American Comedian of Indian origin Hasan Minhaj, most famous for his Netflix standup special “Patriot Act” has lately found himself in a heated controversy post a New Yorker article which questioned the authenticity of anecdotes he has shared over the time in his performances.
Hasan’s comedy is mostly centred around the racism faced by the diaspora and his quintessential ‘desi’ upbringing in a country like America. He has jokingly called himself ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). The article, titled Hasan Minhaj’s “Emotional Truths” criticised him for exaggeration of some of the incidents he has told, specifically his high school prom experience, an encounter with an FBI informant and a fictionalised anthrax scare.
The writer of the article related his experience of seeing Hasan at a comedy club where he had said that “Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” he reportedly has acknowledged that his comedy is seventy percent emotional truth-this happened-and then thirty percent hyperbole, exaggeration and fiction. He was further accused of using racism and islamophobia as a medium to establish his career.
Minhaj has released a video on his YouTube channel and Instagram handle in response to this article. “With everything happening in the world, I’m aware that even talking about this now feels so trivial, but being accused of faking racism is not trivial. It is very serious and demands an explanation” he stated in the beginning. Treading on the safe side, he further acknowledges that “I made artistic choices to express myself and drive home larger issues affecting me and my community, and I feel horrible that I let people down.”
However, he goes on to explain his side of the story for he felt that the article painted him in a negative light and a “con artist” who uses racism and Islamophobia to “advance his career”.
While relating the prom story he referred to the doxed girl as Bethany Reed to protect her identity. Messages from the girl after a show displayed appreciation for his support and protection.
He appreciated the creative liberty he has taken with the story of FBI informant in his show The King’s Jester but the underlying objective was to highlight the issue of FBI infiltration in Muslim communities. Using humour and presenting the story in an engaging manner is his forte and part of a job as a comedian. His intention was not deceive but to convey a tint of truth that comes with it.
Lastly, Minhaj responded to the allegation of fabrication in his story of anthrax scare where he framed it in a way as to let audiences feel the shock he and his wife went through. The character of the investigator was certainly introduced to balance it out.
He delineated in detail about his two roles. One of the storyteller comedian and the other of a political comedian. “In my work as a storytelling comedian I assumed that the lines between truth and fiction were allowed to be a bit blurrier and I totally get why a journalist would be interested to know where that line sits,”
Minhaj reasserted, “If the reporter was genuinely curious about the idea of truth in standup, they would have had to report that the majority of my stories are true. But their article led with the opposite.”