Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pakistani-American Stars in HBO Comedy "Silicon Valley"

“This guy’s a really good programmer, so that makes him arrogant, because of his skills in a very specific world. And then I take that arrogance and apply it to every other aspect of his life that he’s not good at. So I think that guy’s funny ’cause he’s arrogant — about everything, about how he thinks he is with the ladies. He’s not good with the ladies. You know, all that stuff. He thinks he’s cool. He’s not cool. He’s only good at programming.” Kumail Nanjiani on his role in HBO's "Silicon Valley"

Kumail Nanjiani, born in Karachi, Pakistan, has found success as a stand-up comedian in the United States. After completing high school in Pakistan, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa where he graduated in 2001. His comedy has been featured on a number of popular television shows including the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Conan. He has written for and acted on "Michael & Michael Have Issues" and has appeared on The Colbert Report and Burning Love.

Kumail's latest work is HBO’s new comedy, “Silicon Valley”, a half hour live action series that takes a light-hearted look at the start-up culture of Silicon Valley. The show, which premieres on Sunday, April 6, is written and directed by Mike Judge, who was also behind “Beavis and Butt-head,” “Office Space” and “King of the Hill.”  Kumail plays Dinesh Chugtai, an Islamabad-born Pakistani-American character, working as a lead engineer in a fictional start-up tech company called "The Pied Piper". The San Francisco Chronicle has praised it not only one of the best shows of the season, but the “best tech show yet” and “a Silicon Valley rarity: a start-up that’s a sure thing.” Here's an excerpt of San Francisco Chronicle's review of "Silicon Valley":

"“Silicon Valley” is full of quips and jabs that those familiar with the tech industry will find amusing, but it’s also broad enough to lure in average HBO watchers in the mood for a comedy. The show debuts on April 6 right after "Game of Thrones" on HBO."

Marvel Entertainment has recently introduced a new Ms. Marvel, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American superhero named Kamala Khan. Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American businessman, became the first non-white owner of an NFL team two years ago. It's good to see Pakistani-Americans making their mark in sports and entertainment in addition to more traditional occupations like engineering and medicine.

Here's a video clip of Kumail Nanjiani's act:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Burka Avenger: Pakistani Female Superhero 

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Roy said...

He is playing an Indian in the series right?

Riaz Haq said...

Roy: "He is playing an Indian in the series right?"

Yes, Kumail is playing Dinesh. It's no different that Indian actors playing Pakistani character roles in many shows.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an India West story on the HBO series "Silicon Valley":

Pakistani American standup comedian Kumail Nanjiani has a large role in the new show, as Dinesh, a snide, quick-witted Indian American computer whiz whose aplomb — and English skills — go straight out the window in one early episode when he comes face to face with a sassy hooker named Mochaccino that his roommate has hired for a party.

Muttering in Hindi, Dinesh shyly slinks away, later explaining that growing up in India, he never even spoke to a person of the opposite sex until the age of 17.

Because each character is so precisely created and impeccably performed — such as the blustering, pretentious Erlich (T.J. Miller), who loans out rooms in his mid-century Palo Alto home, dubs it a start-up incubator and calls it Hacker Hostel; and the borderline-Aspergers billionaire tech investor Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), whose rapid-fire speech and inability to look people in the eye is most unnerving — much of the humor in “Silicon Valley” can be appreciated by a universal audience. But it’s the little in-jokes — about useless apps, nerdy millionaires, the high cost of rent and the ever-shifting loyalties in the industry — that will have the greatest impact on viewers who are deeply familiar with this world. Repeat viewings are highly advised.

Judge is also known as the creator of “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill,” and his feature films include “Idiocracy,” “Extract” and “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”

If the first two episodes are any indication, “Silicon Valley” has a few plum roles for desi actors, if not many opportunities for other Asian actors. In the first two episodes, Sri Lankan actor Bernard White (see separate article) appears as a quasi-enlightened spiritual guru who is totally full of it; and Charan Prabhakar makes a strong impression as Javed, another techie who makes an obnoxious speech at a sadly deserted, but lavishly budgeted, company party. Aly Mawji plays a programmer bent on stealing lead character Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) idea for a powerful compression algorithm destined to change the world.

Amber said...

The HBO Silicon Valley story is very similar to my husband Glenn's story. We will definitely watch the show. Four white guys and one desi guy start a company in college, get acquired, move out to the SF Bay Area, share a house with a pool, and make a lot of money!

Anonymous said...

The University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced on Wednesday that Pakistan's "Burka Avenger," an animated television show about a burka-clad schoolteacher who fights local thugs seeking to shut down the girls' school where she works, will receive one of the 2013 Peabody Awards (Dawn). The Urdu-language show, which airs on Geo TV, emphasizes the importance of girls' education and other lessons, such as not discriminating against others.

The awards, some of the most prestigious prizes in broadcasting, recognize "excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, producing organizations, and individuals" on an annual basis, and will be handed out at an awards ceremony in New York City on May 19.

Saad said...

From Forbes 4/14/14 issue:

"Put flags in a world map and you will see Sequoia (Silicon Valley's Top Venture Capital Firm that funded Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn) connecting with entrepreneurs born in Ukraine, Ireland, Finland, Greece, India, Pakistan, Venezuela and a dozen other countries. (By contrast, Kauffman Foundation data show that barely a quarter of all U.S. startups have at least one immigrant cofounder.)"

article claims Sequoia has 'connected' with Pakistani entrepreneurs. Do you know of any funded by them?

Riaz Haq said...

Saad: "article claims Sequoia has 'connected' with Pakistani entrepreneurs. Do you know of any funded by them? "

I know at least 2 Sequoia funded #SiliconValley startups founded by #Pakistanis: Ashar Aziz's #Fireeye, Naveed Sherwani's #OpenSilicon

George Anders said...

Ashar Aziz, founder of FireEye, was born in Karachi. Here's more on his bio:

Riaz Haq said...

Anders: "Ashar Aziz, founder of FireEye, was born in Karachi"

Naveed Sherwani, founder of OpenSilicon in #SiliconValley, also born in Karachi, graduated from NED Engg Univ #Pakistan

George Anders said...

Thanks. Appreciate the heads-up about Naveed Sherwani, too.

Riaz Haq said...

Anders: "Appreciate the heads-up about Naveed Sherwani, too."

Here's more about #Pakistani-American tech founders in #SiliconValley. Pl read related links too. …

Riaz Haq said...

From Forbes 4/14/14 issue:

"Put flags in a world map and you will see Sequoia (Silicon Valley's Top Venture Capital Firm that funded Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn) connecting with entrepreneurs born in Ukraine, Ireland, Finland, Greece, India, Pakistan, Venezuela and a dozen other countries. (By contrast, Kauffman Foundation data (compiled by Vivek Wadhawa)show that barely a quarter of all U.S. startups have at least one immigrant cofounder.)"

I know at least 2 Sequoia funded #SiliconValley startups founded by #Pakistanis: Ashar Aziz's #Fireeye, Naveed Sherwani's #OpenSilicon

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a interesting except from a piece by Kalimah Priforce on lack of Blacks and Latinos in Silicon Valley high-tech jobs:

It’s one of the reasons why Blacks in tech would rather participate in a forum like the one gathered by the College Bound Brotherhood than pay attention to another article about why so very few of us exist in the land of innovation, Silicon Valley. Here are five top reasons why I avoid “lack of minorities in tech” articles:

(1) they’re mostly written by non-people of color who are focused on Silicon Valley but don’t live and work in Silicon Valley*

(2) they are written by non-techies, non-builders of technology products and services

(3) they focus on what is wrong with Black people, as if the problem lies with our culture

(4) they typecast Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis as model minorities who don’t have a problem with the status quo

(5) they lack investigative journalism, research, and actually interviewing those of us in the field

However, Giang’s BI article struck a chord because it targeted affinity groups by suggesting that Blacks in tech self-selected segregation, based on Maya Beasley’s Opting Out: Losing The Potential Of American’s Young Black Elite.

Beasley interviews sixty Black and White students and uses her small sample findings to draw a conclusion. It’s a good thing she isn’t in the startup world, because very few of us would get away with validating a business model based on sixty people, but apparently that’s sufficient for a book.

Here’s what Beasley’s work is missing – stepping off the campus and interacting with actual black entrepreneurs in tech. If she did, she’d have learned that most of us didn’t attend the University of California at Berkeley or Stanford. So part of her research is based on assumptions that have no real basis in the industry. She sticks to Cal and Stanford campuses, assuming that they would provide the primary pipeline for Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, and blames African-American students for not doing so. In her words, “Black students need to learn to interact with white people and have some amount of comfort with them and I don’t think that’s asking a lot.”

What I find most disturbing about her conclusions is that she singles out African-Americans when just about every ethnicity has their share of assimilation that is balanced with affinity grouping. When the state of California eliminated affirmative action programs, the number of Black students attending Cal and Stanford dropped. So there aren’t a lot of Black students to begin with. That must be uncomfortable for the many Black students who are just discovering themselves outside the comfort of their homes and backgrounds. There is a great amount of identity formation happening for minority students, but for the straight, privileged White guy, that process isn’t as crucial. He doesn’t have to worry about the words “monkey” written on his dorm door, or date rape, or someone posting a video on YouTube ridiculing his accent when talking to his parents back home.

So Blacks learning from other Blacks, and socializing with other Blacks is important, and perhaps necessary for a healthy sense of self. But according to Beasley, this places Black students at a disadvantage for getting into tech. Has she questioned why the status quo dictates that the gatekeeper for successful entry into tech is how well minorities and women get along with white males? For organizations like Women 2.0 and Girls in Tech, the approach is simple: women must support each other, and united, can shatter the glass ceiling in the tech world. Beasley doesn’t take this approach with Blacks, but rather, makes the claim that an assimilationist approach will create diversity in tech.

Riaz Haq said...

Like all things apple, the tech giant’s Apple Pay promises to be a game changer. In this case, iPhone users are now able to securely and privately make swipe-free payments at, to begin with, some 220,000 stores in the U.S. using credit and debit card information stored on their devices. One of the seven men behind this bigger-and-better product is Pakistan’s Ahmer Ali Khan.

Khan, 38, hails from Rawalpindi, graduated from the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology—where friends knew him as The Programmer—and moved to Silicon Valley in 2000. He worked a number of short tech gigs until landing his first full-time job at a startup. On his first day there, Khan was asked if he knew the Java computer language. He didn’t. But he was ambitious and determined. “‘I promise I will know it by tomorrow,’” Raza Shaukat Latif, a friend of Khan’s, recalls him as saying at the time. “Sure enough, he bought a book and crammed the entire night.” By morning, Khan knew the language. “That is just how brilliant he is,” Latif told Newsweek. “He has had the tech bug in him for a very long time.”

It was at the now-defunct ViVOtech, a company specializing in Near Field Communication software, that Khan first tried his hand at building a cellphone-based, contactless payment system. In 2011, Apple picked Khan to work on its “top secret” digital payment system aimed at revolutionizing shopping and, potentially, retail banking.

In February, Khan and six other co-inventors filed their patent for what Apple CEO Tim Cook would unveil to the world on Sept. 9 as Apple Pay. It “will forever change the way all of us buy things,” Cook said at the launch in Cupertino of the new technology, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch.

Khan lives in Milpitas, California, with his wife and two children. Citing Apple rules, he declined to comment for this piece.

Apple Pay allows a shopper to simply hold his Apple device, an iPhone or the Apple Watch, which comes out next year, to a contactless reader to make payments, which are confirmed as transmitted through a short vibration or beep. Credit and debit cards can be added to the device’s Passbook app using the phone camera. All transactions are entirely secure and private, says Apple.

“With Apple Pay, instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers when you add your card, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone and Apple Watch,” it says. “These numbers are never stored on Apple servers. And when you make a purchase, the Device Account Number alongside a transaction-specific dynamic security code is used to process your payment. So your actual credit or debit card numbers are never shared by Apple with merchants or transmitted with payment.”

In case the device is lost or stolen, banking and other information can be deleted remotely.

Google Wallet preceded Apple Pay but failed to take off and replace plastic. Apple’s recent past is a good indication that with Khan and team’s Apple Pay, it will hit pay dirt.

Riaz Haq said...

#Karachi Born #Pakistani-American Comedian Kumail Nanjiani Has Become an Inescapable Creative Force in #Hollywood

Picture your classic Hollywood triple threat. Now, throw it out the window, in the garbage, wherever, and say hello to Kumail Nanjiani—the stand-up comedian who’s redefining what it means to be a modern-day triple threat. Everything about the Silicon Valley star—from his upbringing in Karachi, Pakistan, to his unorthodox love story with now-wife Emily Gordon, which inspired his upcoming film The Big Sick—is intriguing.

In the film, co-written by the couple based heavily on their whirlwind love story, Nanjiani plays a nearly identical version of himself—a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian slash Uber driver who falls for a white woman (played by Zoe Kazan), something his parents are wholly against. Nanjiani keeps the budding romance a secret until a twist of fate comes his way just as the relationship waters get choppy and Emily is placed in a medically induced coma (and yes, that did in fact happen in real life).

See? Not your typical rom-com from a not-so-typical comedian.

When he’s not performing his latest stand-up routine, Nanjiani plays Dinesh on HBO’s tech comedy Silicon Valley and has dipped his toes in the world of podcasting. Now, he can add starring in and writing his first major film, for which Amazon Studios ponied up a whopping $12 million after it screened at Sundance, to his list of accomplishments.

Adweek caught up with Nanjiani, Adweek’s Creative 100 cover star for 2017, at the tail end of the first leg of his current comedy tour with Big Sick co-stars Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler and Ray Romano. He told us about his creative process, starring alongside Snoop Dogg and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in an Old Navy campaign, and what he hopes to accomplish next.

Riaz Haq said...

Actor Kumail Nanjiani: 'I feel more #Pakistani than I have in the last 10 years' #SiliconValleyHBO via @usatoday

"I feel way more defined by my ethnicity now," Nanjiani says. "If there's an ethnicity that is maligned and attacked and demonized ... I'm with you. I stand with you. Because it's unavoidable that people are seeing me a certain way, I kind of want to own it. I feel more Pakistani than I have in the last 10 years."

NEW YORK — The Big Sick is not only a uniquely personal love story, but one that's taken on political undertones in the months since President Trump's inauguration.

Co-written by Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, the romantic comedy (in theaters Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands nationwide July 14) is a lightly fictionalized account of the first year of their relationship, when an unexpected medical crisis landed her in a coma for eight days.

While Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) is in the hospital, Kumail (Nanjiani) gets to know her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who tag along with him to a comedy club one night where he's performing stand-up. When his set is disrupted by a heckler — who yells, "Go back to ISIS!" — Beth vehemently responds by trying to hit the man before she's thrown out.

"In test screenings, which we were doing before the election, (Beth's outburst) just got huge laughs," says Gordon, 38. But at festival screenings ever since Sundance Film Festival, where Sick premiered on Inauguration Day, "it often gets applause breaks, which is interesting."

Adds Nanjiani, 39: "I was very concerned at Sundance, like, 'How is this going to play?' I was just afraid that (scene) was going to be sad, but it isn't. It's joyful, but it's also righteous anger. People clap as if (it's) almost triumphant."

Nanjiani, who appears in HBO's Silicon Valley (Sundays, 10 ET/PT), was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was brought up in a strict Shiite Muslim household. He moved to the USA at 19 to attend Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and started doing stand-up comedy his senior year. But he was wary of incorporating his Pakistani background into his routine, save for his opening line, "Don't worry, I'm one of the good ones."

Riaz Haq said...

"An informed racist is a better racist" - a typically brilliant and hilarious #SNL opening monologue from @kumailn

In his monologue, this week’s host, Kumail Nanjiani—star of Silicon Valley and The Big Sick—tackled some of the more disturbing cultural trends tied to the racism he’s experienced first-hand.

“Islamophobia is on the rise. It’s like Will & Grace,” Nanjiani joked in reference to the sitcom making a return on S.N.L.’s home network. “It was huge awhile ago, we thought it was gone and done forever and now it’s back! Thursday night on NBC. . .they made me say that.”

“Inaccuracies,” Najiani continued, “That’s what bugs me.” The Pakistani-born comedian enumerated all the times he’s been told to “go back to India.” If someone bothered to tell him to go back to Pakistan, he claimed, “I’d pack my bags.”

“An informed racist,” Nanjiani concluded, “is a better racist.”