Honorary Degree Citation for Kumail Nanjiani

Grinnell College, May 22, 2017

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Michael Latham:

In a way, Grinnell can take some credit for Kumail Nanjiani’s enormous success in comedy. When he arrived in Iowa from Karachi, Pakistan, he had never seen a standup comic before. A friend showed him a Jerry Seinfeld comedy special, and he was hooked.

After getting his start in comedy in Chicago, which included a one-man show called “Unpronounceable,” Nanjiani headed to New York to pursue work as stand-up comic. He typically performed 25 nights a month to hone his craft.

Over time, he became a go-to guest on critically beloved comic shows including the Colbert Report, Veep, Key and Peele, Broad City, and Portlandia. In 2014, he landed the role of Dinesh, a witty but hapless software engineer on the HBO hit Silicon Valley.

This summer, Nanjiani will add a new role to his already-packed resumé: movie star. Teaming up with comedy superstar and producer Judd Apatow, Nanjiani starred in the movie The Big Sick, which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily Gordon. The film is a romantic comedy about culture, illness, and relationships that is based on how Nanjiani and Gordon met and fell in love. After the movie’s wildly successful premier at Sundance earlier this year—reviews called the movie an “instantly winning heart-stealer”—Amazon landed distribution rights. The movie will premiere nationwide in July.

Beyond his television and film successes, Nanjiani brings his inimitable style to Twitter, where he has attracted more than 1 million followers. Whether politics or pop culture, Nanjiani tweets with unique insight and dark humor.

For pursuing comedy that is both incisive and deeply heartfelt, and for succeeding in this work at the very highest levels, we are pleased to recognize Kumail Nanjiani, Class of 2001.

President Raynard S. Kington:

Kumail Nanjiani, on recommendation of the faculty of this College and with approval of the Board of Trustees, I admit you to the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

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