Skip to main content
This program is over. Hope you didn't miss it!

Kal Penn: You Can’t Be Serious

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0432
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
Select your Tickets
Powered by Zoom

Actor and writer Kal Penn, best known for his roles in the Harold and Kumar films and the hit TV show “House,” was a skinny kid with a funny name who grew up to help another skinny kid with a funny name become president of the United States.  

Penn resisted his Indian family’s pressure to become a doctor or engineer and instead followed his passion for the arts. That goal was made more difficult by an entertainment industry that complimented him on both his acting skills and his “very good English,” with casting directors and producers asking, “Where’s your turban?” and “Which country is that accent from?” (Spoiler: New Jersey.) Undaunted, Penn spent a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying success in Hollywood.

After a castmate invited him to a campaign event for then-Senator Barack Obama, Penn began to balance show business with a role on Obama’s presidential campaign. He ultimately took a sabbatical from his entertainment career to serve as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement as a liaison to young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the arts community.

After his hiatus in politics, Penn returned to acting, writing, and producing, appearing in shows such as “How I Met Your Mother” and “Designated Survivor,” most recently starring in the CBS drama “Clarice” and Disney Junior’s animated “Mira, Royal Detective.”

In conversation with TV Guide’s Damian Holbrook, Penn discusses his new memoir You Can’t Be Serious, his journey from Hollywood to the White House and back again, as well as why your life can have more stories and more choices than you thought.

Copies of You Can’t Be Serious (Gallery Books) are available for purchase.

Book Sale Information

  • Purchase your copy of You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn here.
  • SPECIAL NOTE: Politics and Prose is offering a 10% discount to Smithsonian Associates ticket-holders. To claim your discount, enter the code SPECIAL10 (no space between letters and numbers) in the “Coupon discount” section on Politics and Prose's check-out page.

Patron Information

  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.