Kumail Nanjiani is a successful standup and star of “Silicon Valley” whose Sundance standout “The Big Sick” is one of the most anticipated of the summer. But he says he still feels like a “fraud.”
The audience laughed when he said so Tuesday at a panel for TheWrap’s comedic actor Emmy contenders, but he was serious.
“I don’t ever lose the self doubt,” Nanjiani said. “Maybe it’s my engine, which really f—ing sucks. Or maybe it isn’t! There it is. I’m doing it right now.”
Nanjiani was responding to an audience question in which a woman asked the panel if they could share “what enabled you to get past that part that f—s up to get to where you are.”
“You just have to do it,” Nanjiani added. “For me, I started doing stand-up, and you just have to do it. There wasn’t a trick.”
Kaitlin Olson, star of Fox’s “The Mick,” likewise reassured the audience that we all experience insecurities. For her, the key was to find the one thing she excelled at that no one else could.
“I was a very insecure, shy kid,” Olson said. “But for some reason I always knew that even though I was not popular, nobody liked me, I was shy, I still knew there was something I did that no one else did. I think you just have to figure out that one thing and just stay on that. Believe in it.”
Nanjiani’s “Silicon Valley” co-star Thomas Middleditch had his own bit of advice.
“I also think you kind of weirdly need a little bit of delusion,” Middleditch said. “Every time I’ve felt like I sobered up and started looking at the stats, I’m just calling my mom and just being like, I’ve got to stop. It’s only when you believe in the dare-to-dream aspect of this whole thing that actually things start to self-perpetuate and self-realize. It sounds so mentally unhealthy, but it actually ends up being a little safer.”
“Run your own race too,” Middleditch added. “It’s easy to turn your head and look at so-and-so and be like, ‘Wow, they’ve got everything and I’m still stuck here doing this thing.’ You just have to do your own thing.”
William H. Macy, star of Showtime’s “Shameless,” had some words of wisdom.
“There’s so much acting training that has something to do with, ‘You have to be better, you have to be more sensitive, you have to be more perceptive, you have to be more this.’ And it’s horseshit. You are sufficient. You are sufficient,” Macy said.
“Oh my God, I just teared up,” Nanjiani remarked as the applause settled.
“Give up on the target; it’s not about the target,” Macy added. “Although the target is real when you nail a performance, but to give up on the target and realize that what we’re paying to see you do is to try. It’s all about you; it’s not that thing you have in your head about the way it should look. It’s you striving for it whether you succeed or fail. It’s the way you carry yourself as a human being as you’re trying, failing and succeeding. That’s why we’ll pay the big bucks to watch you do it.”
Of course, it was a comedy panel. So Middleditch had the perfect closer.
“I’m going to go ahead and say that’s all bullshit because I want a goddamned Emmy. I want to win.”
To see what happened next — specifically, how “Love” star Gillian talked about her own battle with insecurity — click here. And then click here to see how Olson is different from her “The Mick” character, and here to watch Nanjiani ask Macy a very good question.
Watch the full video from Tuesday’s panel above.