Kal Penn, once one of People’s most eligible bachelors, corrects the record

Book jacket of You Can’t Be Serious, written by Hollywood actor, comedian, former Obama White House aide, Kal Penn. Phot: Twitter @kalpenn

Some know him as the weed-and-Castleburger-obsessed Kumar. Some know him as an unexpected White House staffer.

Josh knows him as his fiance.

Kal Penn, once one of People’s most eligible bachelors, is off the market.

In his new memoir, “You Can’t Be Serious,” the 44-year-old actor, known for his roles in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” “House” and “Designated Survivor,” opened up about his 11-year relationship with and subsequent engagement to his partner, Josh – which might surprise some of those People magazine readers. (For the sake of privacy, he has not revealed Josh’s last name.)

“I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people,” Penn told People in an interview published Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. (Perhaps the magazine wanted to correct the record.) “There’s no timeline on this stuff. People figure their s— out at different times in their lives, so I’m glad I did when I did.”

Penn said he met Josh during his two-year stint working in the White House as an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement during the Obama administration, a job he began in 2009.

It was anything but love at first sight. The moment Josh showed up to their first date with an 18-pack of Coors Light and flipped the TV to a NASCAR race, Penn considered the budding romance doomed.

“I thought, ‘This obviously is not going to work out,’ ” he told People. “I have one day off from the White House and this dude is unironically watching cars go around and make left turns? Next thing you know, it’s been a couple months and we’re watching NASCAR every Sunday. I’m like, ‘What is happening?’ ”

Although Penn hasn’t been particularly open about either his relationship with Josh or his sexuality until now, he hasn’t exactly hidden them, either. In June, he posted a photo of him and four other men – one whom Page Six identified as the mysterious Josh – during Pride in New York City, with the caption, “A very fun NYC Sunday. Happy Pride y’all!”

“I’ve always been very public with everybody I’ve personally interacted with. Whether it’s somebody that I meet at a bar, if Josh and I are out or we’re talking to friends,” Penn said. “I’m really excited to share our relationship with readers. But Josh, my partner, my parents, and my brother, four people who I’m closest to in the family, are fairly quiet. They don’t love attention and shy away from the limelight.”

Around the time Penn and Josh began their relationship, he was, as The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column dubbed him, the “most famous associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in history.” When he was mugged in what police called a “basic street robbery,” it made national news.

The public particularly enjoyed the openness – and humor – he employed when talking about working in the White House, such as when he discussed his background check: “You go through this background clearance [and] one of the questions was, ‘Have you ever been fired from a job?’ And I said yes. ‘For what?’ For not being funny enough. I got fired from a sitcom 10 years ago.”

As with any celebrity engagement, the news was met by equal parts excitement and disappointment.

“Kal Penn coming out by announcing he’s marrying someone who isn’t me. . . that’s a choice,” tweeted journalist Louis Peitzman.

“I won’t freak out about a celeb I like being gay, I won’t freak out about a celeb I like being gay, I won’t freak out as out a celeb crush I’ve had for years being gay. . .. Oh,” tweeted one user.

“Honestly shocked at this revelation,” tweeted filmmaker Lexi Alexander. “Kal Penn watches NASCAR?”



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