The star of the Harold and Kumar franchise, House, and Designated Survivor 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 confronting racism in Hollywood, meeting his future husband, and working in the Obama administration, in this “incredibly joyful and insightful” (Kiefer Sutherland) memoir.
You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal Penn’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 the raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie Van Wilder…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president.
“By turns hilarious, poignant, and inspiring” (David Axelrod, New York Times bestselling author), 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. He describes his initially unpromising first date with his now-fiancé Josh, involving an 18-pack of Coors Light and an afternoon of watching NASCAR. 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 an Obama White House aide.
Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. The book “is insightful, funny, and instructive for anyone who’s ever grappled with how they fit into the American dream” (Ronan Farrow, New York Times bestselling author), and demonstrates that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. And okay, yes, it’s also about how Kal 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Kal Penn has never taken the most conventional path in life—which is lucky for us, because that makes for an enthralling memoir. The Indian-American actor, beloved for his roles in the Harold & Kumar movies, is a born storyteller and a master of dry wit and sarcasm. The bit about discovering his passion for acting while pelvic thrusting as the Tin Man in a school play had us on the floor! Penn discusses his numerous encounters with racism as an actor, inspiring us with his resilience and irreverence. (A lesson from his experience: If someone asks you to “do an accent,” mock-innocently ask them which one.) We loved reading about Penn’s years in D.C., working for the Obama administration and meeting the awesome man who would become his fiancé. You Can’t Be Serious is just like Penn himself: Laugh-out-loud funny, remarkably sincere, and anything but one-note.
You can’t be serious
Appreciate the candor and enjoyed the many stories that featured joy and pain along the way. Wonder how your counselor and all the nay sayers along the way reacted to your success in film and your work in politics…
Thoughtful and funny
Great stories that gave me what I would describe as a nostalgic feeling for the life hustle of my 20s (college, no money, crappy car that I loved, ups, downs, etc,).
I also think this book presents some important social issues in a very approachable way. Empathy doesn’t come to everyone as easily as it should. KP is no doubt a talented dude in the realm of acting but he also has a knack for inviting readers into the experience of a brown person in America (show business in particular) in a way that felt oddly galvanizing. Finally, I’ve got to give it to KP for his integrity, realism, and professionalism through his career. Patience in the face of ignorance will always be more effective than outrage. I really did love it! If you’re a HIMYM fan it’s right up that alley with the humor.