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Author, comedian, activist and The Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi sat down with LinkedIn Executive Daniel Roth to discuss Aasif’s career experiences, the development of his own professional brand, his recent book “No Land’s Man,” and his new web series “Halal in the Family.”
This talk is part of the LinkedIn Discussion Series, an ongoing intimate discussion series featuring a Q&A with notable LinkedIn Influencers and thought leaders in business and entertainment.
"Recently I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the dinner for the Congressional Radio and TV correspondents in Washington, D.C. When I got the offer, my impulse was to decline. It seemed daunting. Mostly because in spite of my work on “The Daily Show,” I have never really seen myself as a comedian.
“I am not a standup comic,” I told myself. “I’m not smart enough, not funny enough, etc…” You know, the usual suspects of voices emerged from my subconscious. Truth is, I was scared. I also knew well enough to know that everything I have done in my career, I have done while also being simultaneously terrified and feeling completely undeserving. That time I became a fake journalist, that time I starred in a musical on Broadway, that time I wrote and starred in my own film, that time I got asked to be a writer on a TV show, etc... all of these things seemed initially terrifying.
So when this opportunity came up, I fired the “voices of treason” in my head and I hired some writers instead. I went to comedy clubs and worked on my set and prepared myself. In that preparation and through that process, I discovered what it is I wanted to say so that finally a few weeks later when I got up there in front of the media and gov’t elite, my attitude was like – fuck them! I realized that I didn’t care if they laughed because in that moment, my success was no longer determined by external validation but determined by saying what I wanted to say.
After having achieved a certain level of success today, people often ask me to say something inspiring about my career and my road to success. It’s usually to college students, or young people wanting to break into the entertainment industry — or an old Indian man who is a distant friend of my father’s who has a nephew in India and would I produce his one-man show on Broadway? I find this is always disconcerting because I honestly don’t know what advice to give. I think what people usually want to hear is something about following one’s dreams, bucking the system or bravely never taking No for an answer."