Kumail Nanjiani - Surviving Family and Hardship in "The Big Sick"

July 10, 2017 - Kumail Nanjiani 07/10/2017 Views: 26,164

Kumail Nanjiani discusses his film "The Big Sick," which dramatizes how his early relationship with his wife endured cultural differences and serious illness. (6:58)

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Please welcome Kumail Nanjiani.

(cheers and applause)

Oh, look at these people.

Oh, my goodness.


Welcome to the show,my good sir.

Thank you for having me.

It's my first time on The Daily Show.

Oh, well, congratulations.

-Cheers to that.-Thank you.

Cheers to that.

-Oh, it's not water.-Oh.

No, it is, it's water.You're fine.

It's reallyroom temperature water.

Yes. I never know if peoplewanted cold or warm water.

I just go safe,room temperature.

I like that you-you're tryingto convince us

-that you make these decisions.-I do.

-Really?-That's exactly what I do.

You decide the temperatureof the water?

-That's the one thingI do at the show, -Okay.

-is I go, water, I decide.-Yeah.

Let's-let's talk about you,your movie,

everything that you're doing.

Uh, I remember watching youmany years ago in LA,

and you were one of the funniesthuman beings

I'd ever seen on a stage.

Uh, and then,over time I saw you grow

in your roles on TVand in movies.

What's been really excitingfor me

is watching how you don't alwaysplay the role

that many people would wantyour accent to play.

Has that beena big deal for you?

Um, yeah.

What do you mean my accent?


Oh, you get the cold water, huh?

Um, yeah, you know, it's-it'svery easy, like,

in the beginning when I wasfirst auditioning--

it's changed some--but I would get, you know,

asked to audition for,like, cab drivers

and 7-Eleven employeesand that kind of stuff.

I don't know whyyou're laughing.

It was a nightmare.

And I had auditions,but they would, you know,

they would be, like,they would be, like,

could you do your accent but,like, could you make it, like--

They would use code words, like,"Could you make it funnier?"

Uh, which I knew they meantthey wanted me

-to do the Apu Indian accent,-Right, right.

which is-- a-a white guy does.

Um, so I decidedI would not do that.

Um, I decided I would never,like, play up my accent anymore.

So there were a lot of--just one person is on board.

No. It's okay. It's fine.

Thank you.

I look over there and it'sHank Azaria clapping.


He's like, "I'm so sorry,I didn't mean anything by it."

-Oh, that's funny.-But, but, yeah.

And even so, even thenwhen I did small parts,

I would try and find somethingspecific to them

that wasn't about my ethnicityor the way I looked or sounded,

something about each part thatwas different and unique

and comedic in a, in aspecific way, you know.

You-you've done thatreally well with this film.

A lot of peoplehave talked about

how authentic the movie is,

how interesting it is,how nuanced it is.

It is a romantic comedy

but it does feel like it isthe telling of a real story,

and that's because,in many ways, it is.

Yeah. It's sort of the realstory of the first year

of the relationship that, um,my now wife and I had.

Emily, Emily is her name.


Is this the nicest audience?

-Yeah. This is thenicest audience. -Oh, my God.

I just mentioned my wife's nameand they're like,

"Aw. He remembershis wife's name.

Aw. What a great husband."


And what happened was, you know,I'm from, uh...

My parents wanted meto sort of marry a, um,

a Muslim Pakistani, uh, woman.


I bet that that same person isapplauding right now.

-That's right.-They're all over the place.

They're not consistent.

Um, and I sort of fell in lovewith Emily.

And this is gonna soundvery intense.

After we were datingfor a few months,

she got really, really sick,my wife did--

she wasn't my wife at the time--

and she, uh, was put intoa coma-- this is true--

she was, she was put into a comafor eight days,

and I hung out with her parents,who I didn't know.

And so the movie's about that.

But it is a comedy,I promise you.

It is... it is a comedy, butit's sort of about that period.

-Right. -Me hanging outwith her parents,

and us gettingto know each other

while the person we all love,

um, is... is struggling.

I-I like that you talk aboutthat story

from that perspective. I...

Because you-you wrote the moviewith your wife, as well.

-Yeah. -When you're writinga movie with, uh,

someone that you are with...isn't it awkward?

Like, are there points whereyou go, like, "It would be funny

if she said this" or"Ha, she's so stupid" or...

And then... Do-do you everhave to navigate that?

Yeah, I... She made me...You know, she, all...

Whenever I would get rewrites--'cause she didn't play herself--

all the... there would be fewermake out scenes in the script.


It's a joke. Um, but,you know, it's interesting,

'cause we remembered thingsdifferently

'cause we both went through it,

-but we remembered eventsdifferently. -Oh, wow.

We disagreed on how it happened,

so we were able to actuallyput that conflict in the scenes.

So one... I would be like,"Oh, that was a really hap...

We had a great date."And she was like,

"Are you kidding me?That date sucked.

So we wrote the scenewhere I'm having great time,

and she's having a bad time.

So it was reallykind of interesting

to collaborate in that way.

Wh-When you look at the story--

it's a love storyon the surface, but...

I don't know if it's because

of the political climateright now...

-What do you mean?-or...

or if it's.... You're reallyout of touch, Kumail.

-What do you mean?-You are really, really...

-You live in your own world.-I sort of...

I've been off.... I've beenoffline for about a year.

What's happened?

Do you remember the show The Apprentice?

-So-so... -I've noticedpeople are being weird to me

when I'm walking around. Why?Have, uh... have, uh...

Has the, uh, image of Muslimsgone down in the world?

Did something happen?I don't know.

But I mean, because of-becauseof the political climate

right now, you have to admit,like, the story

has taken ona slightly different meaning.

It seems like there's-there'sa moral behind it.

Did you intend this?Was this meant to be a story

about how love overcomes theobstacles of race and ethnicity

and those ideas or was itjust a personal story

that then appealedto different people?

Yeah, it was just apersonal story. We just wanted

to tell our love story,you know, it's a comedy,

it's a rom-com, it's sort ofabout two different families

from different partsof the world coming together.

And when we shot it, we...

it did not feel likea political statement to us,

but, becauseit's coming out now,

it.... people are seeing it as,sort of, this

grand political statement,and the only, like,

stance it takes is thatMuslims are human beings.

-Like, that-that's the en...-Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,

-whoa. Whoa. Whoa. -Don't...-(cheering, applause)

-Don't edit that out.-Whoa.

-Don't edit that out, please.-Whoa, whoa, whoa.

-I want to tell everyoneright now: -Whoa.

-Muslims are people too, okay?-Whoa!

(cheering, applause)


Those are somecontentious viewpoints.

We're gonnahave to edit that out.

-No, no, no. -I'm gonna...I'm gonna have to ask you

-to leave the show.-Oh, I'm so sorry.

-Uh, Kumail Nanjiani, everybody.-Aah!

The Big Sick can be seenin select cities now,

and will be in theatersnationwide July 14.

Kumail Nanjiani, everybody.

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