‘Daily Show’ veteran Hasan Minhaj returns to Minneapolis this weekend

September 27, 2018

Hasan Minhaj may have leapfrogged to the A-list after hosting last years White House Correspondents Dinner, but those who stuck with The Daily Show after Jon Stewarts departure or had seen him perform stand-up already knew hes a cut about the rest.

In past appearances in the Twin Cities, the comic focused on his upbringing as a South Asian in America, most notably in his one-man show Homecoming King, also available on Netflix. But when he returns Sunday at the State Theatre, expect more broad-based political material that will lead up to the Oct. 28 debut of his new weekly Netflix series, Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj.

Minhaj chatted by phone recently about the fallout from the Correspondents Dinner, the lessons he learned from Stewart and the reason that Minnesotans might want to check out his new show.

Q: How important was the White House Correspondents Dinner to your career?

A: It was one of the biggest game-changers in my life. I think its the best gig in comedy, just in terms of challenges. A comedian getting to make fun of people in power to their face is a very rare luxury. Its Game 7, the score is tied up and you have the ball. Theres nothing bigger.

Q: Michelle Wolf didnt get the accolades you received when she hosted this years dinner last April. How did you feel about the reaction to her performance?

A: A lot of it was massively unfair. She did what comedians are supposed to do and she didnt back down. Im generally really proud of her.

Q: There seems to be a wave of South Asian comics who grew up in America having success these days. [Hari Kondabolu, director of the documentary The Trouble With Apu, will perform Oct. 12 at the Pantages Theatre.] Is that just a coincidence or is there something about that experience that lends itself to comedy?

A: It must be something in the chai. I honestly dont know. I can only speak to my experience. I hit my 30s and I was getting married, thinking more about my identity with America and feeling a certain amount of perspective. What Ive noticed is that theres a crop of talent that want to speak about what their immigrant parents went though and growing up with the minority experience. Thats been great.

Q: What did you learn from your four years on The Daily Show?

A: One of my first lessons, or should I say failures, was coming into the morning meetings with some of the brightest writers in the world and just firing off jokes, whatever came to mind. One of the producers would go, OK, but what is your take? What is your perspective that slices through this issue? Jokes are easy. Wheres the honesty in the piece?

Q: How did you know it was time to leave?

A: When Jon left, he candidly said, Ive manipulated my chess piece as much as I could. Now its time for you guys to take it. That really inspired me. For the new show, instead of mining from my personal experiences, Im thinking, Why not take the undergraduate degree you got at The Daily Show and use it to explore meaty subjects you couldnt talk about because of time constraints and because you werent the host? Im now the driver of the vehicle.

Q: What subjects will the show tackle?

A: I want to look at affirmative action. Americas relationship with Saudi Arabia. Amazon. Theres a piece that I think will particularly resonate with Minnesotans.

Q: Tell me more about that.

A: I cant. Lets just say I think your Somali population is going to love it.

612-673-7431 Twitter: @nealjustin

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