Kumail Nanjiani has had quite the year. Aside from being featured in New York’s “Ten Comedians to Watch” feature this past March, he’s performed on the Late Show with David Letterman, sold a sitcom idea to NBC, and even roasted Willem Dafoe when he hosted the Gotham Awards just a few weeks ago. However, all of this pales in comparison to the recent evening in which his stand-up set at New York City’s Slipper Room was interrupted by none other than the same man who recently threatened to “forcefully sodomize” your friendly Vulture editors, Mr. John Mayer.
While we had heard some word of Mayer’s bizarre stand-up appearance bubbling around, it wasn’t until we attended last night’s Get Off Your Knees comedy night at the Bell House in Brooklyn that we realized how deep the story went. After an opening set from his Michael and Michael Have Issues co-star Michael Showalter, Nanjiani took the mike and proceeded to tell the crowd of 200 or so attendees about the incident in which John Mayer showed up at the Slipper Room unannounced last Tuesday night and asked the evening’s emcee, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s Seth Herzog, if he could do five minutes of stand-up.* According to Nanjiani, who was originally scheduled to take the stage when Mayer showed up, Mayer then proceeded to bomb for not five minutes, but for twenty, eating into Nanjiani’s performance time. Which would have been fine, except Mayer then decided to come back out onstage AGAIN in the middle of Nanjiani’s set. This is when things got weird.
To hear Nanjiani tell the story, he was somewhat rattled after having had his set time cut by John Mayer, but things got awkward after Mayer referred to the Pakistan-born Kumail as “Kabul.” Whoops! Making matters even worse, Mayer apparently then began heckling Nanjiani onstage, telling him that “he looked like a brown guy but sounded like a white guy.” Double whoops! Now, Nanjiani was careful last night not to accuse Mayer of being a racist, nor does he seem to hold a real grudge against Mayer; rather, he was just relating a hilariously surreal story of a recent stand-up gig to a bunch of comedy nerds (like us!). However, in the video below, revered local comedian Eugene Mirman doesn’t shy away from calling Mayer an “accidental racist” at the 4:25 mark:
So, how does Mayer feel about all of this? Well, he was quick to get in touch with Sean McCarthy, the man behind the popular comedy blog the Comic’s Comic, to give his side of the story. As Mayer tells McCarthy, “I felt really bad. I felt like I ruined his set.” That’s pretty big of him, but it feels just the slightest bit disingenuous when you consider that he also described the scenario to McCarthy as being “combative in the sense that the crowd [at the Slipper Room] didn’t really accept the fact that the jock, the guy who gets the girls, was at a place where the guys go who talk about how they don’t get the girls.” Um, snap? We think?
While we’re fairly certain that Nanjiani will never tell this story in public again, it certainly can’t hurt to keep an eye on his upcoming schedule to see if he does. However, those of us who were in attendance at the Bell House last night were treated to an epic story of what John Mayer is actually like when frequenting venues where the paparazzi can’t find him.
*Mayer contends that he was invited to perform that night by Jordan Rubin, a comedian who was originally on the bill but never ended up performing.