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Aasif Mandvi: Comic relief for Pakistan

Cause Celeb talks with comedian and actor Aasif Mandvi about his involvement with Relief 4 Pakistan, a campaign to raise donations for flood relief in Pakistan.
Image: Aasif Mandvi
Aasif Mandvi Brittany Fuerstenberg
/ Source: NBC News

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week we speak with comedian and actor Aasif Mandvi about his involvement with Relief 4 Pakistan, a campaign to raise donations for flood relief in Pakistan. Mandvi recently hosted “Stand Up for Religious Freedom,” an event featuring stand-up comics to raise money for Pakistani flood victims. Mandvi is a featured correspondent for “The Daily Show.” He has also been in movies such as “The Last Airbender,” “Spiderman 2,” “Analyze This” and “Music and Lyrics.”

Born in Bombay, India, Mandvi began his career working in MGM Studios in Walt Disney World Resort. He later moved to New York City, where he began a stage career. He auditioned for “The Daily Show” and was hired shortly after.

Releif 4 Pakistan, a grassroots donation campaign, is a partnership between Pakistani Peace Builders, an initiative of Pakistani-Americans and concerned citizens, and ML Resources Social Vision, a private venture philanthropy.

Q: How did you get involved with Relief 4 Pakistan and why did you decide to support this cause?

Mandvi: Well, Mhanaz Fancy, who is one of the directors of Relief 4 Pakistan, is actually a friend of mine. So she had been e-mailing me and talking about (how) they were trying to do fundraisers. There’s a lot of sort of organizations out there that had been trying to raise money and awareness about this. It kept happening that things kept falling through, and finally I just thought well why don’t we just do something. (Let’s) do a comedy show, and I called her up and said, "let's do this and we’ll give the money to your organization." First they said, “No, no.” No, they didn’t say no. They were like yes, absolutely, and so that’s how it happened.

Q: Why do you think comedy is a good venue to spread awareness for this tragic event?

Mandvi: (Laughs) We didn’t think there was a way to get everybody together to do tragedy, so we thought we’ll get everyone together to do comedy. There’s a lot of comics that I know in the city [that wanted] to come together and have a great evening and at the same time raise money to send to a part of the world that’s been really devastated right now. So it just seemed like a no-brainer really in a lot of ways. You know?

Q: What do you hope the outcome for tonight will be?

Mandvi: Well, we’ll hopefully raise some money. We’ll have some laughs, and we’ll have a kind of community experience of people coming together — Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, whatever — and just all come together and enjoy the evening.

Q: Why do you think it is important for celebrities to be involved with charitable causes?

Mandvi: Well it’s not really important for celebrities to be involved, but celebrities bring a certain sort of media attention. And that causes you guys to show up and then you guys come and cover the event because celebrities are involved. If celebrities are not involved, there’s less coverage so it’s just kind of, it's just math in some ways.

Interview conducted by Brittany Fuerstenberg.