Hasan Minhaj: comedian, storyteller, racism curer. Minhaj in his Netflix special Homecoming King, tells the narrative of his life and career. Although it could be billed as a stand-up comedy, it is more than stand-up. Loosely speaking, it is a comedy show, but one in which is way more interpersonal than any Chris Rock or Louis C.K. special. Rather than hit viewers with dynamite laughs and punchlines that shake them to their core, this show is one in which Minhaj engages with his audience and shakes them to their hearts. Minhaj is able to make his viewers cry tears of joy and sadness, showing off his personable charm, while still assuming the position of a friend you’ve known through time. These are my personal thoughts on his special Homecoming King.
As I stated before, this show is no regular stand-up routine. Although Minhaj is a veteran of stand-up comedy and a recognizable face in entertainment, this isn’t something you’ve seen from him before. Very clearly, this show is about him, his story of growing up, and mainly his experience with race as an Indian-Muslim American in modern America. What we’ve seen before from Minhaj in his career is him serving jokes to others from the influence of someone hiring him. For example, the White House Correspondence Dinner is a show that he did for the Association that hired him, his job as a corespondent on The Daily Show is to serve the culture of the program. Homecoming King is Minhaj showing the world who he is. It’s basically his version of Drake’s Take Care album.
When hearing of Minhaj’s story paired with the visuals displayed in the monitor in the background, he assures the viewers that he isn’t just telling a bit, he’s taking you through his life’s journey. The camera work of this comedy film also played a huge part in the atmosphere of the show as it often panned for shots that intensified certain aspects of Minhaj’s journey. This is something that you won’t see in most stand-up specials. Overall, this show was clearly a step ahead in production of other filmed comedy specials. It looked great and really maximized the atmosphere of the smaller venue, within Minhaj’s hometown of Davis, California. This is compared to the gaudy enthralls of a Madison Square Garden or Lincoln Financial Field (I’m looking at you Kevin Hart who is definitely reading this). The venue and crowd in which Minhaj filmed in allowed for inside jokes to be utilized, showing viewers at home that this wasn’t just another gig for Minhaj, rather it is a personal experience and perhaps even redemption from the struggles of his past.
OK, so it’s hard for me to try and relate with this material because the way in which he struggled with being Indian and being a Muslim in America and how I struggled with being East Asian in Canada is different. I’ve never had anyone harass my family at my home and try to physically harm us for being Chinese, it’s just never happened before. Society looks at East Asians in a more positive light than South Asians. East Asians are presented in the public as model minorities, and South Asians are too, but because of the tone of their skin, they’re also lumped into a not so fortunate light of being terrorists, due to people being ignorant and thinking that all terrorists happen to be brown. I would hope that someone who watches this special, regardless of race, will be able to see that racism is not as laid back as it may seem. For sure, direct racism is not as prevalent as it is in the past. Rarely in public, are people berating each other for the tone of their skin, however indirect racism is still very prevalent and it’s something that Minhaj is talking about in his routine. People haven’t necessarily gotten better at being not racist, they’ve just gotten better at hiding it. I mean, Bill Maher isn’t being “controversial”, sometimes he’s just racist.
But in my opinion, the best theme that Minhaj touches on, it’s that although people of colour have more struggles in America, than our white friends do, it is up to us on how we deal with that struggle. It’s very easy to get caught up in “oh yeah, they didn’t hire me because of my skin tone” and then proceed to give up on future ambitions. It is harder to have these things happen to you and still strive to be something that a lot of people will tell you not to do. And although this is something I know and something that a lot of people of colour in North America realize, for him to tell his personal story to us, makes that belief all the more real and something we should strive for. I’m going to make this about me, so grit your teeth. The amount of times a girl has said to me “I don’t date Asian guys” has destroyed my ego in ways that have made me very discouraged to meet new women. I have been told this straight up and also by friends asking their friends for me. It’s not just white women who’ve said this to me, once I even had a Chinese girl tell this to me. If your own kind doesn’t even find you attractive, who will. I can foster all this hate and just say “I’m yellow, girls think I’m lame, I don’t even care about dating anymore” but I am a stubborn fuccboi, and the idea of romance is just too alluring so I bounce back. I can’t control how others look at me, but what I can do is control how I feel and therefor not limit myself. I think that if you’re a person of colour and you’re struggling with your identity, Homecoming King will definitely help with figuring out, what it is exactly you want from yourself.
Homecoming King is great, please check it out, I guarantee it’s like not stand-up special you’ve ever seen before.