Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon Turned Their Life Into a Rom-Com

Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

00-lede-the-big-sickThe comedian Kumail Nanjiani was a teenager in his native Pakistan when he first fell madly, deeply in love with the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. Around the same time and several large bodies of water away in North Carolina, the writer Emily V. Gordon was cultivating a lifelong affection for films like Say Anything, Heathers, and Raising Arizona. It wasn’t until they were both in their late twenties and living in Chicago that the pair met at one of Nanjiani’s stand-up shows, embarked on an uncertain affair (she was newly divorced; his strict Muslim parents expected that he’d marry a Pakistani woman), and eventually wed, but only after Gordon came down with a mysterious, life-threatening illness that landed her in the hospital in a medically induced coma for eight terrifying days. (In the end she was diagnosed with a manageable but rare adult-onset autoimmune disorder called Still’s disease.)

Later this summer, the couple will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. And for exactly half their marriage, they’ve been working together on The Big Sick, a romantic comedy that they cowrote and based (with artistic license) on their real love story. In the film, Kumail (played by Nanjiani) and Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) meet cute at a comedy club (she heckles him on stage), start sleeping together casually, and against their better judgment, begin to fall for each other. But then Emily discovers that Kumail has a cigar box full of photos of Pakistani women—possible matches in the arranged marriage his parents (Zenobia Shroff and Bollywood star Anupam Kher) intend to broker for him. (Kumail:”Do you know what we call arranged marriage in Pakistan? Marriage!”) They break up, she falls ill, a friend alerts Kumail, and he’s the only one present when the doctors need a signature authorizing them to put his ex-girlfriend into a coma. For the latter half of the film, she lays unconscious as Kumail holds vigil at her bedside, works his feelings out in an abysmal stand-up set, bonds with her bereft parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), and questions how willing he is to risk his relationship with his own family for a girl he may already have let slip through his fingers.

More here.

Check out this video of a younger Kumail, it is less than two minutes long: