Cinemacon‘s Mitch Neuhauser announced earlier today that Big Sick star and co-screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani will receive the CinemaCon Comedy Star of the Year Award on Thursday, 3.30, inside Caesar’s Palace Colosseum. Congrats, but there’s still the question about whether anyone will remember Nanjiani’s name, much less how to spell it.
Every time I think of this dry-attitude comedian and Silicon Valley costar I say to myself “yeah, yeah, whatisname…karma Khalil Mangiafani…whatever.” Honestly — that’s as far as I get. But I’m working on it. I love Nanjiani’s droll, low-key performance in The Big Sick (Amazon/Lionsgate, 6.23), but I can’t get my brain to cooperate.
The trick in remembering a difficult name is to link it with something easy and familiar. Ten years ago I was having trouble remembering the name of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and then I read that Katie Couric, who had experienced the same problem, had learned it by saying “I’m a dinner jacket,” which mimics the cadence and some of the sound.
Except I can’t think of anything I know that sounds like Kumail, which I believe is pronounced “koo-mile.” This is a big stretch but all I can think of is Boy George singing “Karma Chameleon” or, even stretchier, the female Hindu god Kali, whom Eduardo Ciannelli‘s anti-colonialist “thugs” worshipped in George Stevens‘ Gunga Din. Or Khalil, a Palestinian terrorist played by Sami Frey in George Roy Hill‘s The Little Drummer Girl (’84).
If Kumail’s first name was Kuma I could tell myself it sounds like Huma Abedin, the longtime employee of Hillary Clinton whose laptop threw the election to Donald Trump. (Kidding — FBI director James Comey turned that trick.)
The only name I know that sounds like Nanjiani is a character in The Hospital called Theresa Mangiafani — a patient mentioned by two characters (Barnard Hughes and a nurse) in the third act. Do you see how I’m working on this? I’m trying to solve the problem. I’ll get there sooner or later.