If you haven’t heard of Hasan Minhaj, it’s unfortunate, but maybe not surprising. Despite being a correspondent for "The Daily Show" and hosting the 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, brown men in media are a rarity. "The Daily Show' is still making reparations since being called “the least diverse late-night show.” Minhaj is the outlier and a valued one at that.
Nearly six months ago, Netflix released Minhaj’s first stand-up comedy special, “Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.” Performed in his hometown, Davis, California, the special runs 72 minutes and leads audiences on an emotion-packed ride through Minhaj’s life. From anecdotes about childhood birthdays to memories of the day after 9/11, he compiles a perfect snapshot of his all-too-relatable life.
Relatability may actually seem something of a stretch, as he seems to resonate best with people like himself. He is the child of immigrant parents, was raised in a neighborhood where no one looked like him, and grew up with the pressure of proving that uprooting one’s life to start anew elsewhere was worth it. The special is littered with Hindi phrases, cultural norms, and religious talking points that are best understood by those who know and share them. It is, as always, refreshing and heartwarming to see both the immigrant narrative and South Asian representation take the stage.
This, however, does not detract from the universality of Minhaj’s message. He deals with weighty subjects, from police brutality to the struggle of proving oneself a citizen, remarking “Why is it every time the collateral damage has to be death, for us to talk about this? A kid has to get shot in the back 16 times for us to be like, ‘Maybe we have a race problem.’” He downplays his personal conflicts, admonishing himself with, “At least your spine isn’t getting shattered in the back of a police wagon, though it’s happening to my African American brothers and sisters in this country to this day.” From these issues, however, he highlights a valuable point: “It’s good people and bad people. Irrespective of creed, class, color, find those people. Because love intrinsically is bigger than fear.”
Minhaj acknowledges the trials of our time, but emphasizes that ensuring these trials often lies in how actively we work to uplift ourselves: “generational change is possible with one choice.” He explores the process of finding acceptance, finding someone to “cosign” our existence and tell us that we’re good enough. He maintains that it isn’t external validation that confirms our attainment of the American dream, but instead that the “courage to do what’s right has to be bigger than your fear of getting hurt.”
I spent most of the special wanting to cry and never being able to. Minhaj flits effortlessly between heartbreaking anecdotes and life lessons, and gut-wrenching humor. He reminds us that “This is new brown America. The dream is for you to take, so take that shit.” Equipped with quick wit, hilarious dramatization, and an inarguably thought-provoking message, Hasan Minhaj marks himself a king in all rights.