How This Comedian Finds The Funny In America's Social Unrest
Hasan Minhaj, an American-born son of Muslim Indian immigrants, has made a career out of poking fun at the profound problems facing his country.
Minhaj, 33, offers his comedic take on a wide range of topics -- racism, drug pricing, censorship, student loans -- on Patriot Act, his Netflix show.
Viewers watch his show for the societal information he provides but "stay because of the jokes", the comedian recently told CBS This Morning.
"Comedy is a really great artform in the sense that it's about building pressure through premise, and then releasing it through a punchline," Minhaj said.
"If there's ever been a tenser time for our country... now's that time. It's a really great time for comedy and our ability to be able to shed light on these issues."
He has attributed his comedic style to Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, masters of "putting together an argument and making it funny".
Many of these comedians have faced career controversy due to their willingness to make light of any subject, regardless of its sensitivity. Minhaj has compared knowing when to time delicate jokes to a "math equation".
"There's certain people that can pull it off. It's almost like [famed stuntman] Evil Knievel. Can you pull off the stunt? It's a challenge," Minhaj said.
Minhaj previously worked with the American University's Professor Caty Borum Chattoo on “The Laughter Effect,” a creative and research initiative investigating how comedy can play a role in social change.
Together they made 2014's Stand Up Planet, a project which harnessed comedy to change the conversation about global poverty.
Borum Chattoo later used Stand Up Planet in a research project that examined how audiences responded to a funny documentary compared to a serious one about the same topics.
"If we want people to believe they’re agents of change, an emotional response is actually more important in getting people engaged," Borum Chattoo said.
Minhaj's work has earned him a spot on Time 100's "Most Influential People of 2019" list. His tribute piece was written by his former Daily Show co-star (and now host) Trevor Noah.
"We’ve needed Hasan’s voice since Donald Trump came down that golden escalator and turned immigrants and Muslims into his targets," Noah wrote.
"Patriot Act is the manifestation of Hasan’s whip-smart commentary, charisma and sincerity. It’s also a consistent reminder that Hasan is America. And America is Hasan."
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