This Is My Jam: Hasan Minhaj challenges traditional comedy

    A few years ago, you would never have imagined a Muslim Indian-American hosting a comedy series on Netflix. Indian actors weren’t in the market to play anything but stereotypes, and being a Muslim public figure in America was almost unheard of. But comedian Hasan Minhaj challenged those norms when Netflix began sponsoring his weekly series on U.S. central topics, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, this past October. 

    Minhaj has an extensive, impressive history in comedy. He was a correspondent for The Daily Show from 2014-2018, he released the comedy special Homecoming King on Netflix in 2017 and he hosted the White House correspondents’ dinner in 2017. And, the opening sequence of Patriot Act is pretty cool.

    In a promotional episode with Tan France from Netflix’s Queer Eye, Minhaj described his show as, “a funny, investigative report meets comedy show meets political satire meets Malcolm Gladwell, but funny, and it’s on a bunch of screens like a Drake concert.” Minhaj nailed that description: Patriot Act takes fascinating and relatively untouched topics and exposes them using comedy and digestible facts.

    At press time, Minhaj has released five episodes: “Saudi Arabia,” “Affirmative Action,” “Amazon,” “Oil” and “Supreme.” Each one unsurprisingly tackles exactly what it’s titled. One of the craziest things about his show is that he incited an apology from the U.S. government after his first episode exposed racialized language in the U.S. Military Training Mission manual for Saudi Arabia.

    To reiterate: Minhaj, a Muslim Indian-American with immigrant parents hosts a comedy series titled Patriot Act on Netflix, and his first episode led to an apology from the U.S. government. Everything about that sentence is mindblowing. Minhaj is rewriting comedy and paving a new path for future comedians – his professional career took off four years ago and now he’s a political influencer.

    Minhaj makes sure his episodes are timely, quick and funny. Each one demonstrates why his topic affects the general public and the sketchy facts we don’t know about major corporations. For example, he explained Amazon’s monopoly and the unsettling behind-the-scenes practices of the company in a way that makes you laugh so hard you don’t even consider boycotting Amazon. The world runs on convenience, and even Minhaj doesn’t blame you for succumbing to massive corporations.

    Minhaj has a 32-episode deal for Patriot Act, which means it will end around the 2020 presidential election. The current demand for diversity in comedy – and woke comedy – has already given Minhaj major success. Homecoming King won a Peabody Award in 2018, and Patriot Act has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    Not only does his humor pack a punch with the crowd, but his delivery is modern. He uses the giant Drake concert screens to put up big numbers, graphs and evidence. Everything about his show maintains your attention for the full 20 to 25 minutes, from his energetic, captivating voice and mannerisms to the moving visuals. 

    Netflix gave similar series to Michelle Wolf and Joel McHale, but both were major flops. Neither shows received enough attention because the topics weren’t timely enough and the guests didn’t have enough chemistry. Minhaj has yet to bring on a guest and doesn’t appear to head in that direction, but he doesn’t need another comedian or actor to enhance Patriot Act – he has enough personality to be a one-man show.

    Patriot Act airs every Sunday on Netflix, and his show isn’t one to sleep on. Every episode is engaging, insightful and hilarious. Minhaj has potential to seal his name in comedy history if he continues on his current trajectory, and he shows no sign of stopping soon.


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