• You Can't Be Serious

  • By: Kal Penn
  • Narrated by: Kal Penn
  • Length: 9 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (1,329 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The star of the Harold and Kumar franchise, House, and Designated Survivor recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included confronting racism in Hollywood, meeting his future husband, and working in the Obama administration, in this “incredibly joyful and insightful” (Kiefer Sutherland) memoir.

You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal Penn’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in the raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie Van Wilder…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president.

“By turns hilarious, poignant, and inspiring” (David Axelrod, New York Times bestselling author), Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. He describes his initially unpromising first date with his now-fiancé Josh, involving an 18-pack of Coors Light and an afternoon of watching NASCAR. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as an Obama White House aide.

Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. The book “is insightful, funny, and instructive for anyone who’s ever grappled with how they fit into the American dream” (Ronan Farrow, New York Times bestselling author), and demonstrates that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. And okay, yes, it’s also about how Kal accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.

©2021 Bhai, Inc. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Penn has created a unique, honest performance, very different from the standard celebrity tell-all. This is an enjoyable and informative listen delivered by a pop-culture figure who's all grown up." — AudioFile Magazine

What listeners say about You Can't Be Serious

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  • Ag
  • 11-04-21

The book is so much more

I don’t understand, the hyper focused all over the news about his sexuality and coming out in the book. The book has so much more to offer he is so much more than his sexuality. Hearing the behind the scenes to the white house and Hollywood and how hard he work to get to where he is now should also be part of the headlines. The racism is something many of us know and it’s still happening, but hearing his personal struggles and how he tells the story makes you feel like you are there in that moment wishing you could do something about it. He is a great story teller and funny of course.

17 people found this helpful

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Such a fun read!

I'm not sure what I was expecting. I'm not super into goofy comedies, so Harold & Kumar wasn't really my thing. But, after I'd learned that Kal Penn had worked for the Obama campaign and administration, I had a profound respect for him. When I read his AMA on Reddit and saw what a down-to-earth and hilarious guy he seems, I bought the audiobook. I could not stop reading it! Normally, I listen to audiobooks in the morning while getting myself and my kids ready for the day, but this book I just kept listening to when I should have been listening to lectures for school. Kal is so funny, humble, kind, brilliant, and fascinating. Listening to him talk was like listening to an old friend talk about their interesting life. I couldn't help but feel like I knew him. The work he's done is inspiring, and his sense of humor is a little goofy, but in the best way. Also, listening to it was so much fun because he does an excellent job telling stories and doing random voices and accents. I love it. I am so glad that I picked this up!

Side note: he talks about his show Sunnyside and how they were kind of screwed over by the network. I hadn't even heard of it before reading this, and it's the kind of show I totally would have watched if I had. I'm sad they only got one short season, but it is as funny and inspiring as I'd hoped it'd be.

Side, side note: I also finally watched Harold & Kumar, and I actually liked it.

5 people found this helpful

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Just WOW

In a time over saturated with memoirs by anyone with a keyboard and time on their hands, You Can’t Be Serious is one of the few that TRULY standout. A story that will truly draw you in, and make you feel as if you were there, experiencing these trials and tribulations, losses, and victories with Kal. an insightful and truly inspiring piece. I recommend this highly for anyone who’s ever tried to make it in a world full of discrimination and hate. or those who wish to view the world through less privileged eyes.


5 people found this helpful

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Loved this!

Anytime an author gives you a chance to read their memoir in their own words please, please, please give it a listen. I had no idea that Kal Penn was this deep. this book was funny, performed well and told great stories!

4 people found this helpful

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Could Not Put This Down

Thank you Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn) for sharing your life with us. It was incredible to learn about your story and see the similarities with my own, being the son of immigrant parents from the Caribbean.

The book could not have been any better. Thank you for narrating it yourself.

I’m now going to figure out how to stream “Sunnyside”.

4 people found this helpful

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First memoir ever

I have never read or listened to a memoir before because I always thought they would be boring af but this was captivating, funny, and relatable. I loved it and now I have to add memoirs/biographies to my fave list.

4 people found this helpful

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Not worth a credit

Not terrible but often not very interesting.
He has had some interesting experiences but not enough for a book. He is pretty pleased with himself and that was sometimes annoying.

3 people found this helpful

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WOW!

Hilarious, touching, insightful...and above all, inspirational!!! The book is so intersectional ...something for everyone!

3 people found this helpful

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Great book

I loved this book. I felt the joy and disappointment he felt throughout the book.

3 people found this helpful

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I get the feeling, this is half the story. Disappointing.

I expected this book would be a mix of personal reflections and memories, Kal Penn’s experience working in politics and stories about his work in film and television. It kind of is all those things. But I got the sense throughout that Penn omitted the parts of each of these areas that expressed real insight, overcoming obstacles (and not just the mechanics) and what he’s learned as a human being.

The book is full of somewhat amusing little stories and left out internal struggles and growth. He barely mentions the reactions of his family to his being gay or how his parents dealt with the racism they experienced. It’s as if he drew a line separating what he wanted to offer for public consumption and what he would not share. I guess I’m more interested in what was omitted than what was included.

Penn seems to have significantly more passion for politics (and there is a lot of minutia of his time working with the Obama Administration) than he does for acting, which is treated simply as a business and not as his emotional driving force.

I would have liked to know what he experienced while filming The Namesake and how filming the book tied in with his respect for the director and his own family history. I would also have liked to know more about his family/ancestors, who seem to have had incredibly eventful lives.

The story Kal Penn does not tell is the story I wanted to read. This book is the “lite” version and it was too finely sifted for me. You can’t both open up and keep it private and I feel that’s exactly what “You Can’t be Serious” tries to do.

2 people found this helpful

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  • frommetoyou
  • 04-30-22

funny and informative, great autobiograpby

I really enjoyed listening to this, Kal Penn is a great storyteller and has had a fascinating journey through acting and politics so far, recommend.

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  • MISS K.
  • 02-22-22

A Truly Brilliant & Fascinating Read / Listen!

You have to read / listen to this book! Kal Penn has so far lived one hell of a life and details it brilliantly. A truly fascinating insight. I loved every second.

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  • Nikita
  • 02-01-22

Couldnt stop listening

One of the best books ive read (listened to.) Kalpenn manages to be extremely funny and also so insightful as he analyses race in America and Hollywood. Recommend to everyone to read

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  • Maksims V.
  • 12-07-21

Great insight into tv and movie industry

This book is written to be funny and engaging but also an appeal to a tv and movie industry to start embracing diversity, rather then sticking to it’s old ways and keep perpetuating racial steriotypes and not giving enough opportunities for people of color. It is really interesting for an outsider to read about the struggles and wins of an actor of an Indian decent and I got to say very educational. The book is smart, funny, educational and brings a perspective of what it is like to be an actor and to aspire to be an actor, when you are an ethnic minority in the US. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and actually finished it rather than just abandoning mid way through. Highly recommend it!

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  • MARJONA HALIMOVA
  • 11-28-21

Must read

absolutely loved listening to this audiobook. Kal also has a good voice for narrating so it was even better. His experiences were both fun to hear but also eye opening. I couldn't pause the book as I wanted to hear what happened next the whole time!!

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  • Lee
  • 11-21-21

Frank and Intriguing look into Asian American upbringing

From the get go, Kal Penn comes across as his friendly, hilarious self. His childhood and upbringing gives the reader an immediate impression of Asian American culture and how it shapes him throughout his life.
As Kal guides us through early racism he endured from his peers all the way through to systemic bigotry in the entertainment industry and wider America we are not only brought to empathise but also enamoured by Kal’s upbeat and principled approach to combatting it.
If you are interested in the entertainment industry, social progress both racial and democratic, or even just an entertaining, well spoken recount of a truly amazing life so far, please make a great 2021 decision and listen to this audiobook!

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  • RACHEL SIMMONS
  • 11-11-21

excellent and well performed

Kal delivers a very engaging story, very enjoyable to listen to, read (listened) in two days

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-27-22

great book

Great book to listen to and great narrative from the author. I am big fanof Kal Penn

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  • Abby
  • 05-15-22

So many laugh out loud moments

Loved loved this book. It was so easy to listen to and there were many genuine laugh out loud moments. Kal Penn was amazing. He got his message across but had a humorous side to it as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook and highly recommend it. I just wish he had talked abit more about his experiences with his movies and had shared some insights on those.

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  • Sumit
  • 01-06-22

Hilarious and honest

This is hilarious… great to get a peek behind the curtain on how things really work… entertaining and insightful.

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  • Mitchell J. Hall
  • 12-27-21

Such a fun listen

I became aware of Kal Penn's career through Harold & Kumar so when i heard about this book i had to pick it up. The three acts of the migrant family upbringing, the hollywood career and the Obama years all blend it to a wonderful audible experience. Thought provoking and entertaiting. I thouroughly enjoyed this listening experience and highly recommened to anyone who may be curious about buying it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-15-21

If you love American Politics

You never want to leave ordinary reviews on someone’s life story. It feels rude and inappropriate, so I will say that the parts of this memoir where Kal spoke about his love, life, loss, perseverance, triumphs etc was brilliant! The overkill on how to vote, caucus and government rules/guidelines/policies made the story feel very directed politically. I ended up hitting FF through almost an entire chapter!

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