IXclusive Interview: Kumail Nanjiani
If you've been living under a rock for the last few years and haven't been following the world of comedy, we're here to tell you that Kumail Nanjiani is the next big thing. With his new show, The Meltdown With Jonah And Kumail, debuting on Comedy Central this upcoming Wednesday, another show at the Just For Laughs festival this year, not to mention him being a part of Andy Samberg's JFL gala, Kumail is sure to be a household name.
We at IX got a chance to sit down with the funnyman himself, and pick his brain on why he's in stand-up, where he loves performing, and what he's looking forward to at Just For Laughs.
IX Daily: So what got you interested in stand-up comedy to begin with?
Kumail: I just wasn't good at anything else and I was sort of a fan of it and then I tried it and I was like, “here’s something I could be good at.” So I feel like if I was good at anything else then I probably wouldn't be doing this.
IX Daily: Where do you get most of your material from?
Kumail: Mostly just stories from my life.
IX Daily: How does it feel coming to Montreal for the Just For Laughs festival?
Kumail: I've been doing the festival for a long time, so I really love the city and I feel like the crowds are really excited, and energetic, so… I always love coming to Montreal. Whenever I can go I go. It’s like a big, fun party.
IX Daily: Is there a particular venue you like to perform in when you come to Montreal? Or somewhere special you like to visit?
Kmail: No, not really. I mean, I did one that I really like… I forget what it was called. It was a smaller room, it was upstairs… Oh, Cabaret Underground!
IX Daily: So what about it made it stick out in your mind as one of the favourites?
Kumail: I just like the room, it was really cool. I don’t like rooms that are overly formal or overly nice. I like sort of a grungy, music venue. Like when it feels lived in, you know? That’s just what I prefer when it comes to comedy. I don’t really like glitzy, shiny places.
IX Daily: So then speaking of best shows, do you have one that sticks out in your mind as a favourite?
Kumail: No, not really. I mean, hopefully I haven’t done my favourite performance of all time yet. I just sort of like the most recent one the best, because hopefully it was better than the one before it.
IX Daily: Alternatively, do you have a show that sticks out in your mind as the worst show you've ever done?
Kumail: I mean, you do a ton of bad shows when you’re first starting out… I performed at a bowling alley while people were bowling all around me. That wasn't easy.
IX Daily: Do you prefer performing in front of larger audiences, or the smaller and more intimate venues?
Kumail: Ummm, it sort of depends. I think I always prefer the intimate venues in that there’s always more room for experimentation in those rooms. You can try new kinds of stuff, you can try new stories, but in the bigger rooms you really can’t experiment as much. But, and the exciting thing is, you’re performing in front of a ton of people, and I think that’s very fun too.
IX Daily: Is there any particular comedian you wish was coming to Montreal, but isn't?
Kumail: I've never seen Seinfeld live, and I’d love to see Seinfeld live.
IX Daily: Aside for Montreal, do you have a particular city that you love to perform in?
Kumail: I like to perform in a ton of cities. I really like Kansas City, San Francisco, Austin, and I really like performing in LA. New York is obviously one of the best places. I was just in Minneapolis and that was one of the best shows I've done in a long time. But yeah, there’s a ton of great places.
IX Daily: Do you have a favourite comedian to collaborate with?
Kumail: My friend Jonah Ray and I do a TV show together that’s going to star on Comedy Central next week, on July 23rd. We host that show together, so that’s really fun.
IX Daily: Any words of wisdom for someone looking to pursue stand-up comedy?
Kumail: Just do it. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun in the beginning. Actually, it should be fun from the very beginning. It shouldn’t be easy, but if it’s not fun from the beginning, quit. You just have to keep doing it. Just stick with it. You’re not going to make money for a very, very, very long time, and you have to be OK with that. Get a day job, and keep a day job while you’re doing comedy in the beginning.