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Forget Emily Post: On decorum at state dinners, consult Kumar

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We’re about to get new yuks from Kal Penn and John Cho in the stoner-meets-Santa movie “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas,” the third installment in the H&K franchise opening Friday. Penn, 34, and Cho, 39, are both adopted Washington VIPs of sorts: Penn went back to acting in July after working stints in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Cho went to the Oct. 13 state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. During a recent visit to Washington, they chatted about the 3-D medium, Mitt Romney and how to talk to President Obama.

How do you feel about 3-D as movie fans?

Cho: It’s technological advancement. I think that if you’re a fan of 3-D, you don’t have to be against 2-D. I think there are many films that are more appropriate in 2-D and many films that are more appropriate in 3-D. “Avatar” was enhanced by the 3-D, I thought.

With “Avatar,” the 3D was part of the thought process behind it. That makes a difference.

Cho: It’s true. [Whispering] I know Zoe Saldana. She was in “Avatar.” She’s a friend of mine. [Stops whispering] It’s not a big deal, though.

Are you name-dropping?

Cho: [Whispering again] Really, I know her.

Kal, you worked for a total of two years at the White House. Are you done with politics, or would you like to do some more work in that realm?

Penn: Yeah, I am volunteering for the president’s campaign, so I would like to be as helpful as possible there.

Cho: What campaign?

Penn: So President Obama, he’s the president of the United States?

He knows him. He met him at the state dinner.

Penn: Yeah, you can’t do that bit. You sat and had dinner with him!

Did you tell him you know Zoe Saldana? Because he would have been really impressed.

Penn: He would have enjoyed that. Wait, what was the question again?

About your work in politics.

Penn: I don’t know. Obviously, I hope he has a second term. I would love to serve in some capacity. I don’t know if that means something like what I had an opportunity to do before, or if it’s a board or commission or just volunteering.

Cho: To bother him during the last [election], I would chant “Rom-ney!” on occasion. Then he gave me a Romney T-shirt. Where did you get that?

Penn: Where did I get the Romney T-shirt?

Cho: You didn’t walk into their offices.

Penn: I wouldn’t have paid for it, no. Because then it would have been a contribution, which I didn’t want to do.

Did you give John any pointers about state-dinner etiquette?

Penn: Not really. We talked before the dinner because I knew he had never been to one, and I never would have known what to expect. So I kind of wanted to explain that it’s a really small, intimate . . . that it’s a big deal, first of all. And then just structurally —

Cho: — what happens. Before I met the president this summer, [Kal] gave me a piece of advice that I thought was a very useful one. It was, when you meet the president, maybe you shouldn’t talk about policy. You have a few minutes. And maybe he doesn’t want to talk policy with you, uh, Harold. So I let [the president] talk about whatever he wanted. [To Penn] So, thank you.

Penn: Sure. You’re welcome.

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