Hasan Minhaj says his stand-up stories are embellished but rooted in 'emotional truth.' Because that's comedy

Emily St. Martin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Hasan Minhaj isn't shy about stretching the truth to nail a joke.

Comedian and former "Patriot Act" host Minhaj told the New Yorker that the stories he tells in stand-up comedy are embellished but rooted in "emotional truth."

"I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That's inherent to the art form," he said in a statement to The Times, responding to the article. "You wouldn't go to a haunted house and say, 'Why are these people lying to me?' The point is the ride. Stand-up is the same."

In Minhaj's 2022 Netflix special, "The King's Jester," he told a story about being handed "fan mail" by his building's doorman. He opened one of the letters, he said, and "all this white powder falls into the stroller" he was pushing, and onto his daughter's shoulder, neck and cheeks.

In the special, he said, he panicked that the powder was anthrax, told his wife what had happened, and they raced to the emergency room. Hours later, a nurse arrived with his daughter — and an investigator who told him he was very lucky, because the powder was nothing. But the man wanted to know, who exactly had Minhaj been antagonizing?

Cue the laughter, because Minhaj's answer was, "Everybody."


Later, back at their house, his anecdote continued, his wife accused him of putting clout above their kids — yes, kids plural — she was informing him that she was pregnant (and allowing a callback to an earlier joke about their doctor).

"You get to say whatever you want onstage, and we have to live with the consequences. ... I don't give a s— that Time magazine thinks you're an 'influencer.' If you ever put my kids in danger again, I will leave you in a second," Minhaj quoted his wife as saying.

He represented the situation as a reckoning, then continued the bit, saying, "I don't want to be the Tupac of comedy. ... I'm trying to live to see these retweets. If anything, I want to be the Puffy of comedy. I want to live — while more talented people die around me." Punch line delivered.

Minhaj told the New Yorker that, yes, a letter with white powder had been sent to his house in real life, and at the time he joked to his wife, "Holy s—. What if this was anthrax?" But he had embellished that his daughter came in contact with the powder, and said she wasn't actually rushed to a hospital.


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