Monday, November 15, 2021

Book Review: "You Can't Be Serious" by Kal Penn

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!

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