Aasif Mandvi was born in Mumbai, India, in March 1966 and moved with his family first to England and then the United States. After college, Mandvi moved to New York, where he wrote a one-man play in which he starred. The play was a success, winning Mandvi an Obie award and leading to movie roles. Small roles would be replaced by a gig on a hit show when Mandvi won a recurring role as a correspondent on The Daily Show. He would go on to appear in other films and shows and create the web series Halal in the Family.
Aasif Mandvi was born Aasif Hakim Mandviwala in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, on March 5, 1966. When he was a year old, Mandvi and his family moved to Bradford, England, and it was here that the future actor and comedian would begin exploring the thespian arts.
When Mandvi was 16, his family moved to the United States and put down roots in Tampa, Florida. After high school, Mandvi got a scholarship to the University of South Florida in Tampa, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater. With his bachelor’s behind him, it wouldn’t be long before he picked up and moved to New York City to be closer to his girlfriend.
Writing and Acting
In New York, Mandvi found himself in a position similar to that of millions of other transplants: that of a struggling actor. However, the odds were in his favor when he wrote a one-man play to showcase both his writing and his acting skills. The play was called Sakina’s Restaurant and it became something of an Off-Broadway sensation, winning Mandvi an Obie Award in 1999.
“This was my personal journey of reconnecting with my ethnicity,” Mandvi said of the play. “I reintegrated myself into my own Indian-ness by writing that play. I was like, ‘Guess what, I’m Indian!’”
During this time, Mandvi was also making inroad in film roles, albeit small ones. He appeared in such movies as The Siege (1998), Analyze This (1999) and Random Hearts (1999). What followed were a string of other small roles in films such as Spider-Man 2 (2004), The War Within (2005) and Freedomland (2006) and on such TV shows as Oz, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and The Sopranos.
‘The Daily Show’ and Beyond
In the summer of 2006, writers for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart wrote material for a Middle Eastern correspondent that they didn’t have in the cast. Mandvi auditioned for the role, got the job on the spot and made his debut on that night’s episode. The role might have been a one-time thing, but Mandvi’s appearance went so well that he was asked to stay on as a full-time member of the cast, as, variably and with tongue in cheek, White House Correspondent, Senior Muslim Correspondent or South Asian Correspondent. Despite the satiric nature of his role, Mandvi nevertheless found himself representing his native India on one of the hottest shows on TV, and he also soon became a well-known face of Islam.
“There are very few people representing the moderate American Muslim voice on television,” he once said, “and I happened to fall into this thing.” For his work on “this thing,” Mandvi was honored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who bestowed him with a Courage in Media award.
Since The Daily Show elevated his career to the next level, Mandvi has taken on a variety of roles, appearing in such films as Million Dollar Arm (2014), TV shows such as the 2015 political satire The Brink and the web series Halal in the Family. He also adapted Sakina’s Restaurant into a film called Today’s Special (2009), in which he starred. Mandvi also has a role in the 2016 comedy Mother's Day starring Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts.
Mandvi published his first book, a collection of funny personal stories about his life, No Land's Man, in 2014.
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