You’re probably most familiar with Aasif Mandvi from his work as The Daily Show’s “Senior Foreign-Looking Correspondent,” “Senior Muslim Correspondent,” and “Senior Brown Correspondent.” On that show, he’s managed to get a GOP chair to admit he’s a bigot (the man later resigned),make a Fox commentator look a fool, and all while maintaining a steely—and hilarious—composure. Given his mad improvisation skills, you’d think that Mandvi came up on the comedy circuit. But you’d be wrong. “I consider myself an actor,” the 48-year-old explains. “But my persona on The Daily Show is that of a comic, so people think of me as a comedian.”
Mandvi’s not just blowing smoke with this “I’m really an actor” stuff; in addition to TV, he’s had numerous movie roles, and has performed both on- and off -Broadway. This includes a one-man-show for which he won an Obie. Right now Mandvi is preparing for the release of his memoir, No Land’s Man, out November 4.
So why write a memoir while his career is still on the upswing?
“I had some friends make fun of me about it, like, already? Come on!,” he laughs. “I just thought I had some interesting stories to tell.” In the book, he details his life as a boy who was born in India, grew up in England, and moved to Florida as a teen; how watching the Fonz on TV inspired him to act; the challenges of being one of only two Indian kids at school; and how his mother wanted him to be just like actor Omar Sharif. He also describes the years he spent portraying terrorists and cab drivers, until he finally decided to write his own play. “It allowed me to be seen,” he tells me.
These days, he can be found in meatier roles, like in HBO’s upcoming series The Brink, where he’ll star alongside Tim Robbins and Jack Black. Still, there’s a limit to the parts he gets offered. “As a brown man,” he explains, “we can be smart, we can be funny—but what we can’t be is sexual. We’re not allowed to be the leading man.” Nevertheless, try looking up Mandvi on Google and you’ll find that the third suggested search is “Aasif Mandvi married.” Mandvi attributes this to a running gag on The Daily Show, but admits, “One of the first things that happened to me when I became known is that at South Asian gatherings, people would say, ‘I’d love you to meet my daughter.’”
He may not be Omar Sharif, but I’m sure his mother is pleased.
Written by: Debbie Stoller
Photographed by: Kat Borchart
Stylist: Alex Shera
Grooming: Kerrie Urban@ Exclusive artists using baxter