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Entries in Kumail Nanjiani (1)

Thursday
Sep292016

Kumail Nanjiani at #JFL42

Upon greeting the audience Kumail Nanjiani pointed out that this was in fact the second performance of his career in Toronto.  He noted that this was the first show announced, so these are his fans that were really on the ball and yet they lose out on the experience of the first show.  Whether fans of 'Beta Male', 'The Meltdown', 'Silicon Valley', or more likely all of the above, no one in the audience had more impact than Amir.  Nanjiani spotted the young man in the 'Make America Rage Again' hat who cheered when Kumail mentioned he grew up in Pakistan...

...and so began the only stand up show we've seen of it's kind.  We learned a great deal about Nanjiani's life through his discussion with Amir and his mother.  At one point he joked that everyone else should leave so he could talk with them.  At what point Nanjiani shifted from this honest and open discussion to his prepared material was imperceptible.  There we see his true gift for timing, and his compassionate, insightful way of seeing the world. 

A few times the material grew a little raunchy, and the knowledge that a 14 year old was present created tangible awkwardness.  Ever self aware, we witnessed the odd moment of the performer turning his back on the audience in order to be able to tell certain parts of the story of a family visit to 'Fun Land'.  It's a tale that will yield equal parts cringe and laughter should you have the chance to hear it.

In an unpredictable, free flowing, and seemingly partly improvised show there were a few standout moments.  Hearing his parents response to his stand up special 'Beta Male' was relatable and hilarious, especially considering the success of that project.  None was more memorable than his 'encore', where he offered up the last few minutes to questions from the audience.  This element showed his incredibly quick wit, and the unique variety of people that comprise his audience.

The ultimate moment was when he was joined briefly by his wife Emily Gordon, producer of 'The Meltdown'.  The show (co-hosted by Nanjiani and Jonah Ray) has just started its final season, and the two responded together to a question about how they feel about it ending, and what's next.  The openness and honesty in that tiny moment are present throughout his whole show.  Kumail Nanjiani's story, and his ability to make it relatable are what make his work powerful.  Though we may laugh our asses off, we leave thinking about real issues like race, sexism, and whether or not that show is ok for a 14 year old.