Tony Porter, CEO, A Call to Men
Tony Porter is challenging what it means to “act like a man.” As CEO of A Call to Men, he’s working to prevent violence against women by teaching men a new model of manhood around emotional expression and respect for women. And guess what? It’s working.
Russell Wilson, Super Bowl Champion Quarterback
Kumail Nanjiani, Actor & Comedian
- Whenever I give talks to students and I look in the audience and I see the boys and the girls, I would say the Man Space Program and then I'd ask the kids, "Who wants to be an astronaut?" And most of the boys raise their hands, and then I ask the girls, "Why don't you guys wanna be astronauts?" Well it's the Man Space program and we're not men. It must only be for men. As a kid, I was precocious. I was one of these kids that played football, basketball, and tennis, I loved sports. Always going into the woods and turning over rocks and looking at bugs and things and I remember the summer that my mother gave me a chemistry set and it was one of these age-inappropriate, non-OSHA certified chemistry sets. My parents said, "Leland, you'd be a great astronaut." I'm like, "What, me, astronaut?" When I looked at 1969 and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon I never imagined myself in that world because I didn't see someone that looked like me. I had pulled a hamstring in training camp and signed with Dallas for the next season and injured my leg once again and that was the end of my career. I was at a career fair in Charlottesville, Virginia, and this woman from NASA who was now recruiting to get more people of color at NASA. She came from around the booth, grabbed my arm, she said, "What's your name?" I said, "Leland Melvin." She said, "I've been looking for you." I checked it out and went down, I said, "Wow, I might, I'll give it a shot, see what happens."
- [Announcer] Start. Main engine ignition, three, two, one, lift off of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
- When I got to space, we were going around the planet every 90 minutes, looking out the window, and seeing this beautiful, incredible planet. At that moment, I had this shift, this orbital perspective. If you can take that perspective from space and bring it back down to the planet, you wouldn't have this sexism and racism, all these isms, because people would know that the only way that we're gonna survive is if we all work together as one team. I think lots of times, women and minorities don't see themselves working for an organization like NASA. These figures, we're working there, we're hidden behind the scenes and not shown in the media that they were the ones calculating the trajectories to get John Glenn into space and to get Neil Armstrong to the moon, and they overcame all kinds of discrimination, sexism, all these different things in the workplace. I can empathize because people told me that I couldn't be an astronaut. When I think about innovation and creativity, I think about people thinking that they can do things off this planet, John F. Kennedy said we're gonna send a man to the moon and I always say, change it to send a human because we don't wanna exclude women or other people that are not men. It's imperative so that we do get that most creative, diverse solution that we have our young girls be told at a very early age that they can do or be anything they put their minds to.
KUMAIL NANJIANI: I think the most important thing that we could do right now is to listen to women. We've been talking for fucking centuries. I think it's time for us to shut up and listen.
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. Pretty typical family. Mom, dad, and one brother. I watched a lot of Indian movies as a kid, Bollywood movies, but also a lot of Hollywood movies, a lot of them. I really loved "Ghostbusters", and I was like, that's a pretty good job if you can get it, saving New York from ghosts.
The transition was very difficult initially. I was super shy in Karachi, so I never really felt confident in myself or anything. And it wasn't until I came to America and was sort of on my own, and was forced to interact with people and be genuinely social, that I started coming out of my shell and being funny and kind of feeling like a person.
I mean, the hardest part of doing standup is going up on stage. It's so, so scary in the beginning. I remember I'd go and sign up for these open mics and then kind of, before I went up, be like, should I just leave? I should just leave.
You know, when I was younger, I had this list of, like, the perfect woman will have these qualities. And then you grow up and you realize that stuff doesn't matter. What matters is a real connection and all of that. And then with Emily, got the real connection, but also all that stuff that was on shallow teenage Jumail's list. She has that too. So really kind of perfect.
We found this place perfect for a comedy show behind this comic book store called The Meltdown. We kind of hit the ground running. Like the first show we did, I think we had 30 or 40 people there, which is huge. Then eventually we sold out every single week.
I think of how scary it was for me starting comedy in Chicago, and then how much scarier it would have been if I was a woman starting comedy there because it really was such a boys club. And it was very aggressive. It was very locker room.
We wanted Meltdown to feel very inclusive. Emily focused on having a diverse lineup. She wanted to have different points of view on the show, and she wanted to have a lot of female comics on the show, too. We wanted it to be a good comedy show, but also a good place to just hang out for comedians, and that's sort of what it became.
At no point did it feel like here's the big break, because it went from doing standup with these people to then writing for a show, then to being on a small show in a small part, then having a small part in a slightly bigger show. I was lucky that I was ready for each little step. And it wasn't until I went back and looked, and I was like, oh, I guess that show was kind of a big deal.
The movie is called "The Big Sick", and it's based on the real life experience that Emily and I had when we were first dating, and she got really sick and went into a coma for eight days.
Hi, I'm looking for Emily Gardner.
- She's checked in. We need to put her in a medically induced coma.
KUMAIL NANJIANI: Coma.
It's sort of a love story about these two characters meeting, but it's centered on that chunk of time at the hospital. And it's a comedy.
Her notes weren't just notes. It was like another perspective on the whole thing. And I was like, oh, this is not my story, this is our story. I think it would be a very incomplete story if Emily wasn't writing this movie. Her perspective as a woman completely changed the movie.
There's a scene in the movie where Emily and I are first dating and she has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And so she's trying to leave to go to a diner nearby to use the bathroom.
EMILY GARDNER: You're being so weird.
KUMAIL NANJIANI: How am I weird? I want to sleep while it's sleep time.
EMILY GARDNER: This is normal. Girls go to get coffee in the middle of the night. Have you never had a girlfriend before? This is what it's like.
KUMAIL NANJIANI: Are you OK?
We've had so many women point out that scene, like, all the time, being like, oh my god, that exactly is what happened to me. I've never seen that in a movie.
Even though rom coms are generally seen as targeted towards females, most of them are still from the guy's perspective. It's a bunch of dudes trying to guess what a woman would do. Well, then get a few women writers in there.
Here's the big thing. Having more women writers, more women directors, more women executives, more women in positions of power, you don't just do that to make a more equal society. You do that because the product will be better.