September 18, 2023
On Friday, The New Yorker published a lengthy feature on comedian Hasan Minhaj’s approach to storytelling. Minhaj shot to fame after his Netflix special Homecoming King and, later, his news comedy show Patriot Act, which explored hot-button issues such as affirmative action and the Saudi government. After the show got canceled, Minhaj went on tour for The King’s Jester, in which he spoke about his daughter getting hospitalized after coming into contact with anthrax sent to his home, and FBI agent Craig Monteilh infiltrating his mosque. But neither of those two incidents ever happened. The 37-year-old Indian American comic insisted, however, that he built these stories on a “seed of truth” — to depict the very real discrimination South Asian Muslims experienced in post-9/11 America.
“The emotional truth is first. The factual truth is secondary,” Minhaj told The New Yorker.
The article, published on Friday, September 15, dominated the conversation among South Asians both online and offline. Many in the diaspora and subcontinent feel torn over whether Minhaj’s admission changed their mind over the barrier-breaking comedian: does lying lessen Minhaj’s credibility, or simply show how difficult it is for a Brown man to break into white-dominated spaces? Embellishment for laughs is often par for the course in comedy, so when does it go too far — and has Minhaj broken those unsaid rules?