Hasan Minhaj is revealing that his stories in stand-up comedy sets are all part of an “emotional rollercoaster ride” for audiences and not based on facts.
The former “Patriot Act” host told The New Yorker that while certain elements of his storytelling are “grounded in truth,” his former statements about being assaulted by a police officer and his daughter being hospitalized after an anthrax terrorism scare were inaccurate; those events did not happen.
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“No, I don’t think I’m manipulating [the audience],” Minhaj said of the discrepancies. “I think they are coming for the emotional rollercoaster ride…To the people that are, like, ‘Yo, that is way too crazy to happen,’ I don’t care because yes, fuck yes — that’s the point.”
Minhaj’s statements were included in 2022 Netflix comedy special “The King’s Jester.” He added, “I think what I’m ultimately trying to do is highlight all of those stories, building to what I think is a pointed argument.”
The past “Daily Show” correspondent continued, “Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth. My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70 percent emotional truth — this happened — and then 30 percent hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”
Minhaj issued a statement in response to The New Yorker profile shared with IndieWire: “All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had an interaction with law enforcement during the war on terror. Yes, I had varicocele repair surgery so we could get pregnant. Yes, I roasted Jared Kushner to his face. I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form. You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’ — The point is the ride. Standup is the same.”
One of the two situations in question include Minhaj recalling how an FBI informant joined his family’s mosque in Sacramento, California. Minhaj allegedly joked with the informant that he was looking to get his pilot’s license as a reference to the 9/11 attacks. According to Minhaj, local authorities were contacted and police slammed the comedian against the hood of his car. Per The New Yorker, the fabricated story was actually “based on a hard foul he received during a game of pickup basketball in his youth. Minhaj and other teenage Muslims played pickup games with middle-aged men whom the boys suspected were officers. One made a show of pushing Minhaj to the ground.”
Another Minhaj story that is proven to be false included the actor detailing how an envelope of white powder, presumed to be anthrax, was sent to his home. During the stand-up special, Minhaj said the powder was spilled on his daughter and she was rushed to the hospital; Minhaj noted that his wife threatened to “leave [him] in a second” if their children were ever put “in danger again” based on his celebrity status. According to The New Yorker, Minhaj’s daughter was never exposed to white powder or hospitalized. Minhaj instead revealed that a letter was sent to his house and he joked to his wife, “Holy shit, what if this was anthrax?” and later turned it into a bit.
As Minhaj summed up his approach to comedy to The New Yorker, saying, “The punch line is worth the fictionalized premise.”
Minhaj told IndieWire ahead of the “King’s Jester” premiere that “there’s Twitter chatter, and there’s IRL chatter, and I think it’s important for us as performers, artists, and journalists to be able to discern between the two…I want it to be a fun ride that has storytelling as well, but it’s gotta have jokes.”
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