It takes a special sort to go on hiatus from a successful acting career to take a desk job in the Obama administration. But such was the trajectory of Kal Penn, whose rise to fame came thanks to his role in the Harold & Kumar films. In 2009, while he was starring on the television series House, he surprised many by leaving Hollywood for Washington, where he spent two years as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Now he writes about that experience, and many others, in his new memoir, You Can’t Be Serious. On this occasion, he shares his key components to the good life. —Ashley Baker

Airline: Monocle’s fake “perfect airline.” I think they called it “Nordic.” I have the framed print on my wall.
Airport: L.G.A., baby! Kidding. Changi, in Singapore.
Alibi: A dusky man with a mustache, pocket watch, and hat who conceals half his face in shadows.
App: Please, can I throw away my phone?
Appliance: Steamer.
Attitude: Hungry.
Bag: My NASA backpack.
Bedtime: 10:30 p.m.
Bike: Air bike.
Birthday: April 23, the same as Shakespeare’s.
Breakfast, weekday: Tacos.
Breakfast, weekend: Tacos.

My two feet and the subway.

Cocktail: The vodka martini at Jane, on Houston Street in New York.
Couple: My grandparents. Awww!
Date: Kayaking.
Diet: Lots of water.
Dinner, weekday: Tacos.
Dinner, weekend: Tacos.
Disguise: The largest mask I can get away with under the guise of the coronavirus.
Dress: Jeans and a hoodie.
Enemy: Complacency.
Escape: Someplace warm and outdoors with a book.
Hotel: A Hampton Inn.
Insult: “Interesting … ”
Jacket: Hoodie.
Lunch, weekday: Tacos.
Lunch, weekend: Tacos.

Movie: The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Neighbor: My friend Beulah, who turned 100 this year.
Nonfiction book: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail, by Rusty Young.
Novel: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon.
Pants: Sweats. Sorry.
Piece of advice: “Iron your shirt.”
Podcast: Pod Save America.
Restaurant: Los Tacos on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Los Angeles.
Ride: The log flume.
Television series: It’s currently tied between Chad and Ramy.
Time of day: Seven a.m.
Toast: Whole wheat, no nuts.
Vacation: Beach.
View: Water.
WRITING IMPLEMENT: A pencil, for all my mistakes.

Kal’s Essentials

Clockwise from top left: an L. L. Bean kayak; a Frame cashmere hoodie; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon; Ramy Youssef in Ramy; a favorite meal; Nasim Pedrad in Chad.