- Hasan Minhaj’s wife is a Hindu. She may or may not be spiritual. But I am. Unlike Hasan, it seems, I do have some sort of a moral code, even though I fall short of it daily.
I’ve been studying comedy and its wittiest comedians like a hawk for over two years now. The study of satire encourages the aspirant to summon the courage to speak in public, about wherever, during whenever, and to whomever. But not about whatever. Judy Carter, a magician turned comedian and author of “The Comedy Bible” writes, “Humor is therapeutic.
Even if you have no intention of ever getting up on a stage, learning how to turn negative, painful life experiences into comedy routines will give you a new perspective on life. Once you can laugh at something, you can stop crying.” Carter’s keyword here — experiences — is what lies, literally, at the heart of everything that Hasan Minhaj is being accused of. As you can most likely already tell, though he is a true master of comedy, I will never support his lying bum ass ever again.
It’s a comedian’s believability that allows you to suspend your own beliefs when you know the joke is a little too wild. That’s what Hasan did so magically when he delivered a faultless and unforgettable routine at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It featured some of the hardest-hitting jokes I ever seen delivered to a smug crowd of Washington Illuminati. Damn, it was good.
Then, my wife and I watched his first full-feature-length standup comedy routine on Netflix titled “Homecoming King.” If you saw it you too would agree it was comedy platinum. Through those brute yet beautiful performances Hasan became our hairy-chested Wolverine who never needed a flying metal suit to save the world, or at least make it smile. He kept on getting his heart hurt. He took hard falls, but he never stopped fighting. His fight became our fight.
With Aziz Ansari pretty much relegated to a 30-minute Netflix special as his final curtain call, brown people needed a new Jesus, and Hasan was one guy who actually had followers. As we soon learned during “Homecoming King” that he married a Hindu doctor, he bonded both young liberal Muslims and young liberal Hindus together at a time when racial tensions were at a boiling point in this country. He was the thread keeping the pearls of the ocean together.
As an aspiring amateur comedian, I even began studying his gait and airy walk across the stage. I stared at him on the screen and watched as he began this slow transformation into one of the rock stars like Chris (Rock) or Dave (Chappelle). He magnetized me like a pensioner driving past a yard sale. I began to almost want to be like him.
I left inspired at the end of his first long-form routine because it was almost too good. The storytelling was as clear as if the words were playing through an uber-tiny AirPod in his ear right before he said them. I thought to myself at the end of the story about his high school prom rejection that it set a new standard for how South Asian comedians utilize oratory on stage. As a storyteller, I felt a connection in some way. He wouldn’t just make that up, right? That was such a defining moment in his life. This couldn’t be a lie. No way bro. No effing way. That was true.
I believed him. Just as I believed him when he delivered some kick-ass jokes as a former Daily Show Correspondent. Again, it was his believability as a decent guy who wouldn’t just lie all the time for no reason that allowed me to suspend my truisms of him when he did go deep into jokes that one knew could be false.
So it begs the question: why would he lie to our faces about stories from his own life? Isn’t he just lying to himself? Does anyone take plagiarist Fareed Zakaria seriously anymore? Or what about George Santos also known as Anthony Devolder? At least, Santos, has pictures of his Brazil drag trip to prove his alter ego Kitara was there.
At the end of all of this, it’s not we the people who lose, it’s Hasan. His wife, now plastered on every single news magazine website that wrote about this, is a Hindu. She may or may not be spiritual. But I am. Unlike Hasan, it seems, I do have some sort of a moral code, even though I fall short of it daily.
In Chapter 2 Verses 34 and 35 of the Bhagavad Gita, the Avatar on earth tells the earth’s greatest archer that if he does not take up his bow and fight for dharma (truth) a fate will await him that is worse than death. I read this for the first time and thought what the hell could be worse than dying?
However, the Avatar, here in the text referred to as Lord Krishna, says to the Olympian archer, “Or suppose you will not engage in this lawful war? You will incur shame and guilt. Creatures will recount tales of your self-induced shame long after your body will sleep. Even your ill-wishers will hold your gleaming statue of little account. Once your life’s work has been condemned and your own progeny will not honor you even with a flower, what fate can be worse than that?”
Rohan Narine is a Hindu storyteller and clean amateur comedian who lives in Queens, NY. He is a co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.