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Books · March 4, 2015

Birchbox Man Q&A: Aasif Mandvi Recalls Childhood Style Icons and His Fathers Brunch Obsession

Birchbox Man: One of our favorite parts of No Lands Man was the chapter about your dads unorthodox strategies for getting discounts at IHOP. Did you inherit his love of brunch?

Aasif Mandvi: My dad's attraction to brunch was not the hip factor. For my dad it was a combination of a lot of food for not a lot of money. My dad was like, "Brunch every day!" In New York brunch is kind of chichi. I just go to my local diner, Utopia Diner on 72nd and Broadway. Thats where you'll find me.

Whats your daily power breakfast?

Mandvi: Three egg whites scrambled, turkey bacon, home fries.

In the book you talk about several style icons that had a big impact on you growing up. How did they affect you?

Mandvi: Style icons change over the course of your life. An early one for me was The Fonz. Not just the leather jacket, but the whole persona of the American male. For me that was about impersonating an iconic American image that I ultimately wasnt part of. I never felt like I could be The Fonz. I gravitated to Omar Sharif because of the dignity and integrity he had as a brown man navigating a white world in Hollywood. He wasn't playing a servant. He had a certain dignity. Thats something that was important to me as something to hope for, to dream of in terms of the characters I played or the way I portrayed myself in Hollywood. It wasn't always possible because of cultural restrictions.

A line like you cant be Michael Jackson all the time unless you are Michael Jackson is remarkably poetic for a teenager.

Mandvi: MJ was important to me because at a time when I didn't know who I was, he was playing with race and identity and manipulating them on his own body and also in the culture at large. Whatever you think of him, here was a guy saying Im going to be whatever I want, I'm going to take ownership of the identity I create. That is something that I had never really thought was possible previously.

How will we survive without Jon Stewart at the helm of The Daily Show?

Mandvi: Thats what people at the show are saying as well. Im sure thats a question that everyones asking. I have no idea. The Daily Show will continue on but Im sure it will be a different animal.

Would you ever want the job?

Mandvi: Its a grueling job. If anyone ever came to me and offered me the hosting job, I would be incredibly honored and I would have to consider it. But I dont know what my answer would be.

Your work in front of the camera requires wearing a lot of suits. Any tips for buying one?

Mandvi: I dont often buy a suit right off the rack. If youre going to buy a suit, get it fitted. Thats my advice. I never wore suits to work before I got to The Daily Show. But theres nothing like a great suit.

For a limited time you can get a free copy of "No Lands Man" when you spend $50+ in the Birchbox Shop. Just use the code NOLANDSMAN at checkout (while supplies last).