In a rant about Ashton Kutcher’s satirical racist portrayal of a Bollywood producer named Raj on a PopChips commercial, stand-up comic Hasan Minahj calls Asians and Indians “the new clownable minorities.” He goes through a litany of stereotypes – “We’re docile – just people that have accents and fix computers. Well guess what, we’re not. We’re dope, we’re awesome, we’re in rap groups, we’re leading men. We’re killing it right now.”
“Am I an American comedian? Am I an Indian comedian? Am I an Indian comedian in America? Maybe I’m just a comedian, and maybe comedy transcends all races and countries and cultures.” – Hasan Minhaj
Hasan is certainly killing it. He recently hosted MTV’s weekly talk show Failosophy and recently made an appearance on the new season of Arrested Development. Previously, he was a regular on MTV’s improv comedy show Disaster Date, played the role of Seth on ABC Family’s State of Georgia, and appeared as a panelist on Chelsea Lately. He is also a member of the popular sketch group Goatface, and his YouTube series The Truth with Hasan Minhaj gets thousands of views a month. Now he just has to join a rap group (a cameo in a Das Racist video doesn’t count).
The truth plays a pivotal role in Hasan’s comedy, which often focuses on issues of race and privilege. But while his conscience is strong, his ability to find humor in painful realities is even stronger. “We still buy diamonds! We buy diamonds today. We saw the DiCaprio movie. We know where the fuck they come from. Girls to this day are like, ‘Put a ring on it.’ You mean ‘put an African village on it.’ Just like, oh, look at my ring! You can see Mbutu’s eyes in them! They shine almost as bright as they would if he had a family!”
Where many comedians fail to make their jokes greater than the sum of their parts, Hasan succeeds. He is able to hang on to the bigger picture even when focusing on the smallest details of his own life. Join Hasan on his journey to get a taste for what those “small details” look like for comedians in other parts of the world, whose radically different backgrounds all led them to the same place: the stage.
Q&A with Hasan
What was your worst-ever heckle?
The worst heckle I ever received wasn’t really a heckle, it was more of a suggestion. Albeit a very, very painful suggestion. I was once performing at a very small liberal arts college in Delaware and I was bombing so bad that after about 30 minutes of complete silence the advisor (who was sitting in the front row) just politely spoke up and said, “You can stop now.” And I did. The embarrassing part was that there was no back stage so I literally had to walk through the audience out to the exit.
What was your favorite moment or experience shooting “Stand Up Planet”?
The whole trip was unforgettable but there were a couple of really amazing moments that I really miss today. Meeting Tanmay, Aditi, and Mpho and spending time with the people in their lives in a really deep, personal way. Meeting Mpho’s granny and meeting Aditi’s mom was incredible. Dancing in The Freedom Day Parade in Joberg was so cool. And my first nights performing in Joberg and Mumbai were unreal. Those are two sets I will never forget. The way those audiences embraced the new kid at school was unlike any show I’ve ever performed at in my entire career.
Top three favorite comedians, alive or dead?
Chris Rock, Patrice O’Neal, Bill Cosby.
How did your friends and family react when you told them you wanted to be a comedian?
I think this quote summarizes it best. When I told my dad I wanted to be a comic he looked at me dead in the eye and said “Why would you do that to us?” I’m still trying to answer that question to this day.