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Comedian-Actor Hasan Minhaj Sheds Light on Minority Experiences

This past Halloweekend, University Union and University Lecture welcomed critically-acclaimed comedian, actor, and writer Hasan Minhaj to Syracuse University. Minhaj rocked the show as he soon as he came out on stage, claiming he loved being back in New York after The Daily Show sent him to report on gun-control in the rural South, specifically Birmingham, Alabama. With charming but raw-fully honest humor, Minhaj effortlessly delved into the controversial topic of refugees. Throughout his stand-up performance, Minhaj hilariously touched upon CNN being the “Buzzfeed of television,” his deepest condolences for Mahershala Ali and other people who identify as Black and Muslim, and the ignorance and convenience of the “lone wolf” narrative when it comes to white terrorists. Minhaj proved how irrational the fear of the ‘other’ truly is and how unlikely terrorism affects the daily lives of Americans by buying “terrorism insurance” for everyone in the audience, which amounted to less than a dollar per person. By the end of the performance, Minhaj wrapped his compelling and hysterical argument with a creed: as a nation of immigrants, Americans must think about how history will remember us and our empathy towards those who are suffering.

Hasan Minhaj is the son of two Muslim-Indian immigrants and was born in Davis, California. After experiencing a multitude of failures in pre-med and pre-law, Minhaj later put his complete focus into his comedic craft. He eventually emerged onto the television screen, executing a spectacular role as a comedic journalist in the award-winning series The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. After his stand-up performance at Goldstein Auditorium, Minhaj sat down onstage with SU’s Associate Professor of History Osamah F. Khalil to discuss more about his personal and professional experiences. Minhaj talked about his doubts and the advice he received from Larry Wilmore before his jarring White House Correspondents Dinner performance. “He [Wilmore] told me, ‘There are two ways to protest: you can throw rocks outside the building or inside,’” said Minhaj. For the sneakerhead fans, Minhaj stated if he could characterize himself as a sneaker he would be the White Cement 3’s. Later on, he stated Jay-Z was his greatest hip-hop influence, as the hip-hop narrative reflected the immigrant narrative for him.

After the event, I was able to sit down with Minhaj backstage to chat with him more. He spoke about being conscious of how the U.S. has historically created division amongst minorities, and how a civil liberty win for one identity group is a win for all. He also touched on the dichotomy of being the “model minority” as an Indian American but also facing xenophobia as a Muslim: “There are times where people will be like, ‘Oh you’re Indian, you guys are the good minorities,’ but [my] empathy comes from when people find out, “Oh you’re Muslim, you guys are evil.’ And that feeling, the feeling like I’m a mutant, has always given me a connection point to other communities […] So I’ve used that, in a weird way, at times it has been painful but I’ve also used it as a gift.”

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