Comedian Hasan Minhaj discusses power of satire, solidarity

Julia Doran, Reporter

Having love as a driving force motivates people to support those who are hurting, Hasan Minhaj, a senior correspondent on The Daily Show, told an audience of more than 200 on Friday night.

“A lot of times, people don’t know how to show their solidarity with other communities, and I feel like democracy as well as the entertainment industry will only grow if we reach out and are empathetic to the group next to us,” he said. “I believe that that’s going to start happening, because our generation is changing that.”

Minhaj, who joined The Daily Show — a late-night news satire program — after almost ten years of performing stand-up comedy, is also known for his viral web series, “The Truth with Hasan Minhaj.” He has appeared on a variety of television programs including “Arrested Development” on Netflix and HBO’s “Getting On.”

The talk, held in Ryan Auditorium, was the annual co-sponsored event of the Muslim-cultural Student Association and the South Asian Student Alliance.

“We’re always looking for someone who’s not only Muslim but also of South-Asian descent like Hasan because it allows our two student groups to combine and share a common bond and allow the person to speak on both of our behalfs,” said Rimsha Ganatra, Weinberg junior and public relations vice president for McSA.

Minhaj discussed the power of satire in mainstream media and television and explained the creative process on The Daily Show. He said each morning, he and his team watch Fox News to generate story ideas in which they can flip the logic of an argument on its head, following a strategic model started by Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show.

As an example, he said they find a position or movement they agree with, like the “Black Lives Matter” movement, as well as the pushback, like the “All Lives Matter” countermovement. They then take the pushback’s stance to clearly represent its argument, diffuse its logic and reveal the flaw in the position.

Minhaj showed clips from the show representing this method, including one critiquing Donald Trump’s stance on immigration and another challenging opposition to the “Ban the Box” campaign, which calls for the elimination of a question addressing prior criminal record on job applications.

Minhaj also discussed current social issues including anti-Muslim discrimination in America and police brutality, and said the millennial generation has the power to start fixing these issues if people realize that “we’re all in this together.”

“I’m an angry optimist,” he said. “I’m mad at the wage gap. I’m mad that certain communities are being treated in unfair ways. I’m mad that cops aren’t getting indicted for killing black people in the street. I’m mad at all those things — but I’m optimistic in our power to change them.”

Minhaj said every culture that has come to this country has contributed in a meaningful way to the American experience, and that he tries to stay true to his identity as a Muslim-American of South Asian descent in order to share the narrative of this group.

Meghna Katta, vice president of education affairs for SASA, said she finds Minhaj’s satire entertaining but also connects to the deeper topics he addresses, including his discussion of cultural identity.

“He is a very honest person and he creates a very comfortable environment so the way he engages helps people open up more and it helps people feel closer to him,” the Weinberg sophomore said.

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