“Popping out of your mom is like real estate. It’s all about location.”
That’s a line from comedian Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix special, Homecoming King. In it, Hasan talks about the experience of growing up in an immigrant family in the United States, and navigating a landscape that can seem simultaneously limiting and full of possibilities.
That’s something I know a little bit about – and it’s an idea that has informed my experience, both on a personal level and professionally. But the way Hasan talks about it is a little bit different; he has what he calls his “super power” – an ability to tell serious stories in a silly way. Jokes are easy, he says – the hard part is making sure they convey something meaningful. That’s why I was so excited to have him as my guest at the first-ever Stay Tuned with Preet live event. We talked about growing up in an Indian immigrant family, being a comedian at a time of political challenge, and how societal pressures affect how we interact with one another.
“One of the themes I explore in the show is this idea of, what will people think?” he said. “I think that is one of the biggest pressures that our generation…Sometimes we’re the victim of it, and sometimes we’re the ones that perpetuate it.”
Of course, there’s a flip side to that kind of pressure. As time has gone on, in ways both big and small, people have begun to set higher standards for behavior, both personally and for society as a whole. Young people, for example are more likely to push for equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity – and much less likely to tolerate racism and injustice.
“I hope that my kids…have that audacity of equality,” Hasan said. “That I can be whoever I want to be, and people are gonna judge me based on my merits, and I’m not gonna accept being treated differently for anything else.”
Given the time that we’re in, does every comedian need to have a message? Is there a responsibility to stake out clear positions? Or can we just have jokes for the sake of jokes?
“I just think right now we’re living in a time where cerebral is sexy,” Hasan said. “We’re living in a time when reality is stranger than fiction. We don’t need wig comedy, is what I’m saying.”
So, what’s next for Hasan?
“I like what I’m doing right now – I like my job,” he said. “I mean, if I get fired, I’ll start a podcast.”
For the full episode, take a listen here. Subscribe to the podcast. And stay tuned for more.