-Because you are kicking this
amazing journey off, I want to give you something. I sometimes rock
this gold chain that says, “The aunties were wrong.”
[ Laughter ] And I mean it with love, okay?
I mean it with love. But I want to take this off… -Oh, my goodness.
-…and pass this onto you. [ Cheers and applause ] Because, you know… -“The aunties were wrong.”
-They were wrong. -About some things.
I’m still not married. You were correct
about other things. Thank you.
-Yeah. -Oh, my God,
I feel like such a G. Thank you so much. Kal, I’m so excited you’re here.
-Likewise. -But here’s the thing.
I introduced you as Kal Penn, but that’s not really
your name, is it? -No, my name is Kalpen Modi. [ Chuckles ]
It’s a different ring, right? -Okay, so, what — what —
what — why is — Why do you go by Kal Penn?
-Yeah. So, when I was in college — so, I moved out to LA
to go to college, and it was one of those
3:00 a.m. conversations. My third year of school,
I was an aspiring actor, still couldn’t find an agent,
couldn’t really — you know, you would get
head shots and send out, like, a thousand at a time and hope that
somebody would call you, and all my college
buddies were — they had, sort of,
traditional majors, so they were science majors
or accounting or whatever, and they were really blown away by the fact that
I had no stability in what I was gonna do. -Right.
-It was like, “Let me get this straight. You’re gonna graduate
with no job.” I’m like, “Yes, that’s right.” So, these head shots,
and it’s like, “Well, you need
to get better head shots,” and they’re going
through my head shots, and they’re going,
“You need to go to the gym.” And they’re like,
“You also need a catchy name.” And then the catchy name thing,
at this 3:00 a.m. conversation turned into
“You need a screen name.” “Okay, well,
that’s an interesting idea. Maybe that’ll, like,
help get me more work.” -Right.
-And then they started just going through
different names of what it should be, and Kalpen had always been
shortened to Kal the way Joseph is Joe
or, uh — And so I ended up shortening it
and splitting it into two and seeing if it would stick.
-So, in this process, what were some of the other
names in the running? -Oh, dude.
I mean, they were bad, right? It’s like dumb
college friend names. So, they would go,
“What about — What about Kal Pacino?” [ Laughter ] “That’s very funny.
Nice job.” “What about Kal-ista Flockhart?” I’m like, “You guys can stop.
This is not…” -We like — I like Kal Penn.
Kal Penn sounds great. -Thank you. Thank you. -So, obviously, today, you are
a very accomplished actor. -Thank you.
-Huge fan, obviously. But you had to tell a lie before
you were SAG card official. Is that right?
-Oh, you know about this? Yes. Uh, I told a big lie. So, any aspiring actor —
we all lie. Especially in the
“Special Skills” section. -It’s our job. It’s what we do. -Yeah, anything you do once, you tell your agent
that you’re an expert in. So, I put basketball down
in this long list of BS things. I like playing basketball.
I am terrible, truly. Like, I got picked last
in gym class my whole life. -Aww.
-I’m okay with it now! I’m almost okay with it now. So, I put that
I play basketball, and my agent called and said, “Hey, you definitely play
basketball, right? ‘Cause there’s this, uh,
commercial for a shoe company, and they need somebody who can
talk trash and improv and play ball really well.” Now, my background is improv, so I know I can do that.
-Right. -Like, “Yeah, I can play
basketball really well.” We go into this —
this casting office, and I went in in the afternoon.
Apparently, all morning, they were playing basketball
and talking trash. It was on the second floor
of this building. By the time I walked in after
lunch, the accounting firm on the lower
floor complained about the balls
bouncing, so the casting director said, “Can you guys all
play basketball?” And all these, like,
huge tall dudes were like, [Deep voice]
“Yeah, of course, man.
Of course.” [ Normal voice ] “Kal Penn,
can you play basketball?” I was like,
[Deep voice] “Yeah, of course.” [ Normal voice ] And, “Great,
so, all we’ll do is talk trash.” So we talked trash and pretended
to dribble a basketball, and I talked the best trash,
so my agent called and said, “You got this job,” and I showed
up to shoot the commercial. All these other guys
could play basketball. I shoot a basket. It’s supposed to land,
and it lands, actually, on the roof of the house… that the basket was in front of
and bounced twice. They had to have a meeting with all the executives
from the ad agency, and they changed the commercial to make it about a guy who was
terrible at playing basketball. -So, you were so good
at being bad that they changed
the commercial. -Yes, but I got my SAG card,
and here we are. -I mean… -Yeah.
-I love this.