The actor taught Conan O'Brien the art of sitcom eating.
Sitcoms serve as a kind of mirror to our everyday lives. Characters have problems just like us. They have relationships just like us. And they eat just like us. The difference is that they do all of it funnier than us. But according to Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar, the actors playing those character don't necessarily eat just like us. Nayyar appeared on last night's Conan and informed host Conan O'Brien that there's an art to looking like you're eating while on camera. "It's tricky... you have to time your bites with the joke. Sometimes you choke."
Nayyar explains that the reason you see sitcom characters like Big Bang's Raj, Howard, Sheldon, and Leonard eating takeout all the time is so that they're, well, doing something when a scene begins. "You can't come onto a scene with people just sitting there doing nothing because that's not reality."
Then O'Brien produces some takeout food to allow Nayyar to show off his technique for creating the appearance of eating. Nayyar explains that the key to his approach is utilizing the fact that the camera in a traditional sitcom cuts from actor to actor. First, he picks up a large gob of rice with his chopsticks and brings it near his mouth, which he says an actor might do while reciting their line or landing a joke. Then he goes in for a bite, but when the camera has cut back to O'Brien, he drops it back into the container.
But it's not that simple. Nayyar also picks up a small bit of food to actually chew on so his eating looks more natural when the camera eventually cuts back. But doesn't a small bit of food chew differently than a larger bite? Sure, that's where the acting comes in! Another method is to bring the container to your face along with the bite of food and just spit it back out. A little gross, but hey—nobody said Hollywood was glamorous.
O'Brien attempts the move, but the comedian doesn't quite execute it as adeptly on his first try. In fact, he just eats the food. "The rice was better than I thought it would be." Who can blame him? I'd rather actually eat than fake eat any day.