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Comedian Kumail Nanjiani On HBO's 'Silicon Valley'

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Some comics are launching a new startup — a fictional one for HBO’s new comedy, “Silicon Valley.”

It’s a half hour live action series that lampoons, well, the startup cult of Silicon Valley. The show, which premieres on Sunday is written and directed by Mike Judge, who was also behind “Beavis and Butt-head,” “Office Space” and “King of the Hill.”

The San Francisco Chronicle is calling it not only one of the best shows of the season, but the “best tech show yet” and “a Silicon Valley rarity: a startup that’s a sure thing.”

We speak with one of the stars, Pakistani American comedian Kumail Nanjiani. Nanjiani has been showing up all over the place — late night TV, “Portlandia,” “Franklin & Bash” and Comedy Central.

Nanjiani tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about his character on the new series and about coming to America from Pakistan and going from studying philosophy and computer science to becoming a stand-up comedian.

Interview Highlights: Kumail Nanjiani

On his character in HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’

“This guy’s a really good programmer, so that makes him arrogant, because of his skills in a very specific world. And then I take that arrogance and apply it to every other aspect of his life that he’s not good at. So I think that guy’s funny ’cause he’s arrogant — about everything, about how he thinks he is with the ladies. He’s not good with the ladies. You know, all that stuff. He thinks he’s cool. He’s not cool. He’s only good at programming.”

On Silicon Valley and startup culture

“These people basically control our lives in so many ways. I mean, you look down at you phone, all of these apps are made by people over there and we really have no idea how that whole area’s set up. It really is about power and money. It’s really fascinating, but they’re sort of coded in this ‘Oh, we just want to make the world a better place and if we make a billions of dollar on the way, then that’s alright.’ … What’s interesting is that a lot of these guys have a lot of money, but they don’t really know how to party. So they’re sort of partying in their own world. They’re approximating what they think partying is. You know, the first scene of the episode, you’re at a really, really big ostentatious party, but you sort of see that it doesn’t quite work.”

On double majoring in philosophy and computer science

“I studied philosophy because I, you know, really wanted a high-paying job, and I studied computer science because it was my passion. Or is it the other way around? I can never remember. Yeah, I did computer science because I thought, you know, that’s what everyone was doing at the time, and everyone was getting jobs on it, and I was like ‘Alright, I’ll do this, I’ll get a job, I’ll be able to stay in the U.S.’ And then I studied philosophy because it was something I really liked doing, and then on graduation I was like, well one I’m no good at and one nobody really wants me to do. Actually my philosophy degree led me to this huge existential crisis about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

On what it was like going from Pakistan to Iowa

“It was hundreds of things. I’d never shaken hands with a woman before; that was weird. My jaw hurt from talking English all the time because I was making, you know, these sounds that I wasn’t used to making all day every day. I mean, it was interesting in so many ways but also I’m glad that I did go to Iowa so there weren’t that many people around so it wasn’t completely overwhelming. I mean, I’d seen America in movies, you know, but you never really see Iowa in the movies very much.”

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Source: NPR

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