Opened shows for Aziz Ansari, but now Kumail Nanjiani is coming into his own as a stand-out comedian

This Pakistani-American is on a dizzy rise to fame, success.

By Deepak Chitnis

Kumail Nanjiani (courtesy of TBS)
Kumail Nanjiani (courtesy of TBS)

WASHINGTON, DC: Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani American stand-up comic, has a number of high-profile projects lined up that could launch him into the A-list of Hollywood’s comedic talent.

The 35 year-old is opening a new stand-up show on Comedy Central in February called “The Meltdown,” and will star in another new show debuting in April called “Silicon Valley,” the new program by the creator of the animated 90s cult hit, “Beavis and Butt-Head.”

Originally born in Karachi, Nanjiani moved the US in the mid-1990s when he was 18 to attend school at the Grinnell College, located in Iowa. When he came to the US, he started watching comedians on television, particularly David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld. After seeing a classmate of his perform stand-up comedy in college, Nanjiani decided to try his hand at it.

After graduating, Nanjiani moved to Chicago, performing stand-up and eventually getting spots on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and Conan O’Brien’s late-night program on TBS. Subsequently, Nanjiani landed staff writing gigs on hit comedy shows like “The Colbert Report,” and “Michael and Michael Have Issues,” a short-lived Comedy Central Show about two friends named Michael.

In 2009, the comedy channel named Nanjiani as one of the year’s breakout comedians, alongside fellow desi comedian Aziz Ansari, for whom Nanjiani has opened at various stand-up comedy venues. Since then, Nanjiani has gone on to feature in increasingly bigger roles on both television and film, usually in guest roles.

He featured in HBO’s hit comedy “Veep,” starring “Seinfeld” co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the US Vice-President. His biggest role to date came in the TNT legal farce “Franklin & Bash,” on which he played Pindar Singh, a science-fiction nerd who works with the title characters.

Now, Nanjiani is getting ready to take his “The Meltdown” national after playing in New York and Los Angeles for some time now. The show is an experiment stand-up comedy show that Nanjiani holds with his friend and co-writer Jonah Ray. The show has proved to be a big hit in its limited run so far, attracting the attention of big names like Robin Williams, Louis C.K. – who already has his own self-titled TV show on the FX channel – and Donald Glover, who is perhaps best known for his role on the NBC sitcom “Community.”

In “Silicon Valley,” Nanjiani will play one of five characters who come up with an idea for an IT product and start a company, an idea quite similar to the recently launched Amazon series “Betas.” The show will co-star T.J. Miller, best known to audiences from films like Cloverfield and Unstoppable, and Martin Starr, who had a prominent role in the 2007 box-office smash Knocked Up.

Nanjiani, whose birthday is coming up next month, is on a meteoric rise to the top of American stand-up and shows no signs of slowing down. Below is a compilation of many of Nanjiani’s most well-known stand-up bits. (Warnng: some material may be inappropriate for younger viewers):

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

One Comment

  1. FloyydRTurbbo

    Amazing that people have low threshold for laughing at jokes.

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