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You Can’t Be Serious

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In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States, before serving the country and advising a real one. You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in a raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president. With intelligence, humor, and charm on every page, Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as a White House aide. Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. Kal demonstrates by example that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. It’s a story about struggle, triumph, and learning how to keep your head up. And okay, yes, it’s also about how he accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.


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In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States, before serving the country and advising a real one. You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in a raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president. With intelligence, humor, and charm on every page, Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as a White House aide. Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. Kal demonstrates by example that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. It’s a story about struggle, triumph, and learning how to keep your head up. And okay, yes, it’s also about how he accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.

30 review for You Can’t Be Serious

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jananie (thisstoryaintover)

    ugh some get me a tissue because this book was amazing. Heartfelt, HILARIOUS, and wonderfully narrated (I highly recommend the audiobook)—this book was everything and more than I expected from Kal Penn. I loved hearing Kal detail his experiences being a man of colour in the entertainment industry with wit and humour, and learning of the sincerity with which he pursued his time in the White House. I found myself laughing out loud and nodding along to so many moments in this book (which I binged w ugh some get me a tissue because this book was amazing. Heartfelt, HILARIOUS, and wonderfully narrated (I highly recommend the audiobook)—this book was everything and more than I expected from Kal Penn. I loved hearing Kal detail his experiences being a man of colour in the entertainment industry with wit and humour, and learning of the sincerity with which he pursued his time in the White House. I found myself laughing out loud and nodding along to so many moments in this book (which I binged within 24 hours) and am forever grateful for how I saw myself in his story. I commend Kal's impeccable storytelling and highly recommend this book to anyone—but especially to the brown kids who consistently miss those last 13 points on math exams, and instead daydream about seeing themselves positively represented in media.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

    *4.5 stars* First of all, if you want to read You Can’t Be Serious, I highly recommend getting it in audiobook form. Kal Penn is an amazing, dynamic narrator, and such a natural reader that it made this book an absolute pleasure to listen to. Well worth the money or credits, trust me. I've been a Kal Penn fan for years, and I actually have a few friends in common with him (I can't even put this on my NJ connection, but NJ pride, *woot, woot*, so I was beyond excited to listen to this audiobook. *4.5 stars* First of all, if you want to read You Can’t Be Serious, I highly recommend getting it in audiobook form. Kal Penn is an amazing, dynamic narrator, and such a natural reader that it made this book an absolute pleasure to listen to. Well worth the money or credits, trust me. I've been a Kal Penn fan for years, and I actually have a few friends in common with him (I can't even put this on my NJ connection, but NJ pride, *woot, woot*, so I was beyond excited to listen to this audiobook. I knew very little about him as a person, other than the fact that he left acting for a time to work in politics. I think if you are curious about Kal Penn's intro into acting and how he had to work his butt off to make it with the likes of the legions of white, generic actors in the mid-90s, this book will be your jam. Kal Penn really shows the struggles of being Indian and trying to break into show business, but he remains funny and engaging and extremely personable during the whole audiobook. You'll feel like you are long-time friends. Also, as someone who leans so far left that she could topple over, I loved his segments about working for the Obama administration and what an incredible risk that was for his finally successful acting career. I mean, I'm talking balls of steel, over here. I admire Kal so much for that. If you are reading this book for an in-depth look or discussion about his sexuality, look elsewhere. He casually mentions his sexuality a few times, and also has a sweet chapter on meeting his boyfriend, which, if I'm being honest, feels more like a Nascar advertisement than anything else. I did find it a bit odd that he deep dove so heavily into his family's reaction to him not becoming a doctor or lawyer and what that meant for him and his family, but really completely skated over their reaction to his sexuality, which must have been also pretty momentous for them. I'm not saying he had to share anything more than he did, but it felt at odds with the tone of the rest of the book. Overall, I really enjoyed this audiobook. Kal Penn did a fabulous job narrating this story and highlighting more about the inside world of Hollywood and politics during the past few decades. goodreads|instagram|twitter|tiktok

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scratch

    Enjoyable. Held my attention. But makes me scratch my head over the LGBTQ angle. Kal Penn spent a lot of time talking about his racial identity, and I don't begrudge him that at all. He really explained well the recurring problem of people in Hollywood trying to force him to speak with an Indian accent, even when it made no sense for his character. But I only learned Kal Penn was gay (?) within the past month. In this book, he uses no specific label (not gay, bi, pan, or queer). He just talks abou Enjoyable. Held my attention. But makes me scratch my head over the LGBTQ angle. Kal Penn spent a lot of time talking about his racial identity, and I don't begrudge him that at all. He really explained well the recurring problem of people in Hollywood trying to force him to speak with an Indian accent, even when it made no sense for his character. But I only learned Kal Penn was gay (?) within the past month. In this book, he uses no specific label (not gay, bi, pan, or queer). He just talks about dating dudes, never actually talks about dating women, and once referred to himself as a twink. He describes how he began dating Josh, whom he is now engaged to. But despite spending a lot of time talking about his parents struggling with his status as a theater major, he does not address how they handled his orientation at all. Despite talking about the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," he does not say anything about what the discriminatory practice against gays and lesbians meant to him personally. Kal, I am gay, but 9 years younger than you. I could relate to the part about having diverse academic interests. I know what it was like to be closeted in the 90s. I remember trying not to stare at guys in the locker room. Forcing myself to look at girls at school and tell myself I could crush on them. Panicking whenever you hear a straight guy say, "That's gay," both because you're worried he'll attack you, and because you WANT to stand up to him but know you can't. How did you gloss over all this? You talked about your Indian peers at college judging you for your choice of major. How could you leave out whether they judged you for your orientation? When talking about inviting a gay soldier for a party about the repeal of DADT, don't you know there is a story there about how he might have appreciated hearing you were gay like him, and fighting for our rights at the White House? It is odd and vaguely offensive. Kal Penn spent the final chapter talking about an abc sitcom he produced that I had legitimately never heard of (despite the fact I watched other shows he mentioned, like The Good Place). His point in praising his own show was about how representative it was because the cast was so diverse and intersectional. But when it comes to his own orientation, he is washing his hands of discussing the emotional component to his identity, or the fact he faces intersectional issues as a queer man of color. We are left only with the cold facts. He has dated dudes and is engaged to Josh. That is all we may know. He will not tell us what label he prefers, nor bond with us over what coming out was like for him. We can hear about his --completely valid-- stories of racial discrimination. But he isn't even going to broach the subject of homophobia. I feel cheated. Vaguely spurned and ignored. The more I think about this, the angrier I get. The problem isn't that I am faulting him for being the closet. We all stay there as long as we need to. (For me it was just age 11-15.) No, my problem is that now that he is out, he is using his platform to challenge JUST racism and not homophobia. And this book claims to be candid, when any gay man knows he must have left out a great deal. You expect me to believe you pointed out each offensive Indian stereotypical joke in Van Wilder, but you remained completely mum about gay jokes? You talked so much about actors making the choice about whether to take on a stereotypical Indian role to fight the system from within. But you didn't address the portrayal of gay men at all, and seemingly took no steps to protect our interests. At the risk of sounding dramatic, that feels like a betrayal.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway Win! Kal Penn is one of those actors that I enjoy watching in movies but who I don't know anything about. A couple weeks ago I read that Kal Penn was engaged to his longtime boyfriend Josh and my first response was...Wow! I've never once thought about Kal Penn's personal life....and also congrats! Obviously I know Kal Penn from the Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle movies and I knew he worked in Michelle Obama's husband's White House but other than that I never had any interest in his Giveaway Win! Kal Penn is one of those actors that I enjoy watching in movies but who I don't know anything about. A couple weeks ago I read that Kal Penn was engaged to his longtime boyfriend Josh and my first response was...Wow! I've never once thought about Kal Penn's personal life....and also congrats! Obviously I know Kal Penn from the Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle movies and I knew he worked in Michelle Obama's husband's White House but other than that I never had any interest in his personal life. Not in a bad way its just that Kal Penn seems like a chill regular guy and not some world famous guy. And I was right! Kal Penn is a regular guy who just so happens to be famous and accomplished in both acting and activism. You Can't Be Serious is one part memoir about growing up with immigrant parents and one part expose about just how racist "Hollywood Liberals" are. GOD!!!!! The amount of racist bullshit that Kal Penn has to deal with in Hollywood is both mind blowing and not shocking at all. I thought Black folks had it bad in Hollywood but damn Indian actors have it even worse. If any of ya'll don't think racism is real read this book. I really loved reading this book, I think there's something in this book for everyone. Kal talks about the immigrant experience in America(he was born in New Jersey but his parents were from India)being a huge nerd, trying to break into Hollywood, his time in Washington politics and the racism that follows him everywhere. And he does it with humor. Some of these stories are bitter to swallow but he uses a dash sugar(humor) to make it go down easier. Kal Penn comes off exactly the way I expected him to, as a silly, down to earth nerd. A Must Read for readers of Hollywood memoirs and for readers that enjoy immigrant stories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    No, You Can't Be Serious isn't the John McEnroe story: it's an insightful, funny memoir from Kal Penn, actor and one-time Obama administration employee. I’ve been a big fan of Kal Penn’s since Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (I am, at my very core, a 12-year-old), and I really think he’s talented. I also was impressed that he left his acting job on House to take a position in the Obama administration for two years. Couple that with the recent public acknowledgment that he is gay a No, You Can't Be Serious isn't the John McEnroe story: it's an insightful, funny memoir from Kal Penn, actor and one-time Obama administration employee. I’ve been a big fan of Kal Penn’s since Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (I am, at my very core, a 12-year-old), and I really think he’s talented. I also was impressed that he left his acting job on House to take a position in the Obama administration for two years. Couple that with the recent public acknowledgment that he is gay and engaged, and I was all in on this memoir. Most important thing I learned: when he was in middle school/high school, HE LIVED IN MY HOMETOWN. C'mon, Marlboro people, did no one else know this? Seriously, he even name dropped my middle school! He’s eight years younger than me so I was already in college but he went to middle school with my brother. (He was using his real name, Kalpen Modi, then.) How crazy is that? I really enjoyed Penn’s self-deprecating style in this memoir, as he talked about what it was like to grow up Indian and be the child who wants to act rather than go to medical or law school as expected. He also talked a lot about how difficult it was (and is) to get a job in Hollywood when you look like he does, and fight the stereotypes casting directors and producers have about Indian actors. He also really comes alive talking about his time campaigning for President Obama and working the administration, seeing the political system from both sides. The one thing I expected a little more of was a discussion about his sexuality, since there was public acknowledgment of it prior to the book's release. He refers to being gay in passing a few times and then talks about meeting his now-fiancé, and how their relationship progressed. But clearly, it’s just another aspect of his life, so it doesn’t get special treatment. I'm glad to see he didn't view it all as a big deal. I don’t read a lot of memoirs, particularly by celebrities, but I like him, and found this as engaging as I’d imagine he’d be in real life. Plus, Marlboro people gotta represent! See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I had the biggest smile on my face when I finished reading this delightfully charming book. It's funny, eye-opening, inspiring, and touching--my favorite qualities in any media! I'm a straight-up Kal Penn fan since I first saw him in The Namesake. So it was fascinating for me to get the backstory on how he came to play that part, as well as what happened with his short-lived sitcom, Sunnyside. Through this book, I came to see him as a great writer and storyteller, a hardworking and idealistic ac I had the biggest smile on my face when I finished reading this delightfully charming book. It's funny, eye-opening, inspiring, and touching--my favorite qualities in any media! I'm a straight-up Kal Penn fan since I first saw him in The Namesake. So it was fascinating for me to get the backstory on how he came to play that part, as well as what happened with his short-lived sitcom, Sunnyside. Through this book, I came to see him as a great writer and storyteller, a hardworking and idealistic activist, and a loyal, loving friend and family member. When I had the chance to meet Kal Penn many years ago, my cousin Michael, who was going to introduce us, knew what a big Kal Penn fan I was and kept reminding me that I had to be cool. "He's just a dude," Michael kept reminding me. "He's just a dude." Kal Penn was very humble and didn't project "Hollywood star" when he worked in the Obama administration. My aunt, who also met him at that time, was surprised to learn about Kal's life outside of politics, saying, "I thought he was just Michael's friend Kal." The thing about Kal Penn is, he may be just a dude, but he's an extraordinary one with a great story to tell!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    I really loved this book! Thank you Simon and Schuster for the audiobook

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Tullos

    I was given an ARC copy of this. Normally I don't read many memoirs, but this one was fun. It has a lot of stories about Penn's life, from getting set on fire for a sex scene to getting scammed by an Indian filmmaker. There are some serious bits too, particularly some insight into how Hollywood works and how difficult it is for non-white actors to break into the industry. I enjoyed this. And thanks to Kal for sending it to me. I was given an ARC copy of this. Normally I don't read many memoirs, but this one was fun. It has a lot of stories about Penn's life, from getting set on fire for a sex scene to getting scammed by an Indian filmmaker. There are some serious bits too, particularly some insight into how Hollywood works and how difficult it is for non-white actors to break into the industry. I enjoyed this. And thanks to Kal for sending it to me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    Funny and fascinating, especially with the lens of how much Hollywood has changed since Kal Penn started acting. Some of the microaggressions/racism Kal faced/witnessed, while not surprising, are staggering. Unlike in some memoirs when a celebrity backs off the thing that made them famous (the fun Hollywood movie stuff), when Kal transitions to his "White House" chapter (over several literal book chapters), for me it became more interesting. Kal, overall, is a unique Hollywood figure in that his Funny and fascinating, especially with the lens of how much Hollywood has changed since Kal Penn started acting. Some of the microaggressions/racism Kal faced/witnessed, while not surprising, are staggering. Unlike in some memoirs when a celebrity backs off the thing that made them famous (the fun Hollywood movie stuff), when Kal transitions to his "White House" chapter (over several literal book chapters), for me it became more interesting. Kal, overall, is a unique Hollywood figure in that his pursuit of acting and then role in politics were both 100% organic and authentic to him. He's a smart cookie, but also likes dick jokes a lot. Overall, this slots in nicely in the "funny actor guy memoir" space, where you get the "how I made it" story arc, then some funny/fun movie/TV role anecdotes, a healthy dollop of celeb name drops and also a few "blind items," with the special sauce of "oh yeah I left a hit TV show to work for President Obama!" There are also some lovely stories that are both funny and heartwarming about Kal's family and the South Asian American community. Of course, "funny" celebrity memoirs run the gamut and can be hit or miss. At first, I was like "oh no cheesy humor" but then there were SEVERAL moments of delightfully silly, stupid humor (the just right kind) that actually made me laugh out loud. If you also like dick jokes, this has at least one really good one, with a picture! (don't worry, not of an IRL appendage lol) The one thing I was struck by, that as always provokes the question "how much intimacy does any famous person really owe us in a memoir?" where you can just *feel* the surface level of some things, and the many things glossed over in the name of keeping some things personal and private. Which I appreciate, and endorse--it's refreshing that Penn with this book has casually come out, and his stories about meeting/dating his now-fiance are adorable. But it's just unusual to not get any reflections from Penn's earlier years about being gay--it recontextualizes so much about his earlier career, and you get some nice cracks about that, but nothing earnest or deep. Again, we are not owed that. I was just surprised! A more than solid addition in the celebrity memoir space, that definitely ranks better than most in terms of telling a complete story with most of the anecdotes you expect, plus delivering a bit something extra.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pujashree

    Kal Penn's impact on the visibility of Indian Americans in mainstream media and politics cannot be understated. I've grown up with his example in both pop culture and admirable work with the Obama administration. Needless to say this was the perfect memoir on audiobook that made him feel even more relatable as he told stories of his life, breaking barriers and singlehandedly making way for the golden age of South Asian representation. I was cackling and weeping as I rushed to listen to it last f Kal Penn's impact on the visibility of Indian Americans in mainstream media and politics cannot be understated. I've grown up with his example in both pop culture and admirable work with the Obama administration. Needless to say this was the perfect memoir on audiobook that made him feel even more relatable as he told stories of his life, breaking barriers and singlehandedly making way for the golden age of South Asian representation. I was cackling and weeping as I rushed to listen to it last few days. I fully respect that it's his prerogative to share or not share what he wants of his journey, but what I didn't get from this and hope he explores in a future work is how he navigated his queer identity along with the constant obstacles related to being South-Asian American in American entert and politics. He's in a unique position of intersectionality to tell that story and I for one would be so gratified to perhaps learn if we had similar challenges.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I should start doing a better job of keeping track of where I’m getting my recommendations from. Because I didn’t even know that this memoir existed until a couple of weeks ago when I saw it on someone’s best books or best nonfiction books of 2021 list and immediately decided to add it to my tbr. And this turned out to be such a hilarious experience. So, first things first, I’ve never watched the Harold and Kumar series. I was just out of high school in India when the first movie came out and I I should start doing a better job of keeping track of where I’m getting my recommendations from. Because I didn’t even know that this memoir existed until a couple of weeks ago when I saw it on someone’s best books or best nonfiction books of 2021 list and immediately decided to add it to my tbr. And this turned out to be such a hilarious experience. So, first things first, I’ve never watched the Harold and Kumar series. I was just out of high school in India when the first movie came out and I had grown up in a conservative sheltered household, so I was as much of a prude as you expect me to be. I think I watched my first American Pie movie a couple of years later when I was in college but quickly realized it wasn’t my kind of humor. So during those times, while I knew Kal Penn existed and had a vague idea that he was desi American comedy actor, I didn’t know anything beyond that. After my move to the US many years later, I did enjoy watching him in The Namesake and House but I had never actually given any deep thought into representation or how hard it must have been for him to do what he did in Hollywood. So this memoir was a nice way for me to get to know him better and I loved every minute of it. Kal is a comic, so it shows in every sentence of his book. Right from when he is describing his first encounter with the n-word in elementary school to the recent cancellation of his co-created television show Sunnyside, his flair for comedy and hyperbole comes through with self deprecating humor and many jabs at the people around him. I think it is only his humor though which kept me from getting too angered at seeing all the different stereotypical racist comments and micro aggressions he had to face while trying to pursue an acting career as a brown man in Hollywood. I wondered how he was able to remain optimistic and keep an open mind amid that kind of a hostile environment but I guess he had no other choice if he wanted to pursue his dreams. Many of the incidents he relays seem a little funny on hindsight but also showcase how entrenched racism and misogyny is at a systemic level in Hollywood and may only be changing a little in recent times due to the hard work and activism of many marginalized artists who worked to make it better. It was also interesting to see that his decision to work in the government wasn’t something that came out of the blue but due to his values and upbringing and something that he had always wanted to do. While all his Hollywood anecdotes were fun to read, I really enjoyed reading about how he came to work for the Obama campaign and then the White House. He seemed very earnest when talking about his work as a surrogate, the young people he met and talked to about their issues and all the policy work that he was able to be a part of after joining the White House. I was deeply moved by these chapters and could relate to them on some level as well because I’ve always had ideas about doing something in public service but was never encouraged and also it didn’t seem like something I could do due to my very laidback and socially awkward introverted personality. So it just felt very heartening to see someone who looked like me do the things he felt were right and find fulfillment in them. In conclusion, this was the most fun I had while reading a memoir because even when he is talking about difficult issues, he never lets the humorous tone go. And his audiobook narration is spectacular because it is told in his dramatic showmanship style and I didn’t wanna stop listening even for a little while. This was a nice glimpse into the life of an artist who must have been a little ray of hope for young Asian Americans wanting to pursue the Hollywood dream when there was hardly any brown person on screen, and definitely a source of inspiration for those who want to balance both their artistic and activist sides.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nev

    Kal Penn’s memoir is a great read! He shares hilarious and infuriating stories from his time growing up, working in Hollywood, and in Obama’s White House. His recountings of racist things that different agents, directors, and casting directors said to him over the years will make your blood boil. Then there are also extremely funny behind the scenes stories from different movies and shows over the years. It was also great to learn more about what he did in the White House and the different thing Kal Penn’s memoir is a great read! He shares hilarious and infuriating stories from his time growing up, working in Hollywood, and in Obama’s White House. His recountings of racist things that different agents, directors, and casting directors said to him over the years will make your blood boil. Then there are also extremely funny behind the scenes stories from different movies and shows over the years. It was also great to learn more about what he did in the White House and the different things he worked on. A lot of the press around this book is that Kal Penn came out as gay. While it is true that there’s a nice chapter about how he started dating his now fiancé, this isn’t really a coming out narrative. If you’re going in wanting to learn about how he figured out his own sexuality, how he told others, and his reasoning for staying in the closet professionally you might be a little let down by the book. Of course nobody is required to share those sorts of things, but it just felt like a lot of experiences were glossed over instead of going in-depth. Overall I really enjoyed this book! I think it’s worth checking out even if you’re not a massive fan of Kal. His examination of Hollywood and the stereotyped roles that are produced and then his shift to politics provide a lot of food for thought.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Juliana

    While it took a couple chapters for me to get into this book and get used to Kal's rhythm, I really enjoyed this book. He talks about racism in Hollywood and the struggle he went through to even get auditions. From changing his name to be more mainstream to dealing with the constant 'okay now do the audition with an accent' requests, the amount of nonsense he's dealt with is insane. It's interesting to hear how he got a real foot in the door with Van Wilder and that was how he was able to book H While it took a couple chapters for me to get into this book and get used to Kal's rhythm, I really enjoyed this book. He talks about racism in Hollywood and the struggle he went through to even get auditions. From changing his name to be more mainstream to dealing with the constant 'okay now do the audition with an accent' requests, the amount of nonsense he's dealt with is insane. It's interesting to hear how he got a real foot in the door with Van Wilder and that was how he was able to book Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. I think my favorite story was how he got the role of Namesake, which is my favorite movie that he's in. From being in Hollywood to joining the Obama campaign to talking about his unexpected love of Nascar because of his fiancé, there's plenty of entertainment within this book. It is in depth but it could definitely go deeper if he wanted. If you're a fan of Kal Penn then I would definitely read this one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    4.5 stars! I didn't really know anything about Kal Penn before starting. Never did I imagine someone could have a career both as an actor in ridiculous comedies AND the white house (not as a comedian). Amazed by all the twists and turns in Penn's life. This memoir was perfectly balanced across his life and I laughed so much. Just excellent and I recommend to everyone! 4.5 stars! I didn't really know anything about Kal Penn before starting. Never did I imagine someone could have a career both as an actor in ridiculous comedies AND the white house (not as a comedian). Amazed by all the twists and turns in Penn's life. This memoir was perfectly balanced across his life and I laughed so much. Just excellent and I recommend to everyone!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Frank Wu

    Easy read finished in a day. There are some really funny passages in here...with a raunchy penis gagging game...mixed in with wonky political stuff and personal identity and Hollywood business stories. All in all though I was left wanting, feeling Kal(pen) held back quite a bit, especially regarding his personal life with regards to coming out. The book is mostly formulaic, I am happy for him, especially having learned more about him but the book was a so so read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonno

    I think this memoir is, among other great things, an effective portrayal of just how racist Hollywood is, but it has a huge hole in it. On page 138, Penn writes, "I had started dating dudes recently". That's literally all he says about discovering his sexuality. On page 191, he writes, "the decision to make the LGBT and Veterans outreach person the same dude was a blatant embrace of intersectionality," but he never acknowledges that if he had been publicly out, his hiring would have been a blatan I think this memoir is, among other great things, an effective portrayal of just how racist Hollywood is, but it has a huge hole in it. On page 138, Penn writes, "I had started dating dudes recently". That's literally all he says about discovering his sexuality. On page 191, he writes, "the decision to make the LGBT and Veterans outreach person the same dude was a blatant embrace of intersectionality," but he never acknowledges that if he had been publicly out, his hiring would have been a blatant embrace of intersectionality. After all he says about racism in Hollywood, he never once mentions the homophobia. He never discusses his decision not to come out publicly or how he felt about coming out privately. When asked in a Reddit AMA about why he came out now and not earlier, he explains that his partner is very private, but it's possible to talk about your own sexuality without talking about your current partner. He's not obligated to write about his sexuality in his memoir, but he's not even acknowledging that that was a choice he made.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sheela

    I really enjoyed this candid take on growing up brown in New Jersey, to being brown in Hollywood and taking on matters of brown-ness in DC. I was shocked at the structure of the book - I expected a bunch of superficial anecdotal stories as many comedians tend to write in their memoirs and while there is definitely a comedic element to the stories, they offer a lot of insight into the world of movies and politics (without naming names, of course), a rare combination that most people don’t get to I really enjoyed this candid take on growing up brown in New Jersey, to being brown in Hollywood and taking on matters of brown-ness in DC. I was shocked at the structure of the book - I expected a bunch of superficial anecdotal stories as many comedians tend to write in their memoirs and while there is definitely a comedic element to the stories, they offer a lot of insight into the world of movies and politics (without naming names, of course), a rare combination that most people don’t get to experience. Sometimes it read a little bit like he was planning to run for President (is he?!) and the stories could drag on a bit, but I learned a lot about being Asian in an environment where it’s thought to be so progressive and liberal. Other times, he humble brags a bit but he is the OG of South Asian actors, bringing prominence and respect to our culture and heritage without having to white wash his cultural identity. I can get on board with the humble brags because he earned it. Kumar is exactly the type of character that made audiences recognize we can play characters beyond the stereotypical roles. It’s so easy to say as a passive consumer, well, why did he agree to play a terrorist or do that absurd Indian accent? But what Kalpen has showed us is that in order to get what you want in the long run, you have to play their game, however unfair and demoralizing it is. He’s taught me to have patience with our South Asian actors and not assume they can just break down allllll the barriers just by being cast in one prominent role. I also admire his service to the public by quitting a lucrative job to work for the White House and how the government he worked for tried to make effective changes for inclusivity. While he may not have solved immigration reform, etc. even just having a Pandit perform a puja in front of the president (and how that came to be) is inspiring and gives me hope that my kids can see that and proudly feel they are included in the conversation! The Bollywood chapter was hands down my favorite though. Seeing the inner workings of that world was everything I imagined Bollywood to be! The only perplexing factor was the downplay of him being gay. He mentions going on dates with men and eventually is engaged to one, but I feel like he could have discussed his identity a bit more. I’m sure he didn’t want this to be his focus for the book and I get that but I’m also sure there are a ton of South Asians in his situation and being gay is one of the most taboo topics in a SA household (with “going into the arts” a close second, which he thoroughly discusses at length in the beginning.) I don’t think it’s fair that he has to also break down this barrier (he’s already done so much for the culture) but it’s just weird it was sort of glossed over. He may have had his reasons but it was the only part of the book that had me scratching my head.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Well off the beaten path for me, I read this based on a recommendation from a friend. Because of that, I went in with few expectations, other than being relatively certain I would find humor inside. Kal Penn does deliver some lines that left me laughing out loud, but among the anecdotes, I found a frank look at the inside of the film industry and enjoyable stories from his time spent working within the White House. Ultimately an account of systemic racism -- both what it looks like and the stark Well off the beaten path for me, I read this based on a recommendation from a friend. Because of that, I went in with few expectations, other than being relatively certain I would find humor inside. Kal Penn does deliver some lines that left me laughing out loud, but among the anecdotes, I found a frank look at the inside of the film industry and enjoyable stories from his time spent working within the White House. Ultimately an account of systemic racism -- both what it looks like and the stark difference when it is absent -- I think this would be a helpful (albeit, at times, linguistically colorful) listen for many. I recommend the audiobook version so that you can hear Kal's experiences in his own voice.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Chang

    10/10 I laughed and I cried My favorite read of this year

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sara Oikawa

    It was really interesting to learn about Penn's upbringing and his struggles to un-stereotype himself in Hollywood. I was not disappointed at my main draw for reading this book, how he ended up working for the Obama administration. He is an impressive individual. It was really interesting to learn about Penn's upbringing and his struggles to un-stereotype himself in Hollywood. I was not disappointed at my main draw for reading this book, how he ended up working for the Obama administration. He is an impressive individual.

  21. 4 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    Highly entertaining! Kal Penn knows how to write a story and does a great job giving us great insight into the ups and downs of his show biz career, from trying to crack into the business to trying to write and produce his own show. I also really loved hearing about his passion working for the Obama administration and learning more about his personal life. Excellent on audio and definitely recommended in that format! His dedication to creating a more inclusive, diverse and equal opportunity Amer Highly entertaining! Kal Penn knows how to write a story and does a great job giving us great insight into the ups and downs of his show biz career, from trying to crack into the business to trying to write and produce his own show. I also really loved hearing about his passion working for the Obama administration and learning more about his personal life. Excellent on audio and definitely recommended in that format! His dedication to creating a more inclusive, diverse and equal opportunity America is truly inspiring.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brittney Rae

    Super entertaining. I think it's strange that everyone is making about big deal about Kal "coming out" because it's pretty clear from the book that he's been out for years just being chill and living his life which is way more interesting than his sexuality. Super entertaining. I think it's strange that everyone is making about big deal about Kal "coming out" because it's pretty clear from the book that he's been out for years just being chill and living his life which is way more interesting than his sexuality.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I really have only watched Kal Penn on How I Met Your Mother, but I figured I'd give the book a whirl. It was a bit more readable than some celebrity biographies, since his focus is different as is his work with the Obama administration. Most of the book deals with his challenges in getting serious roles as an Indian actor. He delves into all of the ways he was discriminated against or boxed out of interesting roles in the beginning of his career. He also delves into his failed sitcom and how he I really have only watched Kal Penn on How I Met Your Mother, but I figured I'd give the book a whirl. It was a bit more readable than some celebrity biographies, since his focus is different as is his work with the Obama administration. Most of the book deals with his challenges in getting serious roles as an Indian actor. He delves into all of the ways he was discriminated against or boxed out of interesting roles in the beginning of his career. He also delves into his failed sitcom and how he feels he was sidelined for shows with majority white casts. His background is quite interesting as a child of very poor immigrants, who were not always fully supportive of his pursuit of acting. "Kal" really wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he has worked harder to get where he is. His childhood stories were interesting and somewhat relatable to me from a cultural background. I thought his take on his role in the Obama administration was also notable in how he had to transition to a more serious role and his overt respect for his boss and his vision. It was indeed an interesting shift from entertainment to politics and a path not often taken. Is there anything I didn't like about the biography? It could have been a little shorter. It got a bit repetitive in the beginning. And as in all actor's bios (some more than others), there is some self aggrandizing, especially earlier on when he's struggling to get roles and keeps complimenting his acting. Overall, though, I thought it was engaging and well-written. And yes, the humor was sprinkled in well. It wasn't laugh out loud funny at every point, but there are definitely some humorous vignettes. They do land better than some comedic actor's biographies. Highlights were his conversation with a stripper. his chaotic trip to India to film a movie, and how he literally was set on fire for his first major role. If you like the actor, or even kinda know him, it's a fun and fast read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fat kid at heart reads - LynnAnne

    "talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference.."😌 . Kal Penn's memoir is a candid and refreshing account of his life; from his childhood days , to his auditioning & acting days and then his life in The White House as he snacked on vending machine sandwiches and now as an author and a fiance.. this is my favorite memoir of 2021. Listening to him recount his experienc "talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference.."😌 . Kal Penn's memoir is a candid and refreshing account of his life; from his childhood days , to his auditioning & acting days and then his life in The White House as he snacked on vending machine sandwiches and now as an author and a fiance.. this is my favorite memoir of 2021. Listening to him recount his experiences with racism, his struggles with his career and everything in between and still having him deliver all this with wit and humor was breathtaking and hilarious and I am obsessed with this book. Now I'm tempted to be a NASCAR enthusiast too! 😂 I learned so much. I laughed so much. This is an insightful and hilarious 5 star read and I highly recommend it. Pick it up for #nonfictionNovember . Go ahead do it! Do it now. . I'm really utilizing this Scribd free trial ! 😃

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ranjini Shankar

    A really touching and humorous memoir from Kal Penn. I remember growing up and seeing him on screen for Harold and Kumar and thinking, “there’s someone like me up there!” It was really the first time I had seen an Indian-American on the big screen and when I saw all my non-Indian friends laughing hysterically at him and John Cho around me I felt my mind being blown. Reading this memoir only underscored the similarities of how we were raised and what demands society put upon us. The fact that Kal A really touching and humorous memoir from Kal Penn. I remember growing up and seeing him on screen for Harold and Kumar and thinking, “there’s someone like me up there!” It was really the first time I had seen an Indian-American on the big screen and when I saw all my non-Indian friends laughing hysterically at him and John Cho around me I felt my mind being blown. Reading this memoir only underscored the similarities of how we were raised and what demands society put upon us. The fact that Kal chased his passion and rose to success in doing so is incredible to me and his documentation of this journey absolutely warmed my heart. It made me laugh and think and promise myself that I’ll do my part too to give my kids the freedom to chase what they want to do.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Kal Penn writes about his childhood in New Jersey, journey to become an actor and the challenges of finding work in Hollywood, his introduction into politics, and his time in the Obama White House. It's a funny book at times with some of the situations he finds himself in, as well as illuminating how challenging it was to find acting rolls not being white. Because his work in politics was so different, the book almost is split in half between acting and politics, and the two sections read a bit Kal Penn writes about his childhood in New Jersey, journey to become an actor and the challenges of finding work in Hollywood, his introduction into politics, and his time in the Obama White House. It's a funny book at times with some of the situations he finds himself in, as well as illuminating how challenging it was to find acting rolls not being white. Because his work in politics was so different, the book almost is split in half between acting and politics, and the two sections read a bit differently. The big to do with this book is that Kal has been in a long-term relationship with a man he met in DC, but this is such a tiny portion of the book- very little time is spent on this relationship or past relationships. After all the growth in his acting career and in the political sphere, one leaves this book feeling optimistic, but it ends on a bit of a sour note with his most recent television project that had a very diverse cast, and received much less promotion than other new shows, and the axe was put on it when its numbers were comparable to other shows. It makes one think that there is a lot of work still to be done.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    I don't know why I decided to read this memoir -- I have only seen one show that Kal was in, and he was good in it... But I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan. I am, however, a fan of movies and TV in general. In this memoir, a well-known actor speaks truth to power in an industry with a pretty poor track record of inclusion and diversity. That he is able to do so with such good humor is a testament to a strong personal character. I laughed, I sighed, I was moved. Great read. I don't know why I decided to read this memoir -- I have only seen one show that Kal was in, and he was good in it... But I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan. I am, however, a fan of movies and TV in general. In this memoir, a well-known actor speaks truth to power in an industry with a pretty poor track record of inclusion and diversity. That he is able to do so with such good humor is a testament to a strong personal character. I laughed, I sighed, I was moved. Great read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Bose

    Really funny, I genuinely laughed out loud at many parts and read them aloud to my husband. It was also a very insightful look at Hollywood and working in an industry that doesn’t always make space for people of color! Also as a political junkie, I enjoyed the politics parts a lot too!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Fun, funny and thoughtful memoir. I will most remember it for illuminating an immigrant experience and showing how dreams really can become a reality (take that Kal's high school guidance counselor!) Fun, funny and thoughtful memoir. I will most remember it for illuminating an immigrant experience and showing how dreams really can become a reality (take that Kal's high school guidance counselor!)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily Nielsen

    Loved this. and the audiobook made it even funnier.

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