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Go See This or the Terrorists Will Have Won

By Kristen Romanowski in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 17, 2007 3:40PM

About a month ago, Chicagoist spoke with Kumail Nanjiani about his then-new one-man show. In Unpronounceable, Nanjiani breaks from his usual stand-up routine and talks about his religious Muslim upbringing in Pakistan, his move to Iowa when he was 18, and his subsequent loss of faith and turn toward atheism.

2007_8_kumail.jpgWhen he started doing stand-up, Nanjiani told us, he made the decision to not speak about his past onstage, to avoid being labeled as a Muslim comedian or being lumped with the other Middle Eastern comedians who were doing “Muslim” comedy after 9/11. Earlier this year, however, Nanjiani decided that his past deserved a stage treatment, and audiences flocked to see it at the Lakeshore Theater. His July debut of Unpronounceable sold out, Chicagoist readers recommended our interview in droves, and we looked forward to Nanjiani’s repeat performance.

So, we were disappointed but concerned last week when Nanjiani requested that we remove the interview from the archives because he had been receiving threats. He didn’t want to discuss the threats in detail but said, “It’s somewhat ironic that I actually mention in the interview that saying stuff against the Qur’an can have real consequences.”

Nanjiani said he plans to do the show for as long as he can and stands by everything he originally said. “It’s just that the interview is something that the undesirable, kind-of-scary element can point to directly,” he said. “I would rather have them come to the show and see what it is before they make awful threats.”

All this made us wonder if Nanjiani didn't have it right the first time, when he stuck to riffing on horror movies instead of religious fundamentalism. But then again, we thought, screw those jerks! His show is good, and it's an interesting departure from his usual funny, everyday stuff. Want to see what all the fuss is about? Nanjiani’s next show will be Friday, August 24, at the Lakeshore. Show starts at 8, and tickets are $10.