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How to Be a ‘Beta Male’ — With Comedian Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani
Comedy Central Records

Kumail Nanjiani is more than fine with never being the person in charge.

“I don’t want to decide where a group of ten people is going to eat,” Nanjiani explained. “I don’t want to be the guy splitting up the check in a group of ten people. Here’s my money, I’ll just do whatever the group wants me to do.”

In his first one-hour Comedy Central special, ‘Beta Male’, Nanjiani explained why it’s hard out there for a beta male. Nanjiani relived some of life’s biggest terrors: a cobra fighting a mongoose at a kid’s birthday party in Pakistan, getting an adult videotape stuck in the VCR during a power outage, and investigating mysterious noises in the attic of his home. ‘Beta Male’ is available now on CC: Stand-up Direct.

If Nanjiani looks familiar, you’ve probably seen him on the TNT show ‘Franklin & Bash’, as recurring characters on ‘Portlandia’ or the web series ‘Burning Love’. Nanjiani has performed stand-up on ‘John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show,’ and ‘Live at Gotham,’ and Comedy Central recently announced it has greenlit ‘The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail,’ based on Nanjiani and comedian Jonah Ray’s weekly live show at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles.

Nanjiani explained the conception of ‘Beta Male’ and his new mission in life — the abolition of handshakes.

What exactly is a ‘Beta Male’?

The idea behind it was basically just a person who doesn’t take charge in any situation. Not an alpha male. The guy in the background.

When did you realize you’re a beta?

I don’t think I ever really came to the realization, I just never really considered myself the alpha male type. I noticed while putting my hour of stand-up together that many of the jokes involved me being scared, or in scary situations, and not being able to take charge.

Do you think the alpha male characteristic can be developed over time or are just born with it, and if you’re not, tough crap? Can you regress into a beta male?

I think a person can develop an alpha way of thinking in certain areas of life. For example, when I’m on stage, I feel very alpha. Off stage, I don’t feel like being in charge. I think you’re born with many of the characteristics. I’ve seen a bunch of little kids who really take charge in situations. The one leader kid who yells, “alright, lets go play in the sand!” and the rest of the group follows him to the sandbox.

Is it better to just be the guy in the background so you don’t get blamed when stuff goes wrong?

Exactly.

Are there things you wish you could take charge of?

If I’m passionate about something, I’ll take charge, but I just don’t get excited about most things in life. I’m passionate about comedy and my work projects. I’ll get really alpha about those things. There are people who want to win in every situation. I just don’t care.

Is there a sign of being an alpha male? Something that clues you in to other people wanting to be dominate?

One thing I’ve noticed lately is this dominating handshake some people have where it’s not enough to give a strong grip when shaking hands but the person has to turn the hands so his hand is on top. I’ve come across that and thought, “ok, this guy thinks he has to win at everything.”

Are you surprised people are touching each other at all in a society so afraid of catching things from people?

I’d be so happy if I never had to shake another hand again.

And what’s with the dude hugs being handed out?

Yeah, I don’t need those either. And what’s with combining the two? Where did that start? I need to touch your hand and get a quick back rub?

I’m going to pretend to remember information from history class, and guess the handshake had something to do with showing friendship and that a person wasn’t armed.

Ok, you know what, a lot of us don’t carry weapons, so let’s skip the handshakes and assume we’re all unarmed.

Who’s to say you don’t have a weapon in your other hand?

Exactly, and if you’re in Texas, the weapon is inside your coat. This is my mission now. I want to abolish handshakes.

If you want people to take your mission seriously, you’re doing to need to offer people an alternative to the handshake.

How about fist bumps? They’re also ridiculous but they’re better than touching palms. Actually, how about we all just say “hi” to each other from now on?

Check out more of Kumail Nanjiani on the Comedy Central website or follow him on Twitter. Listen to him every week on his podcast The Indoor Kids on Nerdist.

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