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Kal Penn, a familiar face in an unfamiliar place, working the DNC

DENVER -- Moments after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton rocked the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday by urging Sen. Barack Obama’s nomination by acclamation from the floor, a familiar-looking young man in an official green neon vest was on the floor, scurrying around the Virginia delegation, talking into a mouthpiece.

He looked just like that stoner guy, Kumar, except sober. He also looked like Dr. Kuttner, the young physician from “House.”Kal Penn the actor from House in his summer job as a floor whip at the Democratic National Convention in Denver

No wonder. It was Kal Penn, the 31-year-old Los Angeles actor who plays both those guys.

While most celebrities were swanning around the Pepsi Center here in Denver, Penn, who has traveled on behalf of Obama since October, was actually working. Like, for real.

“Because of the convention this week, they asked me if I would be willing to be a political whip and I said I’d be happy to,” said Penn, who is on hiatus from “House” through next week.

So there he was, talking into a headset, making sure that Virginia delegates were adhering to the many procedural rules that govern the convention.

“Honestly, sometimes in L.A., we’re in a bit of a bubble,” said Penn during a lull in the action. “The majority of kids I’ve met on the road are struggling. A lot of their parents have lost jobs that have gone overseas. They don’t have health care. A lot have buddies in Iraq. This is the regular story across the country.”

Even though Jane Seymour had spent the entire evening standing next to the Virginia delegation Tuesday night, Penn said he hadn’t really noticed other celebrities.

“I’m just here doing the work for the Virginia delegation.” And with that, he excused himself to attend to business.

— Robin Abcarian

Photo: Sarah Wire / Los Angeles Times

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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