Ep. 36: Keep on the Sunnyside (w/ Kal Penn)

Dec. 10, 2019

Ep. 36: Keep on the Sunnyside (w/ Kal Penn)

Briahna Joy Gray: During his October rally in Queens, the biggest rally of any candidate in the race to date, Bernie Sanders memorably asked the crowd ...

Bernie Sanders: I want you all to take a look around and find someone you don't know. Are you willing to fight for that person who you don't even know as much as you're willing to fight for yourself?

Briahna Joy Gray: That call to solidarity has resonated broadly, perhaps because many of us seem to intrinsically understand that without solidarity, the diffuse interests of diverse groups of Americans have limited political leverage. In other words, we are much stronger when we stand together. Not me, us. Perhaps nowhere is the need for solidarity greater than in the context of immigration. You see, noncitizens are already vulnerable with limited rights under the law. And for decades, the notion of scarcity has been used to discourage the spirit of hospitality the Lady Liberty's famous inscription claims to represent. Anti-immigrant fearmongering should never be accepted, ever, but the sad reality is, it becomes more persuasive to voters when they feel like they're fighting a zero-sum game, when half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Life expectancy has gone down for the first time in American history. And mine is the first generation expected to do worse than our parents. As a result, politicians often lean into the idea of a conflict of interest between low-income Americans and immigrants, promising to protect one group at the expense of the other.

Donald Trump: We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.

Darryl Weathers: They took our jobs!

South Park Men: They done took our jobs!

They sure did!

They did!

Briahna Joy Gray: In a valiant effort to criticize nativist racist sentiment, some Democrats have even understated the economic anxieties faced by Americans of all colors. This is a mistake.

The best way to cut anti-immigrant sentiment off at the pass, I'd argue, is to address scarcity at home. Make sure that all Americans are guaranteed a job through a Green New Deal jobs program, guarantee we all have free comprehensive health care, regardless of employment status. When losing a job can mean life or death for you or your family, you become more vulnerable to claims that immigrants present a unique threat. But when immigrants are included as part of labor advocacy, when they have basic rights in the workplace, they become allies, rather than an alternative workforce, to be exploited by employers.

This is the ethos behind Bernie Sanders' immigration policy. It centers labor rights for all and health care for all. Bernie makes the case that right-wing austerity arguments, which vilify so-called unworthy minorities, actually hurt everyone. It's a policy that is honest about how American interventionism has driven millions of immigrants from their homes and that our contributions to global warming continue to create millions of climate refugees. It's a plan that is as intersectional as it is humane. And importantly, it's one that was drafted with the input of immigrant staff members here at HQ, including our Latino press secretary, Belén Sisa, who is herself a DACA recipient.

Earlier this month while I was on the road, Belén sat down with Kal Penn, actor, comedian, and former associate director in Obama's White House Office of Public Engagement, to talk about immigration. On this week's Hear the Bern, the two discussed Bernie's immigration policy, as well as Penn's new NBC show Sunnyside, in which Penn plays a former New York City councilman who ends up helping immigrants in search of the American dream.

This is Hear the Bern, a podcast about the people, places, and ideas that drive the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray, and I'm coming to you from campaign headquarters here in Washington, D.C. Stick around to the end, because I had the pleasure of having a quick tete-a-tete with members of U.S. Youth Climate Strike, co-founded by Isra Hirsi, daughter of Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar. I was only able to grab them for a moment after they finished filming their endorsement videos last week, but in that short span of time, I feel like I inherited the wisdom of their entire generation. These 15, 16, 17, and 18-year-olds explained ASMR, TikTok, and the root of Bernie's appeal among the youths. And most importantly, they promised to come back and record a full episode with us soon, complete with hot pickles for some experimental ASMR. If that last sentence sounded like gibberish to you, don't worry, the kids will explain.

Belén Sisa: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Hear the Bern. My name is Belén Sisa. I'm the Latino Press Secretary for Bernie 2020. And I am sitting in today for our incredible National Press Secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, who's on the campaign trail right now. But I am so happy to be joined by actor and comedian Kal Penn. He's been in many movies, on many TV shows, among them Harold and Kumar, Designated Survivor, which I'm a fan of actually.

Kal Penn: Thank you. Thank you.

Belén Sisa: and most recently, is starring in the show Sunnyside, so welcome, Kal.

Kal Penn: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Belén Sisa: Thank you for being here. We're super excited to talk about Sunnyside and, you know, the impact that the show is having, you know, in a time where politics is getting dangerous for many people.

Kal Penn: What do you mean? Everything is fine.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: Everything is fine. There's nothing to worry about.

Belén Sisa: The world's not on fire.

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: there are no floods anywhere.

Kal Penn: Literally on fire.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] So tell us a little bit about Sunnyside and why you chose the location for it and how the idea came to be.

Kal Penn: Sure. So, I co-created the show Sunnyside with, my writing partner Matt Murray, under the Mike Schur banner. Mike Schur created shows that you probably really know and life, Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place-

Belén Sisa: Uh-huh [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... and kind of generally very diverse reflections of America that are fast, like you can watch episodes three times and not understand the joke until the third time because it's so fast-paced. So, Matt and I created it under this banner, but the, the first iteration of it was actually about five years ago. I was on the, another very short-lived show actually.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And when it ended, I was talking to a friend of mine about, you know, "Well what's your dream scenario? What would you want to create if you could?" And I said, "Well, the shows that I loved watching as a kid, things like Seinfeld, for example."

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Right, I grew up in New Jersey. That took place in New York City. But it was such a homogenous cast. And it was-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... not the New York that I knew, but still deeply funny. Like, I can't tell you how many Indian uncles I have that remind me of George Costanza. Like, George Costanza is a universal character.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: So, as I was growing up, I was like, "Oh, that's weird that they would purposely kind of exclude all of these communities that live-"

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: "... in that city." But it's a slice of life, and they have obviously a, a very funny show, so when the opportunity to develop something came around, I kind of thought, "Well what's the 2019 version of that?" What's the version of that that is reflective of, of who we are as Americans? Can you make a patriotic comedic version of what Fresh Prince was to us or what Seinfeld was or even what, like, Curb Your Enthusiasm, deeply funny, not particularly diverse. And I think there was a way to do it. So, we started talking about what that would look like and ended up coming up with what Sunnyside is, which is-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... a diverse patriotic comedy that, that we think is sort of like a big, ... If, if done well, we still have four or five episodes that still have to air, but, but if done well is sort of a, a big hug in a way for, for-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... a lot of folks. Like, we want you to feel like you're hanging out with a bunch of your friends-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: ... in each episode.

Griselda: And it was there on a dark disordered Sunnyside Street that things took a turn for the deadly.

Garrett Modi: Are you podcasting this?

Griselda: When Hakim turns out to be a serial killer, someone's gonna turn it into a podcast, might as well be me. Brought to you by Squarespace.

Belén Sisa: I definitely got that from the clips that I got to watch.

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: I was definitely laughing [laughs] on the first episode. I was like, "Oh my goodness. This councilman. What is going on?"

Kal Penn: Yeah, I play a really dumb character, by the way. Like, we're, we're all kind of dumb on the show. But in particular I play a city councilman who, tries to bribe a cop and gets kicked out of office, has no other job skills, and ends up posting an ad on Craigslist saying, you know-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... "For 50 bucks an hour I'll do whatever you want." And-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: After a lot of degrading requests, this group-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... of, five or six immigrants, ask him to, you know, "Can we hire you for the day to teach us how to prepare for the citizenship test?"

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And, and he says yes. They don't know that he knows even less than they do about the process. And that's kind of just the jumpstart of their friendship that, you know [crosstalk 00:09:37].

Belén Sisa: It's the irony too, right?

Kal Penn: Exactly.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] Right, right.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: And speaking of, you know, even in the first episode I notice that there are some very serious subjects that are tackled, right?

Kal Penn: Yep.

Belén Sisa: ICE detention.

Kal Penn: Yep.

Belén Sisa: DACA.

Garrett Modi: Listen up, it's been over a week since ICE detained our good friend Drazen, and we still don't have any leads. Look, if we don't do anything, we could lose him forever. He could get transferred. He could get deported. He's probably sitting in a cell somewhere, and I'm his only hope. Anybody have any ideas?

Male: Oh, we could bake a file into a birthday cake, and then Drazen could use that to bust his little ass out of there.

Female: Like in a Daffy Duck cartoon.

Male: Well, that's actually more like a Bugs character type of ... I mean, not that I would even know that, because like, I only watch sports and R-rated movies. Please call on someone else.

our dad might be able to help. He and El Chapo broke out of prison together.

Female: Wait, dad and Uncle Chapo met in prison?

Male: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: How is the experience of writing those difficult subjects and but still making it funny?

Kal Penn: Yeah, I kind of used the litmus of things that we learned from making the Harold and Kumar movies.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: So, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, you know, it came out and did ... It wasn't really a, a movie that people wanted to see in theaters. And when it came out, you know, we knew that a couple things. One, it was just a funny, dumb stoner comedy, but it was also the first time that you had two Asian American men in a studio comedy, period. And when the audiences didn't go to theaters to see it, the reaction in Hollywood was, "Well, see, America's just not ready for two men of color highlighting a, or, or leading a, a comedy." And you kind of start to believe that. Then three months later the DVD comes out with no marketing. Fans find it themselves. And now we get to do three movies, right.

Belén Sisa: Wow.

Kal Penn: So, for Sunnyside it was a similar thing, like what did we learn from that. We learned that, A, fans know more about what they like than marketing teams do, but B, you can tackle issues that are sometimes really painful and really tough to deal with in a way that is both silly and accessible to people, so-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: What was that episode of Hasan Minhaj's show about the Indian elections, a couple months ago?

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Like, obviously low-hanging fruit, very funny. He's a stand-up comedian, very, very smart guy. But a lot of foreign policy writers were writing about how, you know, it's crazy, most Americans' only exposure to foreign elections are gonna come from that show.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: From that comedy show, because most of us don't read the New York Times or the-

Belén Sisa: Exactly.

Kal Penn: ... Economist every day or every week. And, and so, yeah, it's a very long-winded way of saying we wanted to make sure that the stories that we told were, were authentic, but also-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... accessible enough if you want to watch it for comedic purposes, which was really our main, our main point in making it.

Belén Sisa: But you're learning something while you're watching, right?

Kal Penn: You are learning, yeah. We also ... One of the ways to do that was we, when we were looking to staff the writers’ room up, we wanted a diverse writers' room.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Hollywood generally when they ... And thankfully people are, are understanding the importance of diversity, really in storytelling. Like, the more diverse-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: ... your writers’ room is, the more interesting the stories are gonna be. So usually Hollywood, the Hollywood version of diversity is like, "Look, we have one woman and/or one person of color in a junior role in the writers’ room." And then the Writers Guild will be like, "Yep, that's a diverse writers' room."

Belén Sisa: Oh.

Kal Penn: Like, no, that's tokenization. That's totally different.

Belén Sisa: Exactly.

Kal Penn: So, for us we wanted to be fully inclusive and we just cast a wide net and said obviously you have to be funny first and foremost. The end result was that our writers’ room is made up of everyone is either an immigrant or an immediate family member of an immigrant themselves.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: all Americans, all extremely funny and smart. And it was a similar thing with our cast. So, the reason I bring that up is in terms of how to, how to tell stories about things that are tough like DACA or things that are crazy. By the way, we have two characters who are the twins of a billionaire dad-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... whose immigration experience is gonna be very different than the DACA recipient.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And in order to tell those stories in a funny way, you have to kind of put them all together. And so, you've gotta have a diverse writers’ room that's lived those experiences.

Belén Sisa: Definitely. That's, one of the things that popped out at me too is the different immigrant experiences, right?

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: And the stereotype I feel like is really broken when you see the group of immigrants that, you know, you were teaching the citizenship test to-

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: ... that, you know, we all don't look the same, we don't sound the same, we don't have the same cultures or customs, and it seems like in the last few years their rhetoric has been about just Latinos.

Kal Penn: Yeah. Yeah.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] As if we're the only immigrants that come to this country.

Kal Penn: Right. Well there's also so much scapegoating that goes on, right-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... when you, when you quantify the immigration experience of, of one group of people with a particular reason why folks might be doing that.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: I remember when, I did, what, a little over two years at the White House, and in the middle, I had to take a sabbatical to finish a film that I had started before.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: The third Harold and Kumar movie actually. And I was friends with this guy in De- ... We filmed it in Detroit. And, there was this kid who I met who was undocumented, didn't know it.

Belén Sisa: Mm.

Kal Penn: Your classic story. Russian immigrant. His parents never told him they overstayed their visa. When he was 16 or whatever it was, he went to the DMV to try to-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... get his permit to surprise everybody, and the woman said, "You need to leave. You're, you're not supposed to be here," whatever it was. He goes home and asks his parents. And his parents said, "Yes, you're undocumented. We didn't want to tell you." So, cut to a few years later, he gets detained by ICE. And when he's in detention, the job he had when he got picked up by ICE was, he was teaching English to inner city kids in Detroit. What a classic example of this random white dude who didn't know that he was undocumented, who was literally teaching English to other American kids, and, and was in ICE detention. He ended up getting out and, and he's, you know, has a pathway to be able to stay here. But that was, you know, like ... There's a reason that our character Brady, who's the DACA recipient in the episode that actually drops on Hulu today.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: It's because of stories like that, you know.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: Yeah. And, also the location, right, has a lot to do with Sunnyside. it's actually AOC's district.

Kal Penn: It is AOC's district. That's right.

Belén Sisa: it is one of the most diverse urban areas.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: So why did you decide to, to have it set there.

Kal Penn: Beca-, so I, I know Queens enough.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: I grew up in New Jersey, but we would, we would often go to Queens, because back in the day that was the only place that had Indian grocery stores.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. [laughs]

Kal Penn: So, you'd pack up the car and take, maybe once a month or whatever it was.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: and I had aunts and uncles who lived there. But Queens is the most diverse place in the United States.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: If not the world.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: There are 200-plus language- languages spoken in that part of New York City. And it's a reflection on not just the world, but it's really a microcosm of the beautiful folks that coexist in the United States. They're-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: ... the, the rarity of that, right. It's a very patriotic place. It's also New York City. So, you're walking down the street and people are ignoring each other. They're, like, doing everything that New Yorkers do, but if you need something, they're there for you. And it seemed like a really fun place to set a show, because you could authentically weave in and out of, of people's experiences.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. And I loved it. I've only gone to New York once, and it was for the Queens rally. [laughs]

Kal Penn: Oh, awesome. Good. Oh yeah, I missed that. I wanted to go.

Belén Sisa: Yeah. And, you know, I got to see-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... a little bit of what it was like to be in New York.

Kal Penn: Yeah. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: But I definitely want to go visit now more often. And after seeing this show I'm like, "Oh, I want to go experience it myself." So

Kal Penn: Come to any of the street festivals or parades over the summer.

Belén Sisa: Okay.

Kal Penn: They're, they're pretty great.

Belén Sisa: You were talking about how your latest episode of Sunnyside is going to be about DACA.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: And, you know, it's such a historic time, I would say, and scary time, for a lot of people, considering that the Supreme Court just listened to oral arguments.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: So, I wanted to know a little bit about what that was like to put all that together. You know, I, I ... For me it would be a very emotional thing.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: but for you, what was, what was that like?

Kal Penn: it was very emotional for us, for a number of reasons. It's actually even in, in the sequence of how the episodes were shot. The DACA episode that's, out now actually, I realized it's, it's after 3:00 p.m. here.

Belén Sisa: Oh.

Kal Penn: So, it's out.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: So, you can watch it on Hulu, NBC.com, Roku, YouTube TV. The free one's NBC.com if, for folks who don't have Hulu. But the reason I, I, I'm doing the plug so hard is that I had never seen, and this is why I'm so proud that we accomplished it, and I, I did not write the episode, but I'd never seen characters talking about these types of issues in a comedy. And we wanted to make these conversations accessible. All of our characters are immigrants, and they are all deeply flawed as humans, as we all are. And we thought that was a really important thing to talk about too, where we all have hopes and dreams and aspirations and things we screw up and things that make us-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... angry, just like everyone else. And this notion that conversations about people of color or immigrants are bifurcated into either good or bad is so dehumanizing. John Cho-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... who plays Harold in the Harold and Kumar movies, he, I remember he used to talk about, like, the idea that any executive is proud that their show features a good Asian cop.

Belén Sisa: Mm.

Kal Penn: Like, why? That's just as dehumanizing as making a Long Duk Dong stereotype. Like-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Humans are, are fleshed out, and they have just as many flaws and aspirations. And so, all of that are ... Those are all things we wanted to put into the episode. And so, the runner-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... with the Brady character who comes out to his fraternity brothers-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... as a DACA recipient was done in a way where, you know, the character himself is struggling with his own identity, where he viewed himself as this American-born kid who's in this presumably, you know, very broey fraternity.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Brady: So, the DACA program is set up for children brought to this country without documentation. My mom brought me over here when I was two and she overstayed her visa, so technically I wasn't legally here for most of my childhood.

Garrett Modi: As a DACA recipient, Brady can't be deported, but there's also no clear pathway to citizenship. He's just sort of stuck. And since 2017 he can't leave the country if he ever wants to come back.

Brady: I am sorry for lying to you guys. I just, I didn't know how you were gonna respond.

Frat Guy: We're so sorry you've been dealing with all this.

All this immigration stuff and you're dying of DACA? Dude.

We've been so selfish.

Kal Penn: And he has to come to terms with himself. He has to ... He talks about being embarrassed about being an immigrant to his other immigrant friends, who obviously, you know, like ... There's a scene, Samba Schutte plays a character named Hakim who's an Ethiopian doctor turned cab driver while he's waiting on, you know-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... getting his relicensing. He's a newer immigrant. My character was born and raised in New York. And then the Brady character is a DACA recipient from Moldova. And the three of them, the three of the char-, those characters have a conversation, and they're each at different points in how they view themselves as Americans-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... and what they're embarrassed about in terms of their parents' identity or their ethnic identity or, or all that. But it's done in such a dumb, funny way. It starts with the Brady character bringing a hammer to a bar and trying to convince Samba, who plays the doctor, to smash him in the face, because if he's smashed in the face, then his fraternity brothers have an excuse for why he can't travel with them to Cabo for some spring break trip.

Belén Sisa: Oh.

Kal Penn: When in reality the reason he can't go to Cabo is because he's a DACA recipient and he doesn't know if he can get back in-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... if he leaves the country. So, something as dumb as, like, getting your face smashed with a hammer, which is where the comedy comes from-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... and then within that are the very real conversations that people sometimes have. So, we're really proud of this episode. We've gotten a bunch of calls from people that we didn't expect. We have a panel in D.C. tonight with the Council on Foreign Relations, which is a very, you know, very old-school think tank.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: They wanted to have a panel on immigration and DACA by screening the episode. So-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: I'm just really glad that folks are talking about it, obviously selfishly, because we love the show and we want people to watch it. But we're really proud that it's the most diverse show in the history of TV, that if you've got friends on your college campus or your neighbors who don't understand what it is, I love that our show is an opportunity for people to sit down and binge three episodes together and then have a conversation, like, over a beer or something.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: That's what I love about when, when comedy can do that.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Those are the kinds of comedies I, I, I sort of gravitated towards as a kid.

Belén Sisa: I love that you guys chose to highlight that specific instance, because I, you know, I actually went through that. I lived in a very small, conservative town in Arizona-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... of all places. I had to lie a lot about-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... who I was and, what my family situation was, which brings me to my next question of what have you learned about the immigration system from putting Sunnyside together?

Kal Penn: Oh my gosh, the ... Well, a lot obviously, but it's, it's also, you know ... I think our biggest takeaway, look, we're ... I keep repeating this because it's so true. We're an aspirational patriotic comedy, which means that our writers have to deal with things that I as an actor don't have to deal with. So, I co-wrote the pilot.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: But once we were in production, schedules are such that I'm producing and I'm acting, but I'm not in the writers’ room. So, if you ask actors, our view of these scripts is so beautiful and inclusive, and we're so proud that we're telling stories that haven't been told on TV for our communities.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And by the way, for communities that don't look like ours. Like, if you're the standard Seinfeld audience from the '90s, I still think you're gonna like Sunnyside. I really do, because that's ... We- we've designed it that way. But if you want edgy TV that you haven't seen before, you'll definitely like it as well. So, for us it was more of like the rah-rah patriotism of, yes, we're defining what we've always known to be American, which are our communities too.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: But then you ask the writers, and they have to be really mindful of the constant, almost day-to-day changes coming out of this administration about immigration, and they need to track them, because our characters are going through real immigration processes. And so, they have to figure out, "Okay, did something just happen that's gonna change the episode that we're writing now-"

Belén Sisa: Wow.

Kal Penn: "... that's gonna air in two months?" And by the time that airs, are things gonna be different? Like, obviously we're fiction, right. We're a fictional show.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: But we live with the understanding that reality exists. And so, on my end it's been an incredibly warm experience that is only a reminder, not that I needed one, of how amazing it is when all of our communities can come together for something. On the writers’ side I know it's also been very tricky because they have to constantly kind of-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... be mindful of the realities, because we never want to, you know ... I have to point this out. We're never a response to the current administration. We would just-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: I would never give that guy that much credit-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... because we're so much better than that. But we also want to be mindful of it so that we can continue to empower our voices.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Does that make sense?

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: Like, did, did I say that in the right way?

Belén Sisa: No, that definitely does, you know. And it reminds me a little bit about something Bernie said after the debate last night-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... where we've been talking about impeachment so much-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... right, but what we must not do is let him consume us.

Kal Penn: Yeah, exactly.

Belén Sisa: Right?

Kal Penn: Right.

Belén Sisa: Let him consume us that we forget about the fight that is the long-term fight-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... which is for everyone to have health care as a human right and to be able to have affordable housing and to have access to education, regardless of where they're from or how much money they make.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: And that if we let him consume that conversation, he wins again.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: Right? And that that's so important, what you just said.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: You've obviously been in the show business for a while. And you've played several different roles. How do you think that that has evolved, you know, being in, in different roles and how things are perceived and how really society kind of, you know, has evolved, I would hope-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... since then, or maybe not, I don't know! What do you think?

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: How has it changed?

Kal Penn: It, it depends.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: I, I think what you, what you see generally the last, like, 15 years, right, TV has been telling stories that are more and more insightful about just folks' experiences. It's diverse because audiences are finally demanding that stuff.

Belén Sisa: Mm.

Kal Penn: And it's also getting ... Content's getting better because things are going, moving away from network and into streaming.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: So even something like The Mindy Project, right, like 15 years ago, you couldn't fathom that a show like that would be on the air.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: Girls on HBO, I mean, similar to the Seinfeld model, it is a relatively homogenous group of people, but-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... what an incredible, funny, biting, female-driven, amazing show that even on HBO 20 years ago, would it have ... Would that have been possible? And Lena Dunham's writing and her cre-, her, just her creativity.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: So, I'm very hopeful o- once things started moving on streaming ... Streaming isn't bound by the same rules as, as network, as we're learning. We, we jump from NBC to Hulu and NBC.com and-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... the app and Roku and, like-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: ... all the streaming stuff that people can binge on. And I think that's, that's why you're seeing more of that content, because people are able to access it on their own. You don't have to just sit there at a particular time at night when you're-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... gonna be doing other things anywhere.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: So, I'm hopeful that TV's gonna continue to reflect more of our experiences overall. But it's-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: There's a long way to go, for sure.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: You know.

Belén Sisa: And especially with immigration, one of the things that I've noticed, you know, with these streaming services like Orange is the New Black-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... for example, right, it talks about mass incarceration.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: It talks about immigration now in the last season and ICE detention centers and all of that. So, I can definitely see what you mean about, you know, even having more control, right, of the fans can say, "We want to see more of this," or, "I don't see myself represented," which is important, right?

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: We can't dream something that we don't see.

Kal Penn: For sure.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: And I think sometimes Hollywood gets confused. I think I mentioned before, like, the difference between tokenization and representation.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And at least on Sunnyside we're not interested in tokenization, we're interested in true representation. And you can tell who's interested in that and who's not, right? Orange is the New Black is a great example.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: It's representative. It tackles issues. It really explores them.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And then, you know, there are other shows that maybe every so often there's an immigrant or a person of color, somebody who's not as wealthy as everybody else, and you just get that tiny sliver only every once in a while.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: But I think we're moving in the right direction overall.

Belén Sisa: We are.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: We are. And I mean, we have people like you, right, who are kind of on the political side of things and a-, in the art world, right?

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: Which I wanted to ask you about, because it's so interesting to me. I love Designated Survivor.

Kal Penn: Thank you. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: So, the way that ... When I found out that you worked for the Obama White House-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... I was like, "Oh my god! Is he like his character in this show?"

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: [laughs] So what was that like? You know, how did you navigate those, both worlds?

Kal Penn: To jump from the two? So-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: I, I worked for, ... I should probably address that, right? Okay, so for folks who don't know-

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: In 2006 all of the screenwriters in L.A. went on strike. I was on a-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... show called House at the time.

Belén Sisa: Love that show.

Kal Penn: Loved it. I had a great time.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: My family was finally excited that I was at least playing a doctor if I wasn't gonna be one in real life.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: But all the screenwriters went on strike, so we couldn't film anything. And that was back when, similar to what you see now ... It's actually almost exactly 12 years ago, because I joined the Obama campaign, I want to say it was October of '07. So, there were, what, 12 different candidates in the Democratic field, and it was a crowded place. And at that time nobody knew his name. And I think it was only Obama and Ron Paul who weren't taking lobbyist money-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... like, which is crazy if you think about it now.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: And people certain pronounce his name, the whole thing, right, the whole standard, your standard primary conversation-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... when you, when you have your candidate. And so, I went to volunteer for him and then he, he started winning states and ended up winning the nomination and then the presidency. So, there's, there's an opportunity to work there for about two and a half years doing essentially what I had done on the campaign, which is outreach to young people.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community. I loved my two and a half year-, two, two ... Not quite two and a half. Just under two and a half years. Loved it. Then I went back to my first love, which of course is comedy and storytelling.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And four years into that, everybody thinks I jumped right from the White House to Designated Survivor. I did not. There were four years in the middle there doing a couple of movies and things. But when the Designated Survivor script came around, I was like, "I, I don't think I should do this. It's ... People are gonna get confused. They're gonna think that I just went from working at the real White House to a fake one." And then my agent says, "Well it's Kiefer Sutherland." I was, "Kief-, wait, what? Kiefer Sutherland's in this? Mm, yeah, I should probably do it." Read the script again and realized the analogy is actually not that you went from the Obama White House to the Kirkman White House, the analogy is, okay, let's say I was an airline mechanic, right, I was working on airplanes on engines at a, at an airport, and then I did a play in which I played a flight attendant, like, off Broadway. That's the difference. So, I'm like, "Wow, I really don't know what a press secretary's job is." Like, you should tell me whether I did a good job of that role.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: I don't know what that's like. this was ... The, the show started towards the tail end of the Obama administration, so I still had friends working in the building. And I, I asked Josh Ernest, who was the press secretary at the time, I was like, "Can I just, like, shadow you for a day?" And he was like, "Yeah, man," like, because I, "We've worked, like, we've worked, what, 2,000, 1,000 feet away from each other for years, and I just don't know what your life is like." So, you tell me whether Seth-

Belén Sisa: Wow.

Kal Penn: ... was a good interpretation, because the public engagement office was very different than, Seth's world in Designated Survivor.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] you did an amazing job actually.

Kal Penn: Thank you. Okay. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: You definitely reminded me of, like, the Obama administration.

Kal Penn: Oh, interesting. Okay.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] Like, it was definitely very, you know, put together. Like, you were, you know, so loyal, right, to him and-

Kal Penn: Well but did you see the-

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: Did you watch the Netflix episodes?

Belén Sisa: Yes.

Kal Penn: Okay, because the, the jump, I felt like the jump from going from the two seasons on ABC to Netflix was like we went from being buttoned up to very much like potty-mouthed-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... people, which is also fairly authentic, I think.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] They're definitely not angels in the White House.

Kal Penn: Right. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: Right. Okay, so let's talk about Bernie.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: Yes. Bernie. So, you probably know or heard that we recently released our immigration plan-

Kal Penn: Uh-huh [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... on the campaign. I am actually one of the DACA recipients that took part in writing it.

Kal Penn: Oh, amazing.

Belén Sisa: Yes.

Kal Penn: That's awesome.

Belén Sisa: And so, it was a long time coming. It was a labor of love. It was something that meant a lot to all of us who got together-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... on the campaign to write it. So, what I wanted to ask you is what you think a priority for, for the next Democratic president should be on immigration, right?

Kal Penn: Yeah, well there's a lot.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: There are a lot of priorities. I mean, I, I remember, I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And I was excited to, but I, one of the things that I very firmly-

Belén Sisa: It's very long, by the way. [laughs] [crosstalk 00:31:49].

Kal Penn: Well no, I, it's gonna take me a while to get through it. I mean, I'm gonna look to your videos, sort of like the explainer things on, on, on what's ... But the DACA piece and, and the piece about our friends who are, who are undocumented and who are living under a constant threat-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... like day to day even, although now I guess we have to wait until, what, April or June-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... for the Supreme Court verdict. But so, I was at the White House when we were working on two things. The DREAM Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And I wasn't working specifically on immigration and I wasn't working on military or LGBT issues. But I was the president's point person for youth outreach, so-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Both of those things touched my desk in a per-, little more than peripheral way. And I remember it was a Saturday when the votes were happening on both of those. Thankfully, Don't Ask Don't Tell got repealed. But the DREAM Act failed by five Democratic votes.

Belén Sisa: I remember.

Kal Penn: And I feel like Democrats are still nervous in talking about the fact that it was five Democrats who screwed it up.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And, and afterwards, we were obviously devastated. President Obama ha- had a positive outlook in saying, like, "Look, fi- five votes down is actually closer than this type of legislation has ever come." And so, if you look at it historically, any time legislation like that has come up, this is now the closest, which means the next-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... person who is hopefully more progressive than Obama, these are now my views, that person can build on what the previous Democratic administration had done. And so, when I have an eye on all these plans and quick fixes that were obviously imperfect that hopefully hold up in court, no band-aid fix is, is ultimately, like, a full comprehensive immigration reform, which is still what we need. And I get frustrated, because as a, the guy who was on outreach, I was like, "Who ... Those five people ... " By the way, none of them I think are still in the Senate, but those five-

Belén Sisa: [laughs] Not surprised.

Kal Penn: Not that they were ... I don't know who replaced them, by the way. I, I didn't come prepared to, to remember exactly who the five were, so I can't say for sure if there's somebody better in their places now or not. But it's im-, it is important to remember that, you know, and especially when we're in a presidential election, and somebody who's incredible, like, like Bernie on a lot of these issues-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... that the down-ticket candidates are really gonna impact what actually gets passed and what doesn't get passed.

Belén Sisa: Definitely.

Kal Penn: yeah.

Belén Sisa: Definitely. And that's Bernie's mission, right, is to ... He says, "Not me, us."

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: It's, it's a movement, right, "I can't, you know, just become president and fix everyone's problems. It's gonna take all of us coming together-"

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: "... to pressure the Steve Kings of the world, right, and, the Mitch McConnells, who are-"

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: "... not letting us pass legislation to help these people."

Kal Penn: Or even the Chuck Schumers of the world, by the way, who-

Belén Sisa: Oh yeah.

Kal Penn: ... oftentimes need a, a steady reminder that our-

Belén Sisa: That's true.

Kal Penn: ... communities exist.

Belén Sisa: I actually got arrested in his office.

Kal Penn: Did you? [laughs] There you go.

Belén Sisa: [laughs] that was a fun time. Fun time. Fun time. So, speaking of mobilizing people-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... what do you think is gonna be the best and broadest way for us to talk about immigration to help those who maybe aren't on our side yet that we need, right?

Kal Penn: I think it depends on who you talk to, right?

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Like, I remember for so many people there are conversations like ... You look at conversations, on just even something as simple as, as somebody's immigration status.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And oftentimes people just have not considered that if you're the victim of violence and you're not documented and you don't live in a sanctuary city, that you can't come forward and report your crime to the police, which means that there's a criminal out there-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... who's gonna keep doing this to people, and it's a public safety issue, or the public health implications of something like that, if you can't seek medical treatment or services. And I'm not really interested in the semantics of, of somebody who just goes, "Well they don't deserve to be here anyway." Okay, that's, that's fine. I totally hear what you believe. But the practicality is our folks are here.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: And when they are victims of crimes, what's your solution? And they have no solution, right? So, I think having that tough conversation of like, "I'm all, I'm all ears about your semantics, but I'm not interested in entertaining them-"

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: "... because I'm interested in hearing the practical solutions to things."

Belén Sisa: Yeah. Mm-hmm [affirmative]. I've had plenty of those conversations.

Kal Penn: Yeah. I was gonna say, what do you think?

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: I shouldn't be talking to you about my feelings. I should be asking you what the solutions are. You're, you're working on them.

Belén Sisa: Well I definitely think that Bernie's plan is the most progressive, especially since it was written by people who will legitimately be impacted by the policies in that plan, right. And a lot of it is going to have to be done by executive action.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: I think that, you know, the urgency is that we can no longer wait, right, until Congress makes up their mind anymore.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: They've been promising us immigration reform for so long, right, and now it just seems like a false promise when that's all we hear.

Kal Penn: Hm.

Belén Sisa: So, I think that, you know, putting a moratorium on deportations until we can figure out, right, and audit-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... these institutions that we don't know what it is that they're doing, expanding the DACA program, to include the people who aged out of it, right?

Kal Penn: Right.

Belén Sisa: A lot of those conversations are about improving, right, where we, where we are, taking things back. so, like-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: The Muslim ban, right?

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: and so many executive actions that Trump made, but also going further than that and talking-

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: ... about the humanity of people, right? And I think that's why when I was watching the clips of Sunnyside is that is the human side of it, right-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... is it's not just about not being deported, it's about economics. It's about, you know, having health care.

Kal Penn: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Belén Sisa: It's about finding education. I think that's how immigration should be seen as. It's a humanitarian issue, not a criminal one.

Kal Penn: Definitely.

Belén Sisa: Right?

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: And it's, I think it's hurt us more than it's helped us to criminalize people.

Kal Penn: Oh, for sure.

Belén Sisa: Right?

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: Well I mean, if you count who it helps, it helps, you know, a very wealthy few who-

Kal Penn: Yeah, yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... r-, who run-

Kal Penn: Own stocks in-

Belén Sisa: [laughs] Who own stocks in-

Kal Penn: ... prisons and-

Belén Sisa: ... you know, many of the things that Bernie's against. But that's what it's gonna take, right? You know, as someone who, who worked at the White House under the, the Obama administration, do you have any, any advice?

Kal Penn: Oh my gosh.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: Well look, I-

Belén Sisa: Once we get there-

Kal Penn: I-

Belén Sisa: ... do you have any advice for us? [laughs]

Kal Penn: What I love about, what I love about the current primary campaign right, li-, right ... Look, so I haven't, I haven't formally chosen a candidate yet.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Obviously I am a fan of Bernie and, and a select handful of others I, that I can count on half of my hand. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: but the reason is that, like you said, they're, they have the more progressive policies. And the one thing that I remember from the Obama campaign, not even the administration, was the, President Obama used to say, you know, you have to aim very high-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... and then remember that the reality of a democracy is you don't always get everything that you want. But if you're not trying for it, then you're never gonna get any of it. So, I listened to moderate Democrats talk about reality or their version of reality, "Oh, this isn't realistic. That's not realistic." You know what's not realistic? Expecting to get anything done when you're promising nothing but the status quo.

Belén Sisa: Exactly.

Kal Penn: It's insane. So that's no advice. I mean, Bernie and a handful of other candidates are already doing that where-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... you're like, they're aiming very high. And I, I was a Bernie surrogate in '16. And I remember during that primary, Bernie's College Affordability plan, you know, free college, that was a big deal. And I was really ... That, that was awesome. And to me that was the-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: That was the next step beyond, you know, in the Obama administration we tri-, we doubled the Pell Grant and we tried with the American Opportunity Tax Credit and, and things that were good, but should've been better. In retrospect it's always funny when I hear people go, "Well why didn't he do that?" I'm like, "Well, there, look, there was no magic wand." You have to remember you still have to govern when you get there and you have to-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Not everything can be done with executive order. And of course, every president and administration makes mistakes. And you wish you had the hindsight to, to do things a little differently.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: I know in my case when I started there, I assumed that other people, meaning other Democrats on the Hill or, or Republicans, were rational actors, and they're not. They're not necessarily looking out for the best interests of their constituents or their districts, all of which is to say it goes back to the College Affordability thing. So, so I thought that was awesome, because I, I felt like it really built on-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... some of the things that Obama was attempting to do and had succeeded in some cases and had still left some space to grow in others. And then on the primary campaign trail I remember people being, "Well you know, college isn't free. Nothing's free." I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I'm sorry, did you not hear the part about taxing rich people to pay for it? Because that's in there. You just gotta read it. It's just I only have like 20 seconds so I use-"

Belén Sisa: Read the plan.

Kal Penn: Yeah. Like, I used the word free college because it's easier to say. But no, definitely you're taxing rich people-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... who can afford it so that we can all get access to education. And then when, when Hillary won the nomination, I ended up helping her out.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: Her versus Trump. And I remember being so glad, it was a big lesson for me I think, when she took Bernie's college affordability plan. Now obviously-

Belén Sisa: Mm.

Kal Penn: ... it didn't work out in the end and you've got Trump in the White House. But I thought that that was, in terms of why big ideas matter, that you have somebody with ... You know, she was farther to the right obviously, on quite a bit, including education. And he was farther to the left. And once things got consolidated, the fact that she recognized that she needed to be farther to the left with a plan to make sure that young people are educated. I was really proud of that, and I thought that was amazing. And so, I just think that constant reminder of, like ... A glass half full example is dumb. I'm not gonna do that. It's been overused.

Belén Sisa: [laughs]

Kal Penn: But you know, 50% is more than zero, so promising 1000% of something and getting 500 is an enormous victory over the person who's promising 20% and delivering 2%.

Belén Sisa: I agree.

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: 100%.

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: So, shoot for the stars.

Kal Penn: Yeah. Of course.

Belén Sisa: Shoot for the stars.

Kal Penn: Big ideas matter.

Belén Sisa: Yeah.

Kal Penn: And they are practical when, when they're done in the, in the right way and when there are people in the House and the Senate that support it.

Belén Sisa: And we get a movement, right-

Kal Penn: Yeah.

Belén Sisa: ... behind us. That's exactly it. Well, I'll have to save my tips, from Seth later, I guess.

Kal Penn: Okay, yeah yeah. [laughs]

Belén Sisa: [laughs] On how to be the press secretary for the White House. I'll ask him offline.

Kal Penn: [laughs]

Belén Sisa: [laughs] but thank you so much-

Kal Penn: Yes, thank you.

Belén Sisa: ... for taking the time to be here and tell us all about Sunnyside and, you know, how important this show is in this moment in time. I know I'm gonna go watch it tonight.

Kal Penn: Well thank you. And thanks-

Belén Sisa: So-

Kal Penn: ... for, thanks for being so accessible and, and, developing, you know ... Thanks to Bernie also for developing the kind of campaign like this. I know a lot of us, like ... I am politically aware, but the last six months of my life have been consumed by my job and I know a lot of people who have three, four, five jobs and still make the time to, to volunteer or, or do things for-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... their candidate or, ... It's pretty amazing. So, I think things like this that give people an opportunity to, you know, listen to a podcast like this when you're on your way to work or whatever-

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Kal Penn: ... I know it, it helps folks sort through a lot of the noise. So, ... Not that we were like ... Look, we were talking about a TV show today, but-

Belén Sisa: [laughs] But it's important.

Kal Penn: Which I know, you know, it's important to, like, to, to have that space. And so, thank you guys for doing that.

Belén Sisa: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Harold Lee: Neil Patrick Harris stole my car tonight.

Officer Palumbo: NPH wouldn't do that, all right. Give me some ID.

Kumar Patel: Excuse me, how can you give him a ticket for jaywalking? It's 2:30 in the morning, and there's like, there's not a car around here. It's not like he was causing traffic.

Harold Lee: Kumar, shut up.

Officer Palumbo: That's not the kind of tone you want to use on a cop who could bust your ass.

Kumar Patel: Bust my ass?

Officer Palumbo: Yeah, Kumar, bust your ass. What kind of name is that anyhow?

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I'm here with some of the coolest kids on the left. I know you guys just did a video and recorded, but can you go around and just say your names into the mic?

Pujan Patel: Hi, I'm Pujan Patel. I'm Creative Director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

Isra Hirsi: Hi, I'm Isra Hirsi, and I'm Partnerships Director for U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Hi, I'm Feliquan Charlemagne, and I'm the Executive Director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

Daylon Prochaska: I'm Daylon Prochaska, Political Director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

Briahna Joy Gray: Okay, and so on average, how old are you guys?

Daylon Prochaska: 17.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yeah, on average, like [crosstalk 00:43:50].

Isra Hirsi: And I'm 16.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Oh.

Pujan Patel: She's the youngest one.

Briahna Joy Gray: This is out of control. Like, so it's not often that you're sitting cross-legged on the floor with a bunch of people who are describing themselves as directors of this, that and the other, who are only 16 or 17 years old. You guys are incredible. So, what I should do is pick your brains about climate change and all these important things, but you just finished giving that interview, so I want to know is what you think Bernie should do social media-wise to really connect with your generation.

Daylon Prochaska: TikTok!

Feliquan Charlemagne: TikTok!

Daylon Prochaska: TikTok!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Make a TikTok!

Daylon Prochaska: Do a TikTok!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Get on TikTok!

Briahna Joy Gray: Okay, so what should he do on TikTok?

Isra Hirsi: I think, you know, it can be an a-

Pujan Patel: Bernie ASMR.

Isra Hirsi: I think it could be an accumulation of things. I m-, I want to see, you know, dance videos. I want to see-

Feliquan Charlemagne: [crosstalk 00:44:28].

Isra Hirsi: ... comedy. I want to see him do the trends where he's like, you know, talk-, just everything. Like, anything TikTok is, I want to see Bernie do it.

Pujan Patel: You know that video of like AOC, like, being like, "Hi," to Bernie, and then Bernie's, like, doing that pose?

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes!

Isra Hirsi: Yeah.

Daylon Prochaska: That was so viral.

Pujan Patel: Can you, like, can you just recreate that? Because I have a screen grab of that, but like, I want that on TikTok.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I heard somebody earlier say AMSR. For the old heads in the audience who are listening, what is ASMR?

Daylon Prochaska: [laughs]

Feliquan Charlemagne: Oh my god.

Pujan Patel: Audio. Like, I don't, I don't know the acronym, but it sounds like this, and you get tinglies.

Feliquan Charlemagne: [laughs]

Isra Hirsi: [laughs]

Daylon Prochaska: [laughs]

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs] That's-

Daylon Prochaska: Oh my god.

Isra Hirsi: That's amazing. So, it's, it's kind of like, sensations that you can create with the mic either by whispering or like-

Pujan Patel: Yeah.

Isra Hirsi: ... clacking or eating pickles close to it, right, that kind of like make you feel good for, like, reasons. Okay, I'm being told it stands for autonomous sensory meridian response.

Briahna Joy Gray: Okay, I don't know. I'm not a scientist.

Feliquan Charlemagne: [inaudible 00:45:25].

Briahna Joy Gray: So, what's funny is I did an interview in here a couple of weeks ago with the Senator, and a lot of people responded to the podcast interview saying, "Bernie's doing ASMR," just like naturally talking at a normal volume into the mic. So, I feel like this, we might not be able to get him to do it, but he might just do it and we can brand it.

Feliquan Charlemagne: [inaudible 00:45:46].

Briahna Joy Gray: Pretend like the mic is broken.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Lower and quieter.

Briahna Joy Gray: And just be like, "You gotta, like, talk quieter," and just make him do it, and then you'll hear it. And then you guys can just brand it as, like, Bernie-SMR and post it.

Feliquan Charlemagne: [laughs]

Daylon Prochaska: Get him really relaxed.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Get him really relaxed and just, like, [inaudible 00:46:01] "Oh, you know, be quieter. Calm down. Now tell us about, you know, the, the billionaire class. Come on."

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs] Just casually put a jar of Vlasic pickles next to him.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yeah, would you mind eating these-

Daylon Prochaska: Oh my god.

Feliquan Charlemagne: ... in the mic? Just, just no questions asked.

Pujan Patel: [inaudible 00:46:13]. [laughs]

Feliquan Charlemagne: [laughs] Oh my god.

Pujan Patel: I want to see Bernie with slide.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs] Okay. I'm gonna add it to the list. I can't make any promises. But here's the thing. Given that Bernie hasn't done any of that stuff, and there's some other candidates who have, like, had some dances, I won't name names, stuff like that, who aren't as popular-

Feliquan Charlemagne: Oh my god. [laughs]

Briahna Joy Gray: ... with younger people, why do you think it is that despite not doing any of that stuff so far, he's so popular with the youths?

Daylon Prochaska: I think it's his hair, honestly. I think we realized.

Feliquan Charlemagne: There's a certain-

Daylon Prochaska: I think we like his hair.

Feliquan Charlemagne: There's a certain vibe that Bernie has that the other ones can't really capture. Like, I saw, there was that interview with Bernie where he l- ... Like, Bernie interviewed another version of Bernie.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Feliquan Charlemagne: You know what I'm talking about?

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Feliquan Charlemagne: No other c- candidate could've done that. No other candidate could've done that. So, there's something about Bernie's vibe and, like, the aura that he gives off that would make that so much more appealing than, some of the other individuals.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah. You guys agree?

Feliquan Charlemagne: [crosstalk 00:47:07]. It's the authenticity.

Pujan Patel: Like in the room full of chairs, with the pose again.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yeah.

Pujan Patel: That's-

Feliquan Charlemagne: Like, yeah, like [inaudible 00:47:13].

Pujan Patel: Stuff like that.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Even when he was, like, trying to be fake, like, he couldn't do it right. [laughs]

Daylon Prochaska: [laughs] No, he couldn't!

Feliquan Charlemagne: He couldn't fake being fake right.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs]

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yeah, he's, "Oh, where, where are you from?"

Pujan Patel: [crosstalk 00:47:24].

Feliquan Charlemagne: [inaudible 00:47:24]. Like, he's way too real, and that's what says ... It's like a ... It's appealing in a way.

Pujan Patel: It's like uwu.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes. Exactly.

Briahna Joy Gray: What is uwu?

Feliquan Charlemagne: [crosstalk 00:47:31]. Okay, you see, like, the letters, it's like U-W-U, it's like a little cute face. Like, it looks like-

Daylon Prochaska: It's like a, yeah, it looks like a face.

Feliquan Charlemagne: ... a smiling, like-

Daylon Prochaska: So, it's like it's a meme.

Feliquan Charlemagne: It's like a cat almost. Like a cat.

Briahna Joy Gray: I have never felt so old.

Feliquan Charlemagne: You've never-

Isra Hirsi: Wait, what? Wait, what?

Feliquan Charlemagne: It's like, no, it's like almost, like, ironic though.

Pujan Patel: It's like [crosstalk 00:47:49].

Feliquan Charlemagne: Like, don't use that. Like, don't do it.

Daylon Prochaska: Please don't use that.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Don't do it. Don't do it realistically.

Daylon Prochaska: Yeah, no.

Feliquan Charlemagne: But if you have to do it ironically.

Daylon Prochaska: Ironically.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Somehow-

Daylon Prochaska: Then you can go ahead and do it, yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: [inaudible 00:47:56].

Isra Hirsi: This is such chaotic energy right now. Like, I'm like tired.

Daylon Prochaska: Oh my god.

Pujan Patel: Can we come back and do a fully-fledged podcast though?

Briahna Joy Gray: 100%.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Oh my gosh, please.

Briahna Joy Gray: Like, 100%. Anytime. Can you come? Are you guys [crosstalk 00:48:09]?

Daylon Prochaska: Yes!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes!

Daylon Prochaska: Yes!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes!

Daylon Prochaska: Yes

Feliquan Charlemagne: I don't know if we're gonna have time. Like, honestly though.

Daylon Prochaska: [crosstalk 00:48:13].

Feliquan Charlemagne: Wait, what time, what times do you guys have?

Briahna Joy Gray: Whenever. We're ... I'm around all day.

Isra Hirsi: Wait, can, can we do Sunday? Is that a possibility?

Daylon Prochaska: We could do it. We could definitely do it.

Isra Hirsi: [crosstalk 00:48:23].

Daylon Prochaska: Any day.

Briahna Joy Gray: [crosstalk 00:48:24].

Daylon Prochaska: There's a lot of time in the day.

Isra Hirsi: No, we could do Su- ... Well-

Daylon Prochaska: People are ... That's what [crosstalk 00:48:27].

Isra Hirsi: So, we can do Saturday night.

Daylon Prochaska: We can do it. We'll find time.

Isra Hirsi: Yeah.

Daylon Prochaska: We'll find time.

Isra Hirsi: We will find time.

Feliquan Charlemagne: We will find time.

Isra Hirsi: Yes.

Feliquan Charlemagne: To do this podcast.

Briahna Joy Gray: Okay.

Feliquan Charlemagne: No doubt.

Isra Hirsi: It's so important to the turnout.

Briahna Joy Gray: Well this is the teaser to end all teasers, so I can't wait to see you guys and hang out again.

Isra Hirsi: Yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: And maybe talk about something a little bit substantive at some point.

Feliquan Charlemagne: [crosstalk 00:48:44].

Isra Hirsi: This is all substantive. What are you talking about?

Pujan Patel: Bernie would eat a pickle in front of a mic though. Like, I'm thinking about it realistically, and like, I, the first time, like-

Daylon Prochaska: [crosstalk 00:48:52].

Pujan Patel: ... I tried a hot pickle it was like a few-

Daylon Prochaska: Yes.

Pujan Patel: Like, bro, two weeks ago me and [inaudible 00:48:55] we went to Circle K. I got a hot pickle.

Isra Hirsi: [inaudible 00:48:59].

Pujan Patel: Listen, listen, listen, listen! It was transformative. That was my first time. And I want Bernie to have that same experience, because dude, it was amazing! Like ...

Briahna Joy Gray: We, can we have hot pickles and eat them on the pod?

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes!

Daylon Prochaska: Yes!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes! [laughs]

Daylon Prochaska: Please!

Feliquan Charlemagne: [crosstalk 00:49:14].

Briahna Joy Gray: Before I put hot pickles if Bernie, I feel like it's my obligation, it's my professional obligation to first eat a hot pickle myself.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Pujan Patel: Yes.

Isra Hirsi: That's a great obligation.

Briahna Joy Gray: Vet the hot pickles.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yeah.

Isra Hirsi: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: And then tell him whether it's a good political move.

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes, yes.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs]

Isra Hirsi: [crosstalk 00:49:28].

Daylon Prochaska: I need to hear his opinion on the hot pickle!

Briahna Joy Gray: So, tune in to upcoming episode of Hear the Bern, where you will hear us eat, discuss, and vet hot pickles for Bernie.

Daylon Prochaska: Woo!

Feliquan Charlemagne: Yes!

Briahna Joy Gray: That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please please please remember to like, review wherever you're listening to this content. This is a week here at the end of the year where we're seeing a lot of best of podcast lists. And if we're able to get our stuff to spike on iTunes or any other platform, then maybe we have a shot of getting ourselves out there and advancing the cause of the revolution. Thanks, everyone, for listening and I'll see you next week.