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“You Can’t Be Serious”: A Conversation with Kal Penn

This program took place. Find the summary and photos of the event here »


Thursday, January 13, 2022
6 p.m. Registration
6:30 p.m. Program
7:15 p.m. Questions and answers with the public

Books pre-ordered through Asia Society Texas by Tuesday, January 11 will receive personalized autographs from Kal Penn and can be picked up at the event. Books will also be available for purchase at the event. There will be no dedication on site.

Best known as the star of the Harold and Kumar franchise, lodge, and Designated Survivor, Kal Pennhis life has taken him on what he considers a surprising journey. In his recent memoirs, You can’t be serious, Kal shares a series of funny, consequential, awkward and ridiculous stories from his colorful life, including growing up with immigrant parents and how he rejected doing “something practical” to become an actor, confronting racism in Hollywood, meeting her future husband, and working in the Obama administration as a White House aide. Her experience reflects an ongoing conversation in society about what it means to be Asian American in the United States and what representation looks like – both on screen and in public service.

Asia Society Texas is thrilled to welcome Kal Penn to talk about the breadth of his life journey, with experiences spanning from New Jersey to Hollywood, and everywhere in between.

About the speaker

Kal Penn is an actor, writer, producer, and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He is known for his starring roles in Designated Survivor, lodge, by Mira Nair The namesake, the Harold and Kumar franchise, and the patriotic immigration sit-com sunny side which he co-created for NBC.

From 2009 to 2011, Kal took a sabbatical to serve in the Obama/Biden administration, where he served as the President’s Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, and of the artistic community. In these roles, he worked on a range of issues, including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Affordable Care Act, Pell Grants, arts and culture programs, the DREAM Act and the rapid response to the BP Oil Spill and earthquake in Haiti.

He was national co-chair of the Obama/Biden re-election campaign in 2012 and served on the Presidential Committee for the Arts and Humanities, focusing on arts education and cultural diplomacy. Penn has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles. A native of New Jersey, he earned his undergraduate degree in sociology, theater, film, and television from the University of California, Los Angeles, and earned a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University.

Penn recently wrapped production on the CBS Drama, Claire (based on Thesilenceofthelambs), and Freeform’s late-night youth election-format show Kal Penn approves of this post. He currently stars in the Disney Junior animated series. Mira, Detective Royal, is executive producer of the Viacom/Paramount + comedy, Surin & Mel, and can be heard in Nickelodeon’s it’s pony.

His series of culinary competitions Money hungry aired on Food Network.

About the moderator

ABC award-winning journalist Melanie Lawson is currently a co-presenter of Live at 5 and Channel 13’s midday show, Eyewitness News at 11am. Melanie has covered virtually every municipal, state and national election in her career. She has traveled to Cuba, Panama and Africa, among others. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including an Emmy for her coverage of President Clinton’s visit to South Africa, the country’s only local reporter to make the trip. Melanie has interviewed a wide range of notables, including three US presidents, Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, poet Maya Angelou, Grammy winner Destiny’s Child and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, among many others. . She received her undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University and a joint degree in law and journalism from Columbia University. She is admitted to the bars of Texas and New York State.

Asia Society hosts today’s leading voices, providing commentary on happenings in news, society and culture. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Asian society.

Asia Society Texas Business & Policy Programs, endowed by

Huffington Foundation

Asia Society Texas business and policy programs are featured by Bank of America, Muffet Blake, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and United Airlines. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Nancy Pollok Guinee and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as the Brown Foundation, Inc. and the Houston Endowment. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to providing the best in public programming.

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About Asia Society Texas

Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diversity of perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating Asia’s vibrant diversity, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Covering the fields of arts, business, culture, education and politics, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community – trusting in the power of art, dialogue and ideas to fight prejudice and build a more inclusive society.