A year ago Hasan Minhaj made his Netflix stand-up special debut with Homecoming King. Brilliant in its scope and storytelling, the special brought a distinct flavour and innovation to the “brown man in stand-up” sub-genre. Hasan shined with his sharp commentary, with his poignant storytelling and his fluid, multiscreen and graphical presentation.
With his new show, the Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj brings all that which made Homecoming King brilliant, and builds it into a John Oliveresque format for the Late Night audience. Netflix had made multiple attempts to crack the ‘Late Night’ comedy format recently – however, most weren’t up to scratch, be it in terms of content or ratings. This has led to a spate of cancellations including those from comedians with good pedigree such as Chelsea Handler, Michelle Wolf and Joel McHale.
Patriot Act, embraces the irony of our times, and does so in a way few white comedians can. That’s what makes the show, which dropped its first two episodes this week on the streaming platform, stand out. With Patriot Act, Netflix finally has a hit in its hands. The show works because in the era of Trump and the Strongmen –a brown, Indian, Muslim, immigrant pointing out the stupidity and logical fallacies of the Western and Asian world is ‘hilarious AF’.
The first episode of the Patriot Act starts off by deconstructing the lawsuit filed against Harvard University by the anti-affirmative action group ‘Students for Fair Admissions’. For the most part, it follows the Stewart/Trevor/ Oliver template – using facts, archival footage and data analysis to bring out the hypocritical and the funny, in this whole ridiculous affair. The first episode, starts off OK for the most part, because it feels familiar.
Where the episode departs from the ‘seen-before’ stuff and shines is when Hasan’s idiosyncrasies take over. Hasan uses theatricality, camera movements, personality and his heritage to bring out the hypocrisy of the Asian American community. It is a territory most white men in suits would fear to tread – but Hasan can, and he does with aplomb. With his tees and denims and TedX like delivery, Hasan plays the “my funny, woke ethnic friend next door” part and delivers his punchlines deftly, with an embedded cultural context. Hasan is every overly ambitious Asian father’s nightmare in episode one.
Hasan uses theatricality, camera movements, personality and his heritage to bring out the hypocrisy of the Asian American community.
By episode two – Hasan is at the top of his game and the initial hiccups of episode one are ironed out. In taking on the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the aftermath of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Hasan doesn’t mince words or facts. He delivers a scathing takedown of big corporations, duplicitous governments and the Saudi Royal family – likes of which haven’t been seen since John Oliver first started his no-holds barred run on HBO.
Hasan has a sharp eye, terrific timing and a relatable, self-aware demeanor – he can look straight into the camera, as if he’s talking to you and make you feel the depth of the line delivered. His ethnicity makes his show all the more relatable, especially to a global audience. But Hasan is not just about the content – he is also about the delivery – and he is about the one thing that everyone seems to love these days – infographics!
Now, I’ve mentioned this before when I reviewed Homecoming King in an earlier article – but it’s important to reiterate how Hasan’s visual production team sets him apart from the rest of the hosts and stand-ups. The seamless blend of visuals, data, graphics and camerawork, make Hasan’s peers look archaic. It brings a sense of depth and urgency to his storytelling and after some initial adjustment, works perfectly. It allows him to move seamlessly from funny takedowns of politicians to talking about Lotas (portable bidets as he calls it) as the best imports of the Eastern world that the West is yet to adopt.
Hasan has a sharp eye, terrific timing and a relatable, self-aware demeanor – he can look straight into the camera, as if he’s talking to you and make you feel the depth of the line delivered.
Hasan Minhaj as a comedian, writer, actor and television host earned his pedigree from The Daily Show as its senior correspondent from 2014 to 2018. Hasan’s illustrious career is now in the spotlight – and he is on a path where he is ready to shine, without the overpowering glow of a ‘White Light’.
In Patriot Act, Netflix has not only found its own slicker, better version of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’; it has also finally found itself a game-changing, non stand-up, original comedy show to boast of. Patriot Act is a must watch for all audiences and I suspect it’ll only get better with time.