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June 15, 2020

Emily V Gordon Is Kumail Nanjiani's Wife — How the Couples' Therapist Became a Comedian

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Emily V Gordon was drawn into showbusiness through her husband, comedian Kumail Nanjiani, but her original career path was very different.

Emily V Gordon wrote a hit romantic comedy with her husband, actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani, but before that, her job was very different: she was a couple's therapist.

Her life changed when she went to watch a comedy show in Chicago where Kumail Nanjiani was performing. The sassy Gordon heckled the handsome comedian and caught his eye with her humor, and her snappy answers.

It's not every couple who is willing to put their entire love story on screen, warts and all, but Gordon and Nanjiani did.

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LIFE IS LIKE THE MOVIES

For Nanjiani and Gordon, life turned out to be just like the movies -- they wrote the script themselves -- but the course of true love did not run smoothly.

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In true romantic comedy tradition, Gordon and Nanjiani had to overcome many obstacles on the way to true love, including disapproving and interfering parents.

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WORLDS APART

Gordon was a divorcée from South Carolina, a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she earned her MS/EdS in couples and family counseling. The Winston-Salem native moved to Chicago in 2005, and it was there that she made history by heckling an up-and-coming young comedian. 

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Nanjiani was born in Karachi Pakistan, moved to the US at the age of 18 to complete his higher education at Grinnell College in Iowa, and graduated with a double major in computer science and philosophy. Then he fell in love with comedy, which became his passion until he met Gordon.

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LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Gordon and Nanjiani married in 2007, and she was drawn into the world of comedy and writing. Gordon discovered her own comedic talent and started writing material for comedians and producing comedian Peter Holmes' show at the Comix Roadhouse, the hottest stand-up club in Chicago at the time. 

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FULL-TIME WRITER

By 2010, when the couple moved to Los Angeles, Gordon had dropped her work as a psychologist and couple's therapist and was a full-time writer. Among Gordon's credits as a writer are two Disney.com web series, "Power Up" and "ExploreD." She wrote for NBC's sitcom "The Carmichael Show," and of course, collaborated with her husband on the Oscar-nominated screenplay of their love story.

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THE BIG SICK

It's not every couple who is willing to put their entire love story on screen, warts and all, but Gordon and Nanjiani did. They turned their cross-cultural, interracial romance into the hot romantic comedy of 2017: "The Big Sick."

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The movie depicts with startling candor the event that set a seal on Gordon and Nanjiani's love -- a medically induced coma. "The Big Sick" was made as an independent film, with a tiny $5 million budget, and ended up grossing $56 million in the box office.

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THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE FICTION

In essence, "The Big Sick" is autobiographical -- including Nanjiani's disapproving parents who wanted him to enter into an arranged marriage with a "suitable girl." Paradoxically, throughout the most crucial moment of their romance, both in the movies and in real life, Gordon was unconscious.

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Gordon, who'd started dating Nanjiani a few months earlier, went to a medical clinic in Chicago to see if they could help with a persistent cold. The doctor who examined her had her put into an ambulance and sent to the hospital -- Gordon had a serious lung infection, but doctors couldn't pinpoint the cause.

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CALLING KUMAIL NANJIANI

The solution was to put Gordon into a medically induced coma, and Nanjiani, who had rushed to the hospital at midnight to be with her, was asked by doctors to sign the release form for the procedure.

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They asked him if he was Gordon's husband, and he signed the form. Nanjiani was due to go on tour with comedian Zach Galifianakis, and provide the opening act -- a huge break for an up-and-coming comedian -- but he canceled to stay by Gordon's side.

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The rest, as they say, is history, Emily was diagnosed with Still's disease, a rare type of inflammatory arthritis, brought out of her coma, and back into Nanjiani's arms. A few months later, the couple got married.  

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Facing her mortality led Gordon to evaluate her life, and make some profound changes. One of them was to quit her job as a couples' therapist and move with Nanjiani -- who also quit his job as an IT -- to New York. She revealed:

“You have this experience where you almost die and you think, ‘Oh, well, whatever I want, I need to get it now, I want it now.’”

After New York, came the move to Los Angeles, and Nanjiani's acting career took off, as did Gordon's as a writer.

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LIVING THE PANDEMIC

Like everyone else, Gordon and Nanjiani have been in quarantine, but for them, it's an even more anxious time. Gordon's Still's disease leaves her especially vulnerable to COVID-19, so the couple have handled the situation in the way they know best: with humor.

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They have started a podcast "Staying In with Emily and Kumail" in which they handle the inevitable problems of confinement with characteristic banter, and huge doses of tongue-in-cheek humor.

The pandemic has put their professional life on pause after Nanjiani had a fabulous year, in which he finished shooting a new Marvel Universe movie "The Eternals" where he plays a superhero/demi-god named Kingo Sunen.

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Early 2020 saw Nanjiani win the starring role in a forthcoming political thriller, "The Independent," a departure from comedy.

The filming has been postponed, but even if the whole world is on hold, Nanjiani and Gordon's humor still makes fans smile through the anxious tears.

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