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

Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi moved around a lot as a kid—from Bombay to Bradford, England, to Tampa, FL. It was tough at the time, but the melding of cultural influences produced a wildly unique sense of humor, and one heck of a story. Or really, lots of stories. Mandvi’s book of essays, No Land’s Man, is this month’s Birchbox Man Book Pick. We caught the funny guy and web series auteur before he headed to LA to work on HBO's upcoming political comedy The Brink, and picked his brain about the book, as well as the future of The Daily Show sans Jon Stewart.

Birchbox Man: One of our favorite parts of No Land’s Man was the chapter about your dad’s 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. That’s where you'll find me.

What’s 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 wasn’t 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. That’s 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 can’t 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 “I’m 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: That’s what people at the show are saying as well. I’m sure that’s a question that everyone’s asking. I have no idea. The Daily Show will continue on but I’m sure it will be a different animal.

Would you ever want the job?

Mandvi: It’s 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 don’t 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 don’t often buy a suit right off the rack. If you’re going to buy a suit, get it fitted. That’s my advice. I never wore suits to work before I got to The Daily Show. But there’s nothing like a great suit.

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

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