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Instead of calling him Kumail, I started calling him Newmail. She was from North Carolina, and although she was a couples and family therapist, she knew as much about comedy—and video games, and comic books, and horror movies—as he did. Soon they were texting almost every day. He avoided meeting the women. Arranged marriage is marriage. Anything else is unthinkable.
One day, after Nanjiani and Gordon had been dating for a few months, she texted him to say that she was going to the doctor. Around midnight, he got a call: Gordon was in the emergency room, and she was having trouble breathing. He rushed to the hospital and spent the night. By the next morning, Gordon was heavily sedated and was drifting in and out of wakefulness. Her lung was infected, and the infection was spreading fast.
In order to treat it, the doctors told Nanjiani, they needed to put her into a medically induced coma. They asked if he was her husband. They asked again, pressing him to sign a release form. The doctors tied Gordon down and injected her with an anesthetic. She thrashed against the restraints, then fell into a coma. Nanjiani was supposed to go on the road to open for Zach Galifianakis, but he stayed in Chicago and visited Gordon in the I.
She remained in the coma for more than a week while the doctors ruled out several possibilities, including H. Even a decade later, after having recounted the experience dozens of times, Nanjiani still chokes up whenever he talks about it. But that was the thought I had.
She and Nanjiani now own a house in Los Angeles, but during the shoot they rented an Airbnb in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Next to her were Mendel, the producer, and Showalter, the director. Between shots, Zoe Kazan, who played the fictional Emily, sat next to the real Emily, and they chatted about which books they were reading. Kazan swung her feet in the air and squinted at shoes the costume designer had selected, a pair of gray ballet flats.source url
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When the crew was ready, Showalter called for quiet, and those of us sitting in front of the monitors put on headphones. At this point in the movie, their relationship seems promising, but Kumail has been avoiding some traditional landmarks of commitment, such as introducing Emily to his parents. His body responds to conflict by basically shutting down and going to sleep.
Which, of course, makes me fly into a fucking rage. Here, he showed that he could anchor a tense scene, full of long pauses and light on comic relief.
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They filmed the argument several more times, improvising variations on the written dialogue. Nanjiani, Gordon, and Kazan decided to walk to a vegan Asian-fusion restaurant nearby. On the way, they passed a trailer where the props department was preparing for an upcoming dinner scene; they had ordered from a Pakistani kebab house in Queens, and were deciding which foods would look best on camera.
Kumail tasted the biryani and the haleem , a thick wheat stew. They continued walking to the restaurant.
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Nanjiani nodded. The next scene on the shooting schedule was one that took place earlier in the movie—a makeout scene. After lunch, Kazan and Nanjiani, preparing to simulate a Chicago winter, put on bulky sweaters, which would come off in the course of the action. In a discussion the previous night, Kumail and the two Emilys had decided that, during the filming of this scene, Gordon would leave the set.
I wish my husband would make out with other women every day! One night, he picked up the phone and admitted that he had a girlfriend, that she was an American and a non-Muslim, and that she was very ill. Gordon left the hospital in May of Two weeks later, his parents hosted a Muslim wedding in New Jersey. The cleric, in a reverse-xenophobic gesture, refused to perform the ceremony for anyone with a non-Muslim name, so Gordon went by Iman for the day.
But later I came to love her like a daughter.
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Nanjiani, having crossed one boundary by marrying Gordon, started to cross others. In the spring and summer of , he wrote a ninety-minute one-man show about his personal relationship to Islam. He performed it at the Lakeshore Theatre, an august venue in Chicago that has since closed. The show was a hit, and it allowed Nanjiani to sign with a prominent agent and quit his I.
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Gordon eventually stopped practicing therapy, and she and Nanjiani moved to Los Angeles and started to collaborate. From to , the show took place every Wednesday, in a small black-box theatre in the back of a comic-book store on Sunset Boulevard—the heart of the heart of cool-nerd culture. During a trip to L. After the show, Nanjiani and Gordon stayed for nearly an hour, greeting and hugging several members of the audience. Most of her friends in L. In , Nanjiani filmed an hour-long standup special in Austin, Texas.
This time, he chose his own walk-on music: a rap song built around a Bollywood sample. The act is inflected with anecdotes about his upbringing. I can beat Mario and draw a Ninja Turtle.