If life in quarantine has messed with your sense of time, Kumail Nanjiani has a handy way to make sense of the crisis. There are only two eras: “pre-Hanks/Wilson” and “post-Hanks/Wilson.”
On the first episode of Staying In with Emily & Kumail, a weekly podcast that Nanjiani co-hosts with his wife, writer and producer Emily V. Gordon, the actor recounts one of his last personal milestones pre-Hanks/Wilson: the unveiling or his April Men’s Health cover. “It came out the day before ‘Hanks/Wilson,'” Nanjiani says. “I think it came out great. I—at that moment—couldn’t care less about it. I was in the deep pit of despair,” he confesses with a laugh.
During a recent phone call with Men’s Health, the Silicon Valley actor further elaborated on his state of mind that day. “I was honestly spiraling a little bit. I was freaking out. I’ve never had a period like that,” Nanjiani says. “Even when Emily was sick and she was in her coma, there was a certain amount of freaking out, but not spiraling in this way, With that, I was able to be like, ‘Do this, do this, have a schedule.’ It’s not like there was this big that was coming and nobody was doing anything to be ready for it.”
It’s one of the many strangely comforting anecdotes Nanjiani has been able to share with listeners on the podcast, which offers self-quarantine tips and features the couple working out their stress and anxiety in real time.
Nanjiani says he and Gordon were approached by Adam McKay’s Hyperobject Industries and Three Uncanny Four Productions to see if they were interested in making a quarantine podcast.
“It’s easy to feel helpless in a time like this,” Nanjiani tells Men’s Health. “I felt like we were in a position where we could help in some kind of way.” Plus, 100% of the net revenue from the podcast goes directly to charities actively engaged in coronavirus relief.
At first glance, Nanjiani and Gordon may seem like interesting choices to host a self-isolation podcast. However, both have a lot of experience with staying home for extended periods of time. Because Gordon has a rare autoimmune disease (her real-life diagnosis serves as a major plot point in The Big Sick, which stars Nanjiani and was written by the couple), the pair have had to isolate periodically to protect her health. Also, Gordon has a professional background in therapy, which helps imbue the episodes with a clinical approach to mental health and relationship issues may be experiencing in the age of social distancing.
“I really consider myself the sidekick in this podcast,” Nanjiani says. “Emily is really the one who brings the actual stuff that helps people and I’m there to ask her questions and project my own issues.”
So far, Staying In has explored topics ranging from how to keep a daily routine to giving an at-home haircut to finding new ways to entertain yourself. The podcast has also featured guests to help bring in a wider range of quarantine perspectives. Comedian Ike Barinholtz called in to discuss parenting and homeschooling, Nanjiani’s trainer David Higgins gave advice for at-home workouts, and chef David Chang shared some cooking tips, as well as his insights on the struggling restaurant industry.
Nanjiani and Gordon afford listeners an intimate window into their daily lives when breaking down their fears and frustrations, as well as their optimism and attempts to find silver linings in stressful situations.
“One thing I have realized is all the coping systems that I’ve had in place that I didn’t realize were coping systems,” Nanjiani says. “I didn’t realize that when I’m stressed I do this, when I’m feeling anxious I do that, when I’m down I do that. If I’m feeling up, this is how I celebrate. All those things, I didn’t realize that unconsciously I had those systems in place. Now, those systems are limited because you can’t go outside, you can’t see your friends. And the need for those systems is now greater than it’s ever been.”
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One of the best parts of Staying In is you’re able to experience the couple’s personal growth in real time, as their feelings about the current situation evolve from week to week. There’s something cathartic about listening to people who you’ve never met—and may never meet—unpack trauma and anxiety with grace and humor. The podcast is a reminder that we’re all going through this awful situation together, even if we’re feeling lonelier than we can ever remember.
“I never thought that ignoring what was going on was going to be the right strategy,” Nanjiani says. “It was always how we were going to address what’s going on, not shy away from it, and then see if we can provide some thing for people to try and wrap their heads around.”
Staying In with Emily & Kumail is available to stream on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.
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