Hasan Minhaj Talks His Latest Netflix Special, Fatherhood & Evolving as a Person
It’s sophomore year for stand-up comic Hasan Minhaj, who is set to debut his second Netflix stand-up special, The King’s Jester. A man of many titles, comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host–Minhaj is now blessed with the role of fatherhood.
Much like his first special, Homecoming King, the comedian returns on stage to share his latest life update with the audience. In his 2017 stand-up special, Minhaj introduced himself and his newlywed wife, Beena Patel, to the world. Now in The King’s Jester, he reintroduces himself to the crowd as a different man following their journey to parenthood and superstardom.
Below, The Daily Show alum touches on the impact these last few years have had on him — especially after becoming a dad, the success of his political talk show The Patriot Act, and ultimately evolving as a person.
The set starts with “my balls are broken,” meaning you thought you couldn’t have kids. It’s not an easy thing to admit, it’s very personal. How did you approach formatting that hard moment into a joke that gets over with the crowd?
Hasan Minhaj: One of the things that I love most about comedy, great comedy, to me, is that act of confession. And whenever I’m putting together a new hour or a new show, it all starts with what are the thoughts, feelings, and actual events that have happened to me that I’d be too afraid to admit in public. And the fertility kind of journey that my wife and I went through was really painful and really embarrassing, especially as a guy. It’s something that I didn’t tell my family about, I didn’t want to tell my friends about. And then my wife and I, we got to a point where, thank God, we were able to get through that together. And actually, comedy became kind of a tool, a way for me to like, laugh at this painful thing, and get through it. And hopefully, me talking about it, me finding humor in it, me taking that thing that’s very heated — and it can be really hard on marriages and couples — hopefully, people could see my humanity and my family’s humanity. And hopefully, it makes their journey a little bit easier as well.
I think so. And congratulations to your family, man.
Thank you. Thank you. It was… it was something that we didn’t, you know, we went through everything. Like, we went through all of the different permutations of it. Legitimately we were thinking about adopting a baby … I think starting from a place of, hey, I’m going to analyze myself and talk about the things that I have struggled with, as the Brits say, take the piss out of myself so then I can also, you know, make fun of other things, I think it gives you the license to do that.
Did you find the transition of going from a “married guy” to a “dad guy” in your sets difficult, or were you used to opening up about life experiences?
Yeah, you know, what’s really interesting is I’m 37, I just turned 37 a week ago, and one of the things I realized is I started performing stand-up when I was 18. So the person who I was when I first started, I literally was just like, a young boy who had just left the house, didn’t know who he was, was experiencing things for the first time. First kiss, first love, first time holding hands, all these things were so new. Who I am now is a completely different person, and through writing and performing, you kind of figure out who you are.
That’s what the art form of comedy is because you’re expressing something that’s inside of you, and the audience is kind of checking you. And so when I actually look at my notes, and I look at the way the act has evolved, I think it’s good. I think I’ve grown as a comedian and as a person. And what I’m trying to do is just bring people into my life and talk about, hopefully, specific things that are, to me, specific experiences that I’ve had in my life. But I think that they’re universal; fertility, fatherhood, freedom of speech, what you should say, what you shouldn’t say, the price we all pay for making the certain decisions we’ve made in our lives and how that triangulates with trying to have a career and family.
How has becoming a father changed your approach to your career and comedy? Or has it not?
I think being a dad and being a husband are probably the two most defining things that have shaped my life. When I was coming up, you know, I’ll take from age 18 to 30, and I got married when I was 30. It really was this kind of like by any means necessary, I gotta get on. Like, I gotta make enough money to have my own apartment, have health insurance … But the struggle and the hustle was just the come-up…
Having my kids in my life really made me think about my life in its totality, and what I mean by that is that just what I do as my job is not everything that I am. And succeeding in that the idea of success or winning is this whole experience. It’s not one hour while I’m on stage crushing. That’s not how I determine whether or not I’m successful. It’s the totality of my life. What do my kids think of me? What does my wife think of me? … Having them made me realize that comes first … The rate of the speed at which news changes, they’ll forget about your viral clip or your article with the flick of a wrist. I gotta be with people that care about me more than the effing feed algorithm. [That’s] the real existential thing that I was working on and coming to terms with in The King’s Jester.
You’re officially getting invited to swanky Hollywood parties, getting all the social media engagement, and have antagonized some big people in big places. Do you worry about how terrifying that other side of success can be?
One of the things that I talked about in the show that I’m ashamed of, but I think it was important to talk about, is there were moments where I was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. So let’s say calling out [Jared] Kushner to his face, I think in and of itself, what I was doing was right, but I would be lying to you if I wasn’t responding to the fact there was a camera there. And I knew it would go up on “blue check” Twitter, and people would quote tweet it, and the algorithm would then feed it and make it happen, you know? … One of the things that [my wife] Beena called me out on was, “it’s funny how you only care about these issues when there’s a camera on you.” … And that’s what I give her a lot of credit for because she’s not really on social media that way, and the people who love her, love her for the actual real quality of her character, not what she signals.
Since The Patriot Act ended, you’ve seemingly focused more on your political involvement and some acting, in addition to standup. What can we expect from you after this?
So The King’s Jester is now streaming on Netflix. I started a production company called 186K Films. This is one of our first projects, and then we’re going into pre-production on a movie that I’m writing and starring in called For The Culture. I’m really excited about that, [[it’s] about the competitive world of collegiate Bollywood dance. Yeah, so, hard pivot from biting social commentary and political comedy to just…ratchet college Bollywood dance.
What do you have on your feet in the special? Some sand-looking ACGs, but I bet they’re not.
You know what? Those are John Elliot desert boots, and they’re amazing. They’re beautiful, man. They’re really beautiful. Yeah, I think they’re still on the website. […] But just so you know, don’t believe what you see on TV, you have to return all of it so, yeah.
Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester, Premiere, Tuesday, October 4, Netflix