7 reasons why Pakistanis should be extremely proud of Kumail Nanjiani

Published: October 20, 2017
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For anyone who doesn’t know who Kumail Nanjiani is, he’s a Pakistani-American comedian, writer and actor. Nanjiani was born and raised in Karachi, graduating from Karachi Grammar School before moving to the United States to attend college.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably wondering, so what? Why do I care? What has he done for Pakistan? Well, he’s doing the impossible – he’s representing Pakistan, in a positive light, in Hollywood.

Wondering how? Well, keep reading!

1. A Pakistani hosting Saturday Night Live (SNL)… wait, what?!

For anyone familiar with American TV, SNL, a late night sketch comedy show that’s been on air since the 70s, is a very big deal. Hosting SNL is a sign that you’ve made it in Hollywood. Only the who’s who of celebrities get a chance to host it, which is evident since this season alone has seen episodes hosted by Ryan Gosling and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot herself.

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: Screenshot

Nanjiani is the first Pakistani and only the second brown actor, after Aziz Ansari, to host the show, making this a truly historic moment for both him and diversity in Hollywood.

2. Pakistani and proud of it!

It’s no secret that Nanjiani is Pakistani – in fact, he keeps reminding people that he is, even in several of his sketches on SNL. His monologue focused on being a Pakistani and issues he has had to deal with in America, such as racism and Islamophobia.

3. A movie about himself, a Pakistani Uber driver, which became a hit… what a guy!

Nanjiani is so vocal about his Pakistani roots that he wrote and starred in a movie about himself and how he met and fell in love with his wife Emily, who happens to be white. The movie, called The Big Sick, was based on the first year of their relationship and was surprisingly a hit in the tough Hollywood market where bigger movies with more famous stars failed to please audiences.

Photo: Screenshot

With this surprising hit, Nanjiani probably surprised Hollywood audiences with a story of a Pakistani man on TV romancing a white woman instead of doing whatever it is Pakistanis do in Homeland.

The Big Sick became one of the highest grossing independent films of the year.

Photo: Screenshot

4. Silicon Valley-ing it since 2014

Nanjiani stars as Dinesh Chugtai, one of the main cast members on Silicon Valley, which has now been renewed for a fifth season.

Photo: IMDb

And he’s not a cab driver or a pawn shop owner!

Photo: IMDb

5. Owning Twitter since day one

With almost two million followers, Nanjiani has amassed a great and loyal fan following on Twitter, where he continues to be funny and fights white supremacists at the same time.

6. Actually funny, unlike Zaid Ali T; yes, I said it!

Which makes him a very rare breed – not just a Pakistani, but a Pakistani comedian in Hollywood?

Pakistani comedians rarely make it in Pakistan – Saad Haroon is an international stand-up comedian who went on to become the second ‘Funniest Person in the World’ but never really made it big– so it’s great to see one doing so well outside the country for a change.

7. Pakistan’s very own Priyanka Chopra

He put Pakistan on Hollywood’s map, just as Irrfan Khan and Priyanka Chopra did for India. Nanjiani hosting SNL came as a surprise to no one – in fact, his fans were eagerly waiting for it.

He’s become a regular on American late night TV shows; he even hosted the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards with Kate McKinnon.

Photo: Screenshot

Photo: YouTube

It’s a good time to be a brown man in Hollywood. Nanjiani has joined Aziz Ansari, Hassan Minhaj and Riz Ahmed as actors of Pakistani or Indian descent who have gained popularity and recognition in Hollywood. Minhaj hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year, while Ahmed and Ansari both recently won Primetime Emmy Awards for their respective shows.

Here’s hoping we get to see more of Nanjiani representing Pakistan in Hollywood!

Iqra Khan

Iqra Khan

The writer is a political science graduate from LUMS, an aspiring journalist and a sometimes poet. Her alter-ego can be found at @Iqqss (twitter.com/Iqqss)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • rumi52

    Yes he creates a good image for Pakistan and many Pakistanis will be proud of him. However I have to ask how many Pakistanis would be proud of this guy if he was a Pakistani woman and had achieved the same success through the same path. For example if as a woman there had been a film about how ‘she’ met her non-Muslim husband at a bar or night club and then bonded with his parents.Recommend

  • wb

    But he’s an atheist. He has given up on Islam. So, should Pakistanis be proud of him? To add to that, he was a Shia Muslim. Now, an atheist, former Shia Muslim, married to a white woman with American citizenship.

    Should Pakistanis be really proud of him? Someone who has given up Islam!!! Think about it.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    He’s a declared atheist, which means he can never come back to Pakistan and be alive at the same time.
    May be in the next 10 to 15 years.Recommend

  • Hasan

    What sasta nasha do you do?!

    Not being a muslim doesn’t make you any less Pakistani.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Being an Agnostic/Athiest/Non-Muslim doesn’t make one any less Pakistani. Don’t come crying when you aren’t accepted in the west because of your Religion/Color.

    Besides here’s a history lesson for people like you: Pakistan was founded by a Shia – Muslim, Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was married to a non-muslim woman.Recommend

  • Moiz Sheikh

    I was thinking about the same thing.Recommend

  • Nomzta

    Hopefully he never comes back. He has done nothing for Pakistan.Recommend

  • Nomzta

    Jinnah was a Shia MuslimRecommend

  • Nomzta

    Image is useless.Recommend

  • cameron2k

    It doesnt matter if hes a declared Atheist, Sunni, Shia, Muhajir, Punjabi, Pushtoon, Ahmadi, or a Syed Americans do not think at that level. For the americans, he’s a Pakistani, which means that as long as he is portraying a positive image of a brown person, it normalizes somewhat the image of a so-called “Pakistani”. Compare that to the barrage of information that comes in the news from Pakistan, he is representing a positive image here.

    Besides, who decided and made all you people the police on who is a Pakistani and who is not? If hes a Shia, good for him, if hes an atheist, its his business. He’s doing a lot more good for Pakistan than you ever will, with that judgemental attitude of yours, and spewing of hatred.Recommend

  • cameron2k

    Don’t be so jealous of him just because no American woman will marry youRecommend

  • Humanoids

    So atheists are not Pakistani? Hindu Ahmedi christians, Kailash, Shia are what 2nd grade Pakistani or Pakistani got to be only Sunni?
    If he has given up on Islam its his personal problem and he will be answerable not you. You will go into your grave and he into his. Stop equating religion with nationalism, you are way off! You are acting like Ahrar and JI of 1940s who considered Jinnah “Kaffir e Azam” (Aik Kafira ke liay Islam ko chora- Yeh Qaid e Azam hai ke Kaffir e Azam) was a slogan of Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar who went against Pakistan resolution. Come 1947 the man was in Pakistan. Come 1951 he was rioting to remove Sir Zafarullah Khan from cabinet (nominated by JInnah) goodness gracious Jinnahw as already dead else he would be labelled Shia Kaffir!
    PS: I am not a shia nor an Ahmedi. Just a simple non denominational Muslim.
    .
    I care less what his religious inclinations are for me hes a bright Pakistani! And people like you are the ones we have rabid intolerance in our society
    I advise you to go out of your home travel and breathe fresh airRecommend

  • Parvez

    Kumail is simply awesome ……. and he absolutely does not hide the fact that he is an American of Pakistani origin, as a matter of fact he boldly says do. It is guys like him who are showing the fast shrinking ‘ softer ‘ side of our rather rigid society.
    I expect many negative comments for this brilliant person, the reason if we are to be honest is simple jealousy…….you could not not make it, so bad mouth the person who did…..just like those bad mouthing Malala.Recommend

  • Nomzta

    West has yet to accept black people whose ancestors they kidnapped and brought over as slaves. Why should the west accept anyone else who is not white/christian?Recommend

  • Nomzta

    Pakistanis should be proud of scientists, doctors, etc regardless of their religion. Actors, actresses, singers, models are unworthy of admiration.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    you look like an indian liar.Recommend

  • Amer

    I know from your previous comments that you are not a Pakistani but have some very negative misconceptions about what Pakistanis think, do and believe. I hope others reading your comments can see that your only goal is to make Pakistanis and Pakistan look bad …not much else. By the way:1) Pakistanis do not hate American people. Period. 2) Pakistanis Sunnis do not hate Shias. Period. (Millions living among us and are our brothers). 3) Pakistanis should be ‘proud’ of someone who has worked for Pakistan. Abdul Sattar Eidhi, Marium Mukhtiar, Dr Umar Saif, Shahid Afridi, Junaid Jamshed, Fatima Jinnah and many others are great examples.Recommend

  • wb

    Dear Hasan, good to hear. Glad you accept all Pakistanis despite their religion and/or faith/firka etc.

    So, tell me again, why minorities are killed and persecuted? Maybe just for sport?Recommend

  • wb

    Jinnah practically disowned his only child, daughter because she married a Parsi and told her, “There are million Muslim boys in India, and you could have chose anyone.”

    So, again, someone who sheds Islam as religion, can he/she be accepted by Pakistanis? After all, Jinnah himself did not accept his own daughter leaving her religion.

    And again, Dina was also an ex- Muslim!!! Just like Kumail.Recommend

  • peter pan

    This article is a good example of a Pakistani who has done well for himself and provided a much needed alternative view of Pakistanis to the West. This is obviously good.
    However, the comments to this article are an indictment of the person on account of his religious beliefs. I just do not understand the connection.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    wow most ridiculous comment ive ever read.

    Art defines a country. Art showcases a soft image of a country.

    if a country suffocates its art and its artists, then it looses its identity.

    Nations like Paris, UK, Spain have progressed simply because they learned the importance of art. In Pakistan, since this industry is frowned upon and art is constantly suppressed, its no wonder we are still a backward country living in dark ages.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    True. Definitely something to wonder about. I think now times have changed and pakistanis have become slightly open minded. I think it will be acceptable without anyone being offended.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Yes image is useless. No wonder every time I walk down a street in New York and I tell people I’m from Pakistan, they immediately try to distance themselves from me or run away in paranoia and try to call the police.
    When I’m going for a job interview and talk about my pakistani experience, I automatically increase my chances of getting a rejection because the word pakistani scares white people off and hence, the experience become meaningless.

    Yes image is so useless. Thats why every time I make a case about visiting pakistan at tourism conferences and expos in NY, I am told to get off stage as no one is interested in visiting a high risk country.

    Yup I agree, we should continue to be our backward and barbaric selves, no need to show a soft image because, u know, its so useless, so that whatever minimal chances we have of joining rest of the world in progressiveness, we can make sure to loose those chances.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Hope some Mullah doesn’t issue a fatwa against him.Recommend

  • PapaTango

    I am glad for him or anyone else who gets to do what he wishes to do. I personally don’t find him rip roaringly funny or any more entertaining than some other comedians: to each their own taste.

    With regard to his renunciation of his faith – which he did by publicly castigating the religion for allowing the beating women (whether that observation has merit or not is beyond this story) that’s his business. Whether or not one has to adhere to being a Pakistani and Muslim before someone is accepted as a valid representative of the country, is up to the audience. I don’t watch any of his work because I simply don’t find it entertaining the rest is either inconsequential or a private matter.

    Now if he decides to debate his rejection of Islam or make it a centerpiece of his work, then we can have at it, till then good luck to him and everyone else.Recommend

  • ab

    no father name on birth certificate is progressiveness? We are better alone then being part of these fake progressiveness.Recommend

  • Patwari

    He did not shed Islam, you made that up. You being a Shiv Sena warrior and a RSS foot soldier, are just defaming a Pakistani
    You can now collect your Rs.14.75 from Shiv Sena. Write directly to President of BJP, Amit Shah, he will expedite your payment.
    Not bad for writing toxic comments in a Pak, Modi friendly, paper.
    Recommend

  • Patwari

    But ..but, what about the Muslims that are hung regularly from lamp posts, peepul trees, holy trees, doorways…under pretext of Gau Rakhsha? Christians churches burnt regularly? Muslim villages set on fire in Manipur or was it Meghalaya?
    And the Muslim Genocide in Bharati Kashmir??Recommend

  • Patwari

    ‘ wb ‘ or Banarsi Brahmini [formerly Banarsi Mulla] is a full time, paid, cyber
    warrior of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Parent Organization of BJP.
    BJP, the virulently anti Muslim political party of Hindustani PM Modi Sarkar.
    He makes his living doling out toxic hate and poison against Muslims, Paks,
    and Pakistan, in ET and other Pak e newspapers. Under different names.
    So, no point in trying to put across sense to him.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    it is progressiveness especially if it is a backward minded barbaric mindset holder old pakistani man.

    how conveniently u pakistani men have set the rules for yourselves so that no one points finger at you. u pakistani father can go about mentally torturing his wife, physically abusing his daughters and still demands respect. Hey thats ok but dont u dare try to remove your father name from your birth certificate.

    this is exactly the backward minded thinking that pakistan needs to get rid of by making it punishable by law.Recommend

  • ab

    Yes agree it should be punishable by law. is it in NEW YORK the great? if it is not then why not made it a law there. and we will follow as we are followers unfortunately.Recommend

  • some facts

    He made her convert. Nanjiani hasn’t. Jinnah disowned his only daughter because she married a non-MuslimRecommend

  • gp65

    He is talking about Nanjiani shedding Islam NOT Jinnah. That is a fact. He (Nanjiani) is an atheist married to a white woman who has not converted.Recommend

  • just the facts

    IS apostasy punishable by death in Pakistan – yes or no?Recommend

  • are you sure

    Are you sure? Look what happened when MAhira was simply smoking with Ranbir.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Nope. blasphemy is. only on the condition where a person spreads his arrogance against Islam.

    If he promotes anti-state or anti-Islamic beliefs which are not part of any other major world religion then he will be punished.
    Recommend

  • samy

    So what he is an atheist.
    So what he has given up on Islam. So what….
    If someone is of your country but not of your religion it doesn’t mean that you must not appreciate him or her. That is wrong.
    If someone make Pakistan famous/proud for a good thing(like Dr. Abdus Salam, Dr.Abdul Qadir Khan and etc) then we should forget his or her religion and focus on his or her achievements and we should try to learn from him or her. And make ourselves better.

    No one has guts to do anything like Dr.Abdus Salam and Abdul Qadir Khan?.
    Can someone do like him?

    Abdul Sattar Edhi marhoom sahib ka agar hum deen iman dekhty or unko mana kardetay to hum unki khidmaat say mahroom hotay.
    If we want to see religion in every aspect of life then why we are still using internet and mobile phones?These were invented by non-Muslims.Recommend