postponements, it’s finally happening!

So I guess my question is… Do you want to come?! We’d love to show our appreciation and Vienna in the wintertime is the best.

PS - Italia is obviously invited as well. She just wasn't doing an AMA, so I wasn't sure how to extend an invite.

KalPennsPenPalKen4784 karma

This is so sweet! That was such a fun game, I'm so glad you won and was wondering if the wedding happened yet. DM me and let me know when it is! If i'm free I would love to consider it - it would be so nice to celebrate with you both. (I'll let Italia know!)

Easytokidnap3586 karma


KalPennsPenPalKen4145 karma

Thank you! John Cho is like a brother to me. He's hilarious, and really smart, and a very talented farter. (I won't ruin that story from my book because it's part of the Harold and Kumar chapter, but seriously John is an incredible person and a great friend and it makes me happy when people ask about him, so thank you!)

chef_simpson2799 karma

Hei Kal, your ending on House is probably my most memorable episode of TV, and a major reason why I reached out for help. So first, thank you. Question wise, was it hard to leave the show and especially with how it was written off?

KalPennsPenPalKen2222 karma

I really enjoyed my time on House so it was tough to leave in the sense that I was stepping away from both my passion for acting and a really great group of people on the cast, crew, and creative team. Thanks to David Shore - whose own story is so great and inspiring - I was able to take that sabbatical for two years to serve in the White House...but I definitely didn't know it would mean my character ended the way he did. That was tough to digest and somehow made it more real - that even though I knew I'd return to acting after a year or two, that I was leaving House for good (except for that last episode which was nice to come back for). But it was obviously a very privileged place to be in - to have one job I loved while another one, with a bit of risk taking - was also possible. I feel really lucky for it all.

ThatPlayWasAwful239 karma

I mean he left the show because he got a job at the White House so the promotion and doing it on his terms probably took the edge off.

Fadedcamo189 karma

Think OP is speaking more on the character's suicide.

KalPennsPenPalKen809 karma

Oh sorry, ok yes for that question specifically here's what I recall, and I'm obviously paraphrasing since it was so long ago: the writers were looking for a catalyst for House ultimately being institutionalized so they wanted a mystery that he couldn't solve. That happened to be their convo right around the time David and I spoke about my leaving the show to work in the White House (that in itself is a longer story), and I think they saw an opportunity to tell a tough story about mental health, and how sometimes those closest to us might not exhibit any outward signs, might not even leave a note, might be needing help - as a way to both make the audience feel those things and also shine a light on the importance of mental health (+ it had a natural fit for what they needed plotwise). I wasn't a writer on the show, so I'm sure there was even more context than that but that's what I recall from that time

BuntyBru2083 karma

I am a big big fan of your work,
I remember watching American Desi and the movie you did with Sunil Dude Where is the party ?

It was very very early and i was around 10 or 11.
To a kid living in a small town of India , it was amazing for me to see Indian Actors in a hollywood movie.

Huge congratulations to you for what you have achieved

KalPennsPenPalKen1656 karma

Thank you! American Desi was an especially great experience for all of us - we shot that film on a microbudget one summer in New Jersey and New York. Sounds like you took from that what I took from representation in earlier films like Mississippi Masala and the stuff Ajay Naidu, Sarita Chaudhury and others were doing when I was a kid.

Securicar1844 karma

When was the last time you had White Castle?

KalPennsPenPalKen3189 karma

Last week. I know this is going to be disappointing compared to how much we ate in the movies but I had three impossible sliders (they're really good).

PandaReal_12341622 karma

Question: Why now to come out? Did you consider to coming out publicly before?

KalPennsPenPalKen3944 karma

Great question! I figured out my sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people - I know there's no timeline on this kinda stuff, so I'm very happy that I did when I did! Josh and I have been together for 11 years and (like my parents) he doesn't love attention, so it was a tricky dance that I know many couples do, out of respect to their partners' privacy, on how much of their lives to share and when. In writing my book, I'm so excited to share lots of things I hadn't before, including - definitely - more about Josh, how we met (over an 18 pack of Coors Light and a NASCAR race), that we're engaged, and also more about my parents' background, how they grew up and came to America - the things that make up my unlikely life story.

cookiemonster247605 karma

Was the cockmeat sandwich your idea?

KalPennsPenPalKen887 karma

hahaha that was all Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

Politicsbeerandguns1358 karma

Where you satisifed with the ending of HIMYM?

KalPennsPenPalKen3192 karma

I feel like this is going to be the most controversial question today! I was satisfied with it but I'm obviously super biased since I was on the show for a season. But an ending I think was garbage was Lost. I watched that shit for so long and THAT'S how it ended? Come on

Least_Effort28041205 karma

Hi Kal Penn! Congratulations on your book, and on your engagement!

I have a somewhat personal question.

You spoke at Syracuse University in 2009, and I loved what you had to say. During the q&a, a woman asked if you were single, and if so if you would take her sister's number. You were really gracious in your reaction, but I remember thinking how uncomfortable that could be, and wondering how often that kind of thing happened.

How have you dealt with these public interactions while being in a private relationship? What has that been like?

KalPennsPenPalKen1849 karma

I don't remember that specific interaction, but growing up such a nerd, I will tell you I am very easily flattered and if someone gives me a compliment like that, I'm super flattered. (For reference here's what I looked like in middle school)

GRZMNKY1090 karma

Any plans for another Harold & Kumar movie?

You should do a Harold and Kumar vs Jay and Silent Bob movie.

KalPennsPenPalKen1700 karma

Absolutely! I always like to say that I'd be a lucky man if I could do Harold and Kumar 69 when I'm a hundred years old (yes that's a 69 joke). Kumar is so much cooler and laid back than I'll ever be, and I love playing that dude so much. (I also love that our fans have allowed us to do 3 of them!). Love the Jay & Silent bob idea too

adam_gors1003 karma

If you could give your 18 year old self some advice, what would it be?

KalPennsPenPalKen3714 karma

It's okay that you're jerking off so much.

Also - I'd say make sure you're always prepared for everything you want to do, don't listen to people who tell you the things you want to do are too crazy to try. But when you try them, know that barriers to entry will be high, so spend more energy on strategizing and doing, and less energy on being angry when people say dumb racist shit to you.

blindedbyhindsight713 karma

Do you still have that informal pact with Kumail and Kunal where you just accept instead of correcting the mistaken compliments you get for each others work?

KalPennsPenPalKen843 karma

Absolutely, and we all get lots of misplaced compliments and free rounds of drinks for it

majorlieg685 karma

Hi Kal, I met you 13-14yrs ago at an art gallery I was working for in Philadelphia. We got around to talking about tattoos and you told you wanted a pickle tattoo. Just curious did you ever get that pickle tattoo? Keep up the great work man! Thanks.

KalPennsPenPalKen1171 karma

I do not tell the pickle story tattoo in my book so here we go: Maybe like 15 years ago, one of my best friends from college, DLC (who is in the book for other absurd stories) invited me to join him at a tattoo parlor where his buddy was getting some art done. DLC came over to my apartment a little early with a couple of 40's, so before drinking them, I said to him, "Promise me you won't let me get a tattoo. I feel like I'm gonna want one after I drink that." We crushed the 40's and walked over to the tattoo shop, where of course, I now wanted to get inked. DLC said, "Nah man, you made me promise not to let you." He told the tattoo artist that I was drunk, which was supposed to make him not give me a tattoo (but apparently that's an urban legend and the tattoo artist was like who cares, do you want to get a tattoo or not?). I looked through the tattoo book, while DLC kept telling me he wouldn't allow me to get one, and saw a tiny TINY tattoo of a green dill pickle. "This," I said to him, "I need this." He laughed at me and told me there was no way, that it was a horrible idea, and that I wasn't allowed to get the pickle tattoo. We finally left without any tattoos (and split another 40 back at my apartment). The next morning, I was obviously super glad that I didn't get the pickle tattoo and thanked DLC profusely. I recently told Italia Ricci (my castmate in Designated Survivor) that story and she sent me a few sheets of temporary pickle tattoos for my birthday. Anyway, to answer your actual question - I have yet to get a pickle tattoo, but I have gotten a few smaller pieces, mostly astronomy related (I'm a big astronomy buff) - I'm working towards a half-sleeve, Premiere Leaguer style, but I don't think it'll include a pickle.

CMcclay1795640 karma

What was it like working under the Obama administration, given his stance on gay marriage during that time?

KalPennsPenPalKen1564 karma

I went into that job knowing that I wouldn't ever agree with 100% of what the admin was doing (or not doing). I know this is how most of us figure out who we're voting for anyway - see who most fits with our values and beliefs. In the case of the White House, your role as an aide is to abide by the oath you took (to protect and defend the constitution, etc) but internally you also have a chance to advocate for certain policies to change and evolve. It can be super frustrating that politics moves so slowly, but I'm also really glad for the outcome of a lot of that work.

banallthemusic592 karma

Hey Kal! As a South-Asian, thank you for bringing in South Asian representation and breaking the glass ceiling not just as a south Asian actor in Hollywood but also playing as a South-Asian actor smoking ganja and not the IT guy/Doctor on screen, for this Thank You.

My question to you is two-fold - What are your thoughts on South-Asian actors taking more lead and prominent roles in Hollywood ?

What are your thoughts on Indian Actors playing roles with Anglicized names and characters? For instance on the morning show, Hasan Minhaj plays an Eric, Aziz played a Tom Haverford on Parks and Rec. Do you think we will reach a point where actors in Hollywood will be able to play a Harvinder Singh or even a Kalpen Modi ? ;-)

Thanks Bhai :)

KalPennsPenPalKen1077 karma

This is such an interesting question and without sounding like I'm pimping my book excessively here, it's a big narrative throughout it. The issue of naming characters is especially complex. My acting teacher used to say, "we don't own roles, we merely have a chance to step into and out of them" - that was mostly applied to theater, and Shakespeare, but I tried to apply that rule to film and tv as well, meaning I wanted to play the roles I was cast in if they weren't stereotypes. Playing a guy named Taj Mahal? Obviously yes I would have liked him to have had a not-racist human name. (But I did appreciate that his last name - Badalandabad - basically means "huge cock"'re welcome).

So after making the decision to take so many stereotypical roles early in my career (and to be clear, I'm not complaining in that sense, that decision was definitely mine, and the calculus was that it would hopefully reduce barriers to entry since I needed credits on my resume and Hollywood refused to cast POC in roles not written POC so there was something I call the Brown Catch-22), I was excited to take roles written the way the writers intended (Lawrence Kutner on House, Seth Wright on Designated Survivor). My experience with network television is that white writers (for whatever reason) are obsessed with a character's ethnicity if the role is written "ethnic", and I find that to be really reductionist. It's why I never fought for Kutner or Seth to be renamed, because of my prior experiences with white network writers. Which followed this pattern: You're rarely allowed to just be a dude having a bad day, it's like "oh Rahul is having a bad BECAUSE HIS INDIAN PARENTS DROPPED OF NAAN BREAD AND CHAI TEA AND DISTURBED HIS YOGA SESSION." And you're just like, ok putting aside the extraneous words bread and tea, can Rahul not have just had a bad day because he found out his girlfriend has gonorrhea?

All of which is to say, I could talk about his for hours (and I do in the book/audiobook in more detail) but I'm so glad you asked this question because rightfully - representation matters, and the conversations around names, screen names, colorization, language, all of it is complex and does matter a great deal.

iojojo392 karma

One of my favorite books is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and I really enjoyed the film adaptation you starred in. Do you experience that feeling of "otherness" in two cultures as a first-generation American, and does that feeling persist through your careers in Hollywood and politics, as well as coming out later in life?

KalPennsPenPalKen762 karma

Isn't Jhumpa incredible? The Namesake was my favorite film project (2nd fave film project is the H&K movies). Mira Nair was such a role model and inspiration to me as a kid, it was a real dream come true to work with them both (John Cho is the one who introduced me to Jhumpa's writing, while we were making H&K 2).

I didn't experience the kind of otherness you're asking about I think mostly because I also felt othered by the South Asian community for my interest in the arts. Growing up in NJ, though I experienced my share of (what back then didn't have a name but in 2021 we call) bullying and racist nonsense - generally I didn't think that being bilingual made me any less American, or eating Indian food at home made me feel strange. I totally respect that so many people have had those experiences, but mine were a bit different by virtue of the fact that 1) NJ was pretty diverse, so people would go home from school and speak Polish, Italian, Korean, whatever. To me that diversity always felt like it made me more American. 2) The Indian American community made it known that I shouldn't become an actor - those were some really tricky conversations back in the day, and I remember clearly at UCLA, the Indian student union was very unsupportive. I once tried to sign up for their email list campus during orientation. The women behind the table asked, “Where are you from and what are you majoring in?” I made small talk about moving from New Jersey and majoring in theater. She laughed and said, “No seriously, what are you majoring in?” It was admittedly pretty unique for a brown kid to major in the arts (I was the only Indian kid in the entire theater department—so I didn’t take her laughter too pointedly). She ignored me with dead eyes, quickly shifted focus to the person behind me. “Hi! Where are you from and what’s your major?” I never got added to their email list. These 2 kids Gita and Ravi were part of the Indian Student Union crew and lived on the same floor in my dorm, and they'd often go out of their way to poke their noses in my business by asking weird questions and then telling me how awful it was that I wasn’t majoring in a science like all the other brown kids. “Aren’t your parents disappointed in you? You’re kind of a sellout.” That kind of stuff.

All of which is to say, I never experienced the straightforward "one foot in two worlds" (or whatever that phrase is), because my experience was a little different. (Also my experience was that compared to the shit you get for being an actor, sharing that you have a fiance named Josh is pretty welcome news, "OK but when are you getting married, beta?" lol). I'm also really glad that so many things have changed so significantly within the SA community and at large. It's so nice to see so many stories in and out of the disaspora, so much love for all kinds of diversity and part of the community now that didn't exist back then.

shikari426201 karma

Have you considered sending an autographed photo to Gita and Ravi for Christmas?

KalPennsPenPalKen856 karma

no, they'll have to buy one.

Funko_monko374 karma

Have you ever tried weed?

KalPennsPenPalKen607 karma


GrumpySpaceGamer168 karma

How was it?

KalPennsPenPalKen691 karma

I was not low.

Ethanc1J351 karma

What is your choice breakfast food?

KalPennsPenPalKen796 karma

Tacos are my answer to every food question. Always tacos.

showstopping326 karma

As a guy with a lifted bronco who owns an extreme sport company in New Jersey Harold and Kumar caused me many of jokes back then... Haha Great movie 10/10.

Best bite back in jersey?

KalPennsPenPalKen331 karma

pics of your bronco please! That's amazing. I need to hit you up if you do kayak rentals. I'm partial to pizza and bagels, which are obviously the best in NJ

MrRob79287 karma

Good morning Kal,

Are you a plant guy? When you left the White House did you take a cutting of the Swedish Ivy from the Oval Office?

KalPennsPenPalKen318 karma

I did not, but I have been trying to get my hands on one! DM me on insta if you got the hookup!

corgi_robocop238 karma

What was it like working on House? Do you wish you could have spent more time on it?

KalPennsPenPalKen995 karma

House was awesome! I think what most people don't realize is how many good natured, consensual, R-rated jokes and bits we'd make with each other. One high-level game was called "AFITA" (Accidentally Fucked in The Ass). The premise of this “game” was introduced to us by screenwriter Sara Hess at two a.m. on a Saturday while shooting a scene in the Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital lobby. The rules are as follows: Each player enacts a scenario in which they’re going about an everyday task (like making coffee). At some point, the player decides to get “accidentally fucked in the ass” by their imaginary significant other— indicated by a crazy facial expression. For example, while Peter Jacobson (Dr Taub) is in the middle of adding cream or sugar, his face quickly contorts—and that’s the exact moment in which he is “accidentally fucked in the ass.” (It was not a very complicated “game.”)

The winner (usually Olivia Wilde) was the person who came up with the best nonchalant task, and the most extreme facial expression. Disclaimer: Sara Hess didn’t invent AFITA. It was created by friends of hers to amuse themselves at parties where only they knew they were playing. On our set, everyone knew we played. The rest of the cast was always invited to join, but I think they saw Accidentally Fucked in the Ass as an absurdity for only the three new actors. (That said, I’m pretty sure we did convince Hugh Laurie to play once. Omar Epps was always an emphatic no.)
I don't know if you were looking for a more G-rated answer but that's what popped into my head. I loved working on House. I think some aunties and uncles were probably happy that at least I was playing a doctor "finally".

cremedelakremz217 karma

I really enjoyed Designated Survivor. The show seemed to change its identity a bit in the Netflix season. Is there anything you feel got left on the table for Seth at the end of season 3? Also, did anyone in the cast ever call out all the 24 alumni? I felt like every episode i would say oh they were in 24!

KalPennsPenPalKen222 karma

There was some 24 overlap I think because of all the great relationships Kiefer made on that show, it was great to have so many of them join us. I think we went through either 3 or 4 showrunners (4 I think, one for each season + the pilot) and they each brought a totally different focus to what they wanted. That, and we jumped from ABC to Netflix for season 3 (if you watched the show outside of the US/Canada, you probably only saw the show on Netflix, because of licensing). So because it became an exclusively netflix show for season 3, you suddenly had all sorts of colorful language and boning and language during the boning - as an actor obviously much more interesting and real than the network version. Our last showrunner (Neal Baer) also had an approach that I found most compatible (I pulled double duty as a consultant on the show too) - he wanted to know what the reality of the white house world was, and wanted to ensconce the show in that reality, which I think made the show better and stronger (previous showrunners would ask what the reality was and then make the choice to do the exact opposite for dramatic purposes, which is of course their choice, but one that I found less interesting). Also, Neal brought on two more consultants, Eric Schultz (who worked at the WH with me and is an incredibly talented operative) and Tim Naftali (talented historian and NYU prof) - the 3 of us each had a different area of expertise, and the writers really leaned into that for the plot.

In terms of what got left on the table, a lot! I wanted to see how things transpired for Seth and Emily (either friendship or love interest) and the way Seth made and owned his mistakes was something I was excited to explore more. But i'm happy we got 3 great seasons, with a great team, in a city that I really like (Toronto, where we shot it).

SendThemToTheRanch182 karma

What was the coolest part about working with President Barack Obama?

KalPennsPenPalKen594 karma

This is probably going to sound a little hokey to some people but to me the coolest part was seeing first hand how much of a difference people can make. The system is designed to reward those in power by fostering a sense of complacency and powerlessness (ie, my voice or vote doesn't matter so i'll stay home and get upset at how shitty everything is which makes me want to stay home because my voice and vote don't matter). But if you break out of that and show up to vote, show up to a meeting in your town or schoolboard, figure out when the best pressure points are protest or letter writing or making your voice heard, there's a lot of good people can do. That's not to say it'll happen quickly or overnight (I mean just look at something like the climate fight or immigration) but slow change - in which you don't get 100% of what you wanted - is still incredibly powerful and worthwhile, especially if what you're aiming for is very high. So that experience was the coolest part. I also got to feed Bo some french fries in the west wing once and let's be honest that was a highlight too.

sonia72quebec122 karma

Actor, political consultant and now writer; is there something you can't do?

KalPennsPenPalKen364 karma

This is very nice of you but I am truly awful at math. Failed stats twice in college (3rd times a charm…if a C+ counts as a charm). I’m bad at Buck Hunter which my friend Ronnie Cho reminds me of every opportunity he gets, and I burn eggs because I’m scared I’ll get salmonella. My laundry skills are questionable, most of my white socks are pink. I have terrible time management skills, an awful sense of fashion, and am an infuriating dish washer loader.

ManIWantAName114 karma

Does the white house have plug in air fresheners?

KalPennsPenPalKen161 karma

I don't believe so, but I think you can bring your own if you wanted?

homofrantic103 karma

Hi Kal, What’s the funniest story you got from working at the White House that’s not in your book?

KalPennsPenPalKen378 karma

Most of the truly funny ones I put in the book, but here's one that isn't: I once was tasked with having to stand outside the east wing entrance to the White House to tell something like 5,000 guests who had tickets to the Obama/Singh arrival ceremony on the south lawn of the WH (for the first official state visit that Obama was hosting) that the event had been rained out and they all had to go home. People came from all over the country for this, so they were understandably super pissed off. They paid for flights, hotels, etc. Also, it was sunny! The people who made the "rain call" were looking at weather not practically looking outside. Add to that, the new indoor ceremony could still hold something like 200 people, so there were VIPs (members of congress, etc) who could get in, but I had to stand on this bench outside the East Wing and yell to everyone that we are so sorry but they have to go home because the event was rained out. Saying this with a straight face while the sun's rays brightly warmed all our faces was pathetic. AND - since it was mostly Indian guests - they started to yell shit at me like, "at least invite us inside for some chai!" and "We came from so far, this is how Obama treats us?!" while trying to grab selfies (this was rare to be clear - most of my job was kept very separate from my job as an actor). After 45 mins of verbal abuse, my boss came outside and said, "Okay maybe this isn't the best use of your time" and told me to go back to my office.

thatorangewrx100 karma

What driver are you rooting for on your Sundays now? And congrats!

KalPennsPenPalKen157 karma

Thank you! There are a few I root for these days. Blaney, Logano, Bubba. Really miss Edwards and Junior too tbh (nice to hear jr every week for half the season though).

zaphodava100 karma

Hi Mr. Penn,

In Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, I realized that your counterparts ended up at Hot Dog Heaven, eating food that is presumably not kosher, while your character was in the middle of a pilgrimage to White Castle to eat beef, which is forbidden by his religion. Each person's idea of heaven was the food they are not allowed to eat.

That was the moment when I realized that your goofy stoner movie was a lot smarter than I was giving it credit for.

I guess I need a question. Now that your book is out, what are you thinking of doing next?


KalPennsPenPalKen120 karma

The HKGTWC review that AO Scott gave us in the NY Times was a perfect analysis (if you've been nerding out over that subtext between WC and Hot Dog heaven, you'll love his article).

Next: I don't know, I'd love to sell the rights to my book and turn it into a film except I'm too old to play my younger self so we'll hire Dev Patel because he's great. (Mostly focused on sharing the book the next couple months, also doing a few horror movies, and producing a few projects including a Comedy Central Diwali movie called Surina & Mel's Hot Mess Holiday that I'm very excited about (airs Dec 11 on Comedy Central).

Seriously check out that AO Scott piece. I think this is it.

Crawfork198282 karma

Did your parents expect you to marry an Indian woman???

KalPennsPenPalKen294 karma not. :)

PaulieGoodBuy81 karma

Whatever happened to Hetal's Hoes? Who made (or didn't make) the hoes list?

KalPennsPenPalKen171 karma

Hetal got really cocky and wouldn't let me shoot more videos with her. There was a big incident with Bhavna (the only applicant who didn't make the hoes list) and Bhavna had to get a restraining order against Hetal, who in turn was arrested for tax evasion connected to her onlyfans account, and she's now serving time. I hope to reunite with her soon.

codespyder80 karma

Did you find that you had any transferable skills as an actor when you went to go work for the White House, and if so, which ones did you find most useful?

KalPennsPenPalKen236 karma

It was kinda the other way around. I like to keep both jobs separate but since I was the President's Liaison to Young Americans, I knew having a background in public speaking and acting could be helpful. But I quickly learned the White House communications team was strict about those of us in the Office of Public Engagement - they were terrified that any of us would say anything that could be taken out of context, and I knew in my case I had additional baggage and a higher risk since I came from a life in acting/in the public eye. Basically like, "oh shit if I mess up, the politico headline would be, 'without harold, kumar screws up Obama briefing', so I erred on the side of caution. That meant abiding by the comms team rules of only reading talking points, and the tricky thing for me was being told, "you can't be funny". That said, in leaving the White House I found I had much more patience than before, much more of a perspective on why things take so much time, and really an appreciation for why the comms team was being so cautious - especially given the historic nature of the administration, there were a lot of eyeballs on us and a lot of risk that things could be distracting. So I think those skills were kept separate for the most part, but are still complimentary to an extent.

myumpteenthrowaway72 karma

Kemcho tame??? Thank you for making it easier for brown youth everywhere to follow their authentic paths!

Do you consider yourself spiritual, and if so how do you apply spirituality to your comedy and to your political work? Are there any aspects of spirituality or religion that you consciously avoid?

Have a great day!

KalPennsPenPalKen98 karma

Majama! Thanks for such a kind compliment. I'd say I'm certainly more spiritual than religious. My parents are Jain and Hindu and they and our grandparents raised us with a respect for secularism which manifested itself in more spiritualism and morality than anything else. We did go to the mandir and derasar (complete with grounding, beautiful, sometimes chaotic-when-it-was-crowded aartis) but I tend to avoid the potential and sometimes divisive nature of faith, in favor of an approach that's a bit more welcoming if that makes sense (I think that's the influence of my Gandhian grandparents tbh). Bus chalo avjo

tezoatlipoca69 karma

Hi Kal! I'll find out when I read your memior, but: you left what most thespians would call a really sweet gig: hit Prime-time drama House, to answer the call of your nation. Any regrets about dumping Hollywood for Washington now that you have the benefit of hindsight? Was it all you hoped for or maybe you think on the roles you missed out on? You remain active in Democrat circles, any future ambition for more political roles?

KalPennsPenPalKen87 karma

I appreciate this question - I don't really see it as dumping one thing or another. I try to really enjoy the journey, experiences, meeting people, all that, and have loved all of it. I definitely worked my ass off to get that job on House, and loved it. It's for sure scary to take a leap of faith, but it felt like it was the right thing to take a sabbatical when I did, knowing I'd come back to acting. I know there was attention on this because of my job on tv, but the truth is a lot of people do things like this - take a break from one passion for another, put something on pause and come back to it, try something totally new for a while because they love that too. We're trained to think that might be crazy or bad but I think it can be so fulfilling - at least that's been my experience with it. Had so many experiences in public service and the White House that I'd never have had. No political ambitions myself but while being back at work as an actor (my 1st love) I'm excited to help some campaigns and candidates who I know and like (kinda the same as a lot of people who might volunteer in their downtime and stuff)

RowdyWrongdoer65 karma

You smoked fake weed with a fake president but if you could smoke real weed with a real president, living or dead....which one would you choose and why?

KalPennsPenPalKen137 karma

William Henry Harrison because it would be an epic 31 days.

djidrones61 karma

Favorite Taco?

KalPennsPenPalKen129 karma

Anything from Los Tacos on Santa Monica Blvd in an LA strip mall between a 7-11 and a laundromat.

cryingun58 karma

Hi Kal! I got a simple question: do you remember me?

Some background : we met in Lissabon in 2012 (i think) at a seafood restaurant and spoke a little. I pretended to not know how you were because I thought it would be easier to talk to you if I wasn't going crazy over meeting an actor I enjoy on screen.

The night came and you invited me and my (then) girl friend over to your friend's bar to watch a soccer game.

You even invited us to pay a visit in the US to see some fantastic places you would recommend.

Hands down, never met a more down to earth famous person in my life. You are golden man and cherish our day in Lissabon a lot, even after all these years!

Also, will there be a new season of designated survivor? It ended quite strange...

Cheers man!

KalPennsPenPalKen37 karma

This all sounds very familiar but I think it was a few years after that? Josh and I visited Lisbon that summer with family and it was a wonderful place, lots of great food and people. If you visit the states, I still have lists of recommendations! (Designated Survivor ended after its 3rd season - wish we had more, but happy with what they gave us, thank you for watching it)

JBrizzie55 karma

I just wanted to tell you that Harold and Kumar go to White Castle got me through the worst time in my life. You made me laugh at a time when it hurt to smile, so thank you for that. Seriously.

Question(s) for you: what made you decide to write a book? How long have you known that you would write it? Can’t wait to read it, by the way!

KalPennsPenPalKen85 karma

Thank you so much. I have to tell you, that movie came at a time when I needed to smile too - I just never thought I'd have had a shot at a movie that would let a guy who looked like me be funny without a stereotype. I met Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (the guys who created the franchise) at a friend's bday party a few weeks before they sold the script and told them that my experiences in Hollywood made me sure they'd never get it sold. (Hurwitz rightfully laughed in my face and confidently told me he would sell it). A long series of auditions later, working on that film with John Cho and everyone was a real highlight and showed me what could be possible. So to hear that it made you smile at a really rough time in your life means a lot to me, and I appreciate you sharing it.

I decided to write a book because I finally thought I might have a story to share. I wanted to write for the 20 year old version of me, who never had stories about what it was like to deal with and work through barriers to entry in Hollywood and also for anyone out there who's also been told they were crazy because of a passion or interest or something they wanted to try out - maybe it's multiple careers or some crazy class they want to take - anything. I finally thought maybe I had something to say and my first goal of the book was really to make people smile. I want it to feel like we're having a beer (or nine) together, with conversations that range from absolutely absurd (including a MILF joke I made on official White House email - true story) to the tougher struggles of dealing with typecasting and racism in entertainment. So I've been slowly working on it for the last 4 years or so, and am really excited it's finally out tomorrow and that I can share those stories with people. I hope you like it!

Wuz31415953 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

KalPennsPenPalKen72 karma

1 horse-sized duck for sure

DrunkenSailor27 karma

Your work in Deadbeat on Hulu. Season 3, Episode 3 “Bong Pong” was outstanding. Great work - second only to Where’s the Party Yaar?
I watched it again last night. I’m the scene as the vacuum cleaner salesman, was that scripted or was that improv?

KalPennsPenPalKen37 karma

This episode of Deadbeat - in particular that vacuum salesman bit - is my absolute favorite piece of improv and I'm very proud of it. I loved that show - the writers, creators, Tyler, and the directors always encouraged us to go offscript. In that episode, they wrote my character Clyde a scene where he tries to convince someone that he's a vacuum salesman. So I asked them if I could just do a different character, like Clyde is pretending to be someone else (a character within a character I guess). They said go for it, so we did. That clip - which I won't ruin since it's pretty R-rated language wise, made it into the final cut (which is still on hulu).

stat1stick26 karma

Hey Kal! I'm a big fan! My question for you is, were you happy with your role in Superman Returns or were you hoping for a more prominent role?

Also, if you could be in any superhero movie, existing or not, and play any character, which would you choose?

Take care!

KalPennsPenPalKen46 karma

Both! I loved working on Superman Returns. Brandon (Routh) was a buddy of mine for years before he got cast (we both kinda came up together in LA around the same time). Originally, Stanford had more lines, and a whole subplot (which got cut out unfortunately). Still had a blast making it. Would love to do another superhero movie like that (with a bigger part next time). And if I could be in any superhero movie per your question - might not be the deep answer you're looking for - but playing Spiderman sounds baller.

Million202616 karma

What can be done to get more South Asian actors in movies and tv and get them better roles?

KalPennsPenPalKen44 karma

More writers, more executives, more producers, more studios and networks being open to diverse content. And more aunties and uncles encouraging their kids to choose that path, with more support for them from the community when they do