Right off of the heels of his acclaimed Netflix special, Homecoming King, former Daily Show Correspondent Hasan Minhaj continues his impressive rise in the arena of late-night comedy. Minhaj’s newest project (also on Netflix) is Patriot Act, a weekly series that focuses on a single political issue for each twenty minute episode. Although slightly reminiscent of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in format, Patriot Act brings a refreshing and desperately needed perspective to the current, rather monotonous, political comedy scene.
One thing is immediately noticeable about Patriot Act: its lack of a desk. The futuristic set, which Minhaj describes as looking like “Michael Bay directed a Powerpoint Presentation,” gives the comedian free reign to move around and engage more deeply with the audience—blending together aspects of a late night host’s stage and the sparse space of a stand-up comedian.
Minhaj’s first episode delves right into the issue of Affirmative Action, with minimal time wasted. He introduces the topic with a joke about Asian Americans: “The moment we don’t get into Harvard, we’re like ‘I’ll see you in court, motherfucker.’”
As Minhaj dissects the lawsuit filed against Harvard University by groups including the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE), it becomes evident that what he has to say will differ drastically from mainstream political commentary, which continues to be dominated by middle-aged, caucasian men. As a young Indian American man, Minhaj brings with him a more nuanced and personal analysis of this particular issue, as well as a perspective that is, overall, more politically aware.
Minhaj adeptly points out that even though the system of Affirmative Action is far from perfect, repealing this measure will set a precedent that may negatively affect publicly funded universities, and in turn millions of students. His skill at balancing the comedic and personal elements of the Asian American argument with the gravity and relevancy of the issue itself is highlighted in a few particularly memorable lines: “I thought I wasn’t gonna get into Stanford because some black kid was gonna take my spot. But I didn’t get into Stanford because I was dumb.” This is later followed by his closing remarks, which roast Cornell University for being the “UC Irvine of the Ivies.”
Patriot Act, though off to an extremely promising start, is still clearly a very new series. In a market saturated with political satire on a variety of networks, it’s unclear if Minhaj’s project will rise to the level of popularity it merits. However, Minhaj is a gifted comedian that uses his cultural background and personal experiences to enhance his analysis of issues in a truly entertaining and informative way. The response to Homecoming King has shown that viewers are very receptive and enthusiastic to his work. Even in its first week, Patriot Act has proven that we need more of these projects and more voices like Minhaj’s.