Hasan Minhaj Discusses Diversity, Career in Gaston Hall

April 9, 2019

Hasan Minhaj fielded questions about his comedy, political commentary, and his Indian, Muslim, and immigrant background in a panel discussion before a sold out Gaston Hall on March 28.  Minhaj spoke with the current president of the South Asian Society, Vishal Menon (MSB ’19), who was joined by two past presidents of the organization, Vinoda Basnayake (MSB ’03) and Bhavya Jha (SFS ’17).

Topics ranged from serious to informal, including minority representation in comedy, the Saudi Arabian government’s response to his jokes about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and his daily routine.

Minhaj joked that comedy cannot change the world, but stressed its role in shining a light on injustices.

“I think the good thing, and I think the thing Georgetown and a lot of schools can tap into, is just give that stage to a diversity of voices. Whether its South Asian female voices, whether it’s queer voices, just let those performers perform,” Minhaj said.

Minhaj is known for launching a weekly Netflix show in October 2018, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. The show comes after the success of his 2017 stand-up special, Homecoming King, and his work on The Daily Show.

Minhaj praised the efforts of Jordan Peele, Samantha Bee, and Trevor Noah to diversify the genres of their respective fields. “I certainly hope what we’re doing at Patriot Act is adding to that,” he said. “Like us sort of attacking the white space of stuff that doesn’t get covered in the day-to-day news cycle.”

He also discussed defying the expectations of his parents and family members to go into comedy after studying political science at the University of California, Davis. “I just kept getting fired from every other job,” Minhaj quipped in response to curiosity about his choice to enter an unconventional career path.

Some students at the event seized an opportunity to network during the question and answer portion of the event. Minhaj accepted a student’s resume and invited two student comedians to open for him the next time he performs in D.C.

“Though some students used the time to make some out of pocket questions, I thought Hasan responded to every student with humor and honesty,” Jamal Jaffer (COL ’21), the Academic Chair of the South Asian Society, said in an email to the Voice. “Bringing Hasan Minhaj to campus was one of the best celebrity conversations I’ve seen at Georgetown and came just when we needed it the most,” he said.

After Minhaj joked about common mispronunciations of his name, many of the students introduced themselves with their “Starbucks name,” often a common white American name. He incorporated these jokes into a bit that went viral on The Ellen DeGeneres Show last week.

Minhaj left the audience with advice he received from Conan O’Brien early in his career. “Move to the city where they’re doing what you do — or what you aspire to do — best,” he said. “Find a community of people who are doing what you want to do and build with those people.”

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