Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kal Penn at Penn: take interesting paths

One evening I sat in my living room and watched “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”. I think I also had sweet potato fries cooking in the oven. It was a good night.

This Sunday, Kumar aka Kal Penn came to University of Pennsylvania campus to talk about his career in politics and acting. (This week Penn also hosted Arianna Huffington and Bill Clinton!- I love my school.) Janet and I took a study break from arteries and vessels to hear him speak, although we had no idea what he was going to say. He had previously taught here at Penn.

I lost my notes from this night and am frustratedly (is that a word?) looking for them. But here’s some points I do remember. During the Q&A session, a student asked if it was difficult for Kal Penn to leave his acting career and graduate degree in-process to work in the White House. His answer: “No, because I was interested.”

To deviate from a clear set-up life path- star in a blockbuster in ten years, get that Ph.D.- and chase something just because you are interested in it seems… irresponsible. But maybe liberating. I scratch my head trying to see myself in five years, ten years, then plan to get on that road.

But plans change. Interests change. Life happens and new paths open up.


Kal Penn also discussed the changing face of Hollywood. For starting actors, they may be typecast according to their looks and ethnicity (Kal Penn played an exchange student named “Taj Majal”), but those roles may be necessary to step up to roles outside cultural boxes. With rise of audience-involved media such as Youtube, we now have a bigger role in deciding who we put on our screens.

I also loved how unapologetic he was about his past silly/funny/crude humor movies. “I had a good time making them. It was fun.” And that was enough. I love this attitude.

He was so eloquent! And so relaxed and engaging. I must say when he’s not making one of these faces, Kal Penn is very handsome.


The talk turned political at some points because election was two days later! (Student: “Will you ever run for office?” Kal Penn: “Um, no.”) And America now has a new but old president. Good night, Mr. President.


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