‘The Daily Show’ Correspondent Hasan Minhaj on How Racism Ruined His Prom Night

As the newest correspondent on The Daily Show, comedian Hasan Minhaj has been killing it. Minhaj has always been a witty comedian with his own flair, and now a wider audience is getting to see that. However, things have not always been smooth sailing for him.

As he recounts in the live storytelling show The Moth, Minhaj had a rough time fitting in as one of the few Indian American kids in Davis, CA. In fact, when his third grade teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, Minhaj recalls writing “I wanna be white.”

Minhaj then went on to tell the heartbreaking story of Bethany Reed, a girl who became his bright spot during his senior year in high school. Apparently, Reed seemed to fully accept and understand him and even his strict immigrant father’s rules. By the time senior prom rolled around, it was inevitable for Minhaj and Reed to go together. Even though Minhaj had to sneak out of his father’s house to get there, surely this would be worth it, right?


Hasan Minhaj in high school. Photo courtesy of The Moth.

When Minhaj arrived at Reed’s house, he opened the door and found the captain of the water polo team putting a corsage on Reed’s wrist. Reed’s mom explained to him that because they would be taking a lot of pictures that night, they didn’t know if it would be “a good fit” for Minhaj and Reed to be in pictures together. To make up for this, Reed’s parents offered Minhaj a ride home.

The full story, as narrated by Minaj, is definitely worth listening to. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying as Minhaj tells a second generation, Asian American story that resonates with many.

Of course, there’s no need to shed to many tears. After all, Minhaj seems to be doing great with his new gig. Check out his debut on The Daily Show below.



Hasan Minhaj’s Hilarious Comeback to Miss America Haters

After spending a week talking about the controversy surrounding Miss America Nina Davuluri, we said NO MORE. As much as we support her, continuously talking about her haters will only draw more attention to them. As Kunal Nayyar pointed out, there’s no need to “empower them by giving them importance.”

But then we came across this jewel and we couldn’t pass it up. How could we not post something this funny?

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Featured in our Fall 2013 issue, comedian Hasan Minhaj is a favorite here at Audrey Magazine. Clearly, he is maintaining his spot there. Minhaj sends comeback after comeback to the various racist tweets. And unlike the racists out there, he actually uses logic. The inner kid in us can’t help but use the phrase “burnnnn.” Trust us, you don’t wanna miss this.

Oh and Hasan, we agree with your mom — you should totally talk to her.


Hot For Doctor? When Asian Parents Go Bad, Courtesy of Hasan Minhaj

After featuring the hilarious (and charming) Hasan Minhaj in our Fall ’13 issue (get it now!), we’ve become huge fans of his comedy troupe, Goatface Comedy.

Their latest video, “Good Sons,” takes a hilarious (and … sorta creepy) look at the age-old narrative of Asian parents who will do anything for their children to become doctors/lawyers/engineers. It’s cringe-inducing and yet hilarious — we dare you not to be laughing by the end.

Watch it here.

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Talks “The Truth” and “Failosophy” (and Is Definitely Not Related to Nicki Minaj)

Over coffee and cronuts in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, Hasan Minhaj proudly talks about how his father convinced his mother to marry him within 10 minutes of meeting her, and to move from Aligarh, India, to Davis, Calif. It’s a great story about having the confidence to make one’s dreams happen, and one that Minhaj has obviously taken to heart. The articulate and charismatic 27-year-old comedian and actor has successfully managed his stand-up comedy career with his breaks into television, most recently wrapping his first season of hosting Failosophy, an MTV show on Internet fails and memes.

Minhaj discovered his love for comedy in 2004, during his freshman year at the university of California, Davis. His fellow students were going crazy with high-speed T3 lines and peer-sharing applications like Kazaa and Limewire. People would have hard drives filled with movies and that was how, at a friend’s apartment, he first viewed Chris Rock’s stand-up show, Never Scared.

He recalls: “I had never seen stand-up before, and he talked about being racially profiled and loving hip-hop and everything. I thought, ‘Oh, this is the Truth! Someone gets to call bullsh-t, and that’s what’s making everybody laugh.’ It came at such a telling time in my life when there were so many things I wanted to call bullsh-t on. All the bullies that bullied me. [Chris Rock] was able to talk about really heady things like politics and race, but make it so palatable to everyday life. And to me, that was the most empowering thing.”

Minhaj jumped straight into stand-up, making regular drives from Davis to San Francisco to work on his craft in the booming comedy scene there. “I was able to learn from comics of all shapes and sizes — Asian, black, white, gay, transgender, everything. Kevin Shea, W. Kamau Bell, Arj Barker — these guys were all inspiring to me because I saw comedy that could be different from what you’d see on HBO.”

In 2009, Minhaj moved to Los Angeles for NBC’s Stand-up for Diversity, a showcase program designed to launch the careers of comedians of various ethnic backgrounds. Despite finding representation, Minhaj, along with his South Asian and Middle Eastern comedian friends, would run into a common problem in Hollywood: stereotypical casting sheets for Asian men, like “Vikram, 25, dickless, docile, afraid of girls.” “In all those scripts, us pulling the girls was the punch line,” he says. “The humor was in the fact that we were getting a girl. I mean, a guy not being able to get a girl is funny, but not by virtue of his ethnicity. It creates this notion of beauty that Asian men aren’t cool, hip or sexy. It just made me mad.”

This was the genesis of Goatface Comedy, where Minhaj and his friends could play leading men in their own sketches, where their ethnicities weren’t the punch lines. If they couldn’t be cast as superheroes, news anchors or shootout cops, then they would create their own content. “Let our sense of humor bust through any barrier or stigma that Hollywood casting has put upon us,” he says, reflecting on Goatface’s ethos.

Minhaj’s sketch work on Goatface and his offshoot web series, The Truth, garnered the notice of several producers, and soon he found himself on television. His work has ranged from being the first South Asian comic on Chelsea Lately to doing improv work on MTV’s Disaster Date to being a series regular on ABC Family’s State of Georgia. The irony that on Failosophy he and other comics provide commentary on social media failings is not lost on Minhaj, who got the gig through his posts on YouTube.

Regarding social media he says, “It’s a gift and a curse. It’s democratized entertainment, in the sense that if you don’t fit into a circle or square peg, there’s a peg for everybody. If you are really into one particular niche, the Internet is for you. The problem is , like anything else when it first came out, like video games or cable TV, it’s a huge distraction.”

Early this year, Minhaj became involved in Stand-up Planet, a documentary TV show funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He traveled to Mumbai, India, and Johannesburg, South Africa, to see how the comedians there could use their talents to have a conversation about issues.

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“I got to see the way they use comedy to affect social change,” he says enthusiastically. “Like in India, 54 percent of the people still go to the bathroom outside, while 60 percent have cellphones. So more people have cellphones than toilets. And this comic there had a great joke about how he’d see a guy squatting by the train tracks, dropping a deuce while swiping on a smartphone. It’s funny, and it brings levity to this social issue. And that’s it to me. That’s what makes me love comedy.”

As part of the program, Minhaj and the other performers visited with Bill Cosby, a mentor on the project. This sparked an idea about where Minhaj wanted to take his comedy next.

“Meeting Bill Cosby was one of those life-changing moments,” he says. “He’s one of the grandfathers of modern comedy. You know, he transcended race. Before we had a black president, we had Bill Cosby as America’s dad. I sat with him, and his ethos was that he doesn’t curse or talk about filth because he wants us all to be better than that, to be better than the expectations that are placed on us. He wanted us to be funny on our own and not be a victim of our situation. It really hit me. How do I walk that line of wanting to speak the truth, but not playing the victim? I think that’s the next chapter for me. I wanna be universal to everybody, but I also wanna say, ‘Hey, lemme tell you about where I came from.’ I think that’s the journey of stand-up.”

Next up, you’ll find Minhaj and the rest of Goatface working on a live tour of their sketches and pitching a television variety show. They’re hoping to change the face of television, literally. In his spare time, Minhaj is looking for inspiration all over L.A. “Seeing an artist on a small stage just before their big break is exciting. L.A. has so many great neighborhoods and events. There are so many amazing people here just coming together and collaborating on projects, like at Best Fish Taco, where people are crammed in a cabana to listen to comedy. That’s just so cool to me.”

Story by Paul Nakayama, photos by Ty Watkins. Originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of Audrey Magazine. Buy the issue here.