Kumail Nanjiani

A comedic jack of all trades, Kumail Nanjiani never forgot his Pakistani roots even while riffing on the all-American life he had created for himself. He wrote for some of the hippest and most ground-breaking TV comedies of his era, and still found time to co-host a podcast about the nerd world of video games while putting together a weekly live show that helped put Los Angeles back on the map of stand-up. Born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1978, Nanjiani moved to Iowa with his family when he was 18. In college, he first discovered stand-up by listening to his uncle's tapes of comedy acts, and he became obsessed. By his junior year in college he began doing his own stand-up routines. His major in computer sciences, gave him a solid nerd-culture base for his act as he drifted slowly into the comedy world of New York City. He worked briefly as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC 1975- ), but his work on the short-lived sketch program "Michael and Michael Have Issues" (Comedy Central 2009) gave him his first taste of acting. The producers wanted the writers to also have bit parts on the show, and Nanjiani discovered that the acting informed his writing, and the writing improved his acting. Along with his burgeoning stand-up career, Nanjiani had small roles in the films "Life As We Know It" (2010) and "The Five Year Engagement" (2012). During this era, Nanjiani moved from New York to Los Angeles, where podcast impresario Chris Hardwick invited him to create a show about comic books. Since he knew video games much better, he convinced Hardwick to center the show on video game obsessions. The podcast, The Indoor Kids, was co-hosted by Nanjiani's wife, comic and writer Emily V. Gordon. As if the television appearances, movies and podcasts weren't enough, Nanjiani also started co-hosting a weekly stand-up show in the back room of a Los Angeles comic book store called The Meltdown alongside fellow comic Jonah Ray. The show, which featured rising and known comics doing new, improvisational and experimental material, was so successful that in 2014 Comedy Central signed it up to become one of the network's live comedy showcases; the shows ended in 2016 when the pair's other duties began taking too much of their time. Nanjiani also continued to act, appearing regularly as various characters on Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's offbeat comedy series "Portlandia" (IFC 2011- ) and taking on a co-starring role in Mike Judge's satirical series "Silicon Valley" (HBO 2014- ). Nanjiani and Gordon branched into screenwriting with "The Big Sick" (2017), an autobiographical comedy about their courtship that starred Nanjiani as himself and Zoe Kazan as Emily.