In early 2017, Hasan Minhaj was a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” but he was still a relatively unknown voice in the new wave of South Asian artists.

After releasing his first comedy special a few months later, Minhaj became an instant brown icon. He tapped into the soul of this community and performed a show that was the most authentic piece of new-brown American media I had ever consumed. 

Five years later, Minhaj has done it again with his newest spectacle, “Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester,” which was released through Netflix on Oct. 4th. In this episode, he contemplates on the reality of fatherhood, infertility, viewing yourself through the public eye and discovering what’s actually important in life the hard way. Through drama-infused satire, Minhaj investigates the pitfalls of his road to becoming a world-renowned comedian.

As he discusses everything from growing up as a first-generation American to his marriage, Minhaj repeatedly circles back to the cost of comedy. He states that “the only thing that ever gave [him] control was comedy.” In the early 2000s, the U.S. government sent federal agents to spy on mosques around the country through the Patriot Act, and Minhaj’s hometown mosque was one of them. 

As a teen, Minhaj was able to tap into his comedic mind to save him from unfortunate situations. After a federal agent called the police on him due to suspicion that he was a terrorist, 16-year-old Minhaj was able to get out of the situation by pointing out the absurdity of this claim. This anecdote starts off humorous, but Minhaj is quick to say that thousands of kids in the same situation were not so lucky. Hamid Hayat was forced into giving a false confession, and he served 20 years in prison. Minhaj says that he thinks about Hamid all the time because both of them were 16 years old when these investigations were taking place, and there was little to no difference between him and Hamid.

What helped Minhaj in his youth is precisely what put his family on the line as an adult. He comments on the real-life cost of being a praised public figure and how it led to him being a worse spouse and father. The same wit that saved his life and defined his youth is what nearly led to him losing the life he feels so lucky to live.

After seeing this show initially on the New York leg of the tour, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were elements brought on just for the viewers at home. Instead of exiting the beautiful red curtains of a fancy theater and screaming, “How are you, Brooklyn!” Minhaj began the special on stage with an acutely personal detail that sets up this show as a deep dive into his insecurities and shortcomings. He remarked that, “For four years, my wife and I couldn’t get pregnant, and it was my fault.” Minhaj recites this line while looking straight into a camera held on a tight shot of his face. The viewers at home cannot see the venue, and they cannot see the crowd. Minhaj sets the tone of this special right from shot number one. 

Courtesy of Netflix.

In ‘The King’s Jester,’ Minhaj takes all of the “casual” out of stand-up. Although there is a rich tradition of comics reenacting hilarious stories with humorous remarks that seem to come to them on the fly, Minhaj instead chooses to follow in the footsteps of comics that approach the medium differently. Like Chris Rock and George Carlin, Minhaj follows a format that is closer to comedic essay writing, rather than casual anecdote telling. He has mastered the art of “staying in the bit,” which has allowed him to pack a lot of material into a short amount of time. While the audience is hysterically laughing, Minhaj is able to double down, not crack a smile and further his wit-filled premises.

Minhaj’s 68-minute special feels much more like a one-man show than a traditional stand-up hour. There are strong themes of multicultural perspectives, family and divisive career choices wound into this narrative rather than a fragmented set of humorous anecdotes. Although he is able to find the humor in stressful situations like the time he received death threats for criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his show, he does not shy away from sharing the perils of his life in the public eye. 

Minhaj has once again teamed up with one of his closest collaborators, Prashanth Venkataramanujam who also served as the head writer of his political satire series, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,’ and his first stand up special, “Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.” He was also able to get Ludwig Göransson to compose music for this special, which Göransson has done for all of Minhaj’s major works. Working with repeat collaborators has allowed Minhaj’s body of work to develop a recognizable style. Also, Göransson has a long history of working with prolific artists of color like Ryan Coogler, Donald Glover and Domee Shi, and it is exciting to see Minhaj be a part of this line up.

One of the most quotable segments of Minhaj’s first special is when he spoke about his father’s views on him marrying outside of his faith. He recited his father saying, “Hasan, log kya kahenge,” which translated to, “Hasan, what will people think?” This moment is so iconic that it is even referenced in his new special when he quoted his wife mocking him as the “log kya kahenge” guy. By reciting his father’s terror in his mother tongue, Minhaj brought power through his authenticity. In this moment, he brings the Hindi/Urdu speakers in the crowd one step closer to him first, then explains the meaning of the phrase to let everyone else onto the boat. 

Minhaj takes this a step further in “The King’s Jester” by leaving Hindi-phrases untranslated. While joking about the effect on the Brown-guy community when Kumail Nanjiani posted shirtless photos of his transformed Marvel superhero body on Instagram, he spoke about how he loves South Asian comic Aziz Ansari because of his normal physique. To close this section, Minhaj shouted, “Khaana kao, golgatol! Tooso mooh mein,” which translates to, “Just keep eating, fatso! Stuff your mouth!” At no point does Minhaj translate this for his audiences, showing that his goal is no longer to perform with non-brown crowds as his primary audience.

And in the same way Minhaj closed his last comedy special, he ends with a perfectly executed callback, cuts to black and cues Göransson’s music before taking a final bow following a truly remarkable performance.

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