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Comedian Hasan Minhaj talks racism, role of comedians in politics

Comedian and “The Daily Show” correspondent Hasan Minhaj spoke to students on Monday night in the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom at the Ohio Union.

Students lined up outside the theater nearly two hours prior to doors opening to hear the comedian speak about a variety of sensitive topics, including his confrontations with racism as an Indian-American Muslim, American stereotypes of refugees and statistics on terrorist attacks.

Minhaj used his creative style of humor to mock current prejudices held by some Americans about Muslims and compared the American fear of brown people blowing up planes to his experience of someone using a Samsung Galaxy S7 on a plane.

“Why can’t you just believe in Apple like the rest of us?” Minhaj joked.

Minhaj concluded his material by discussing the American refugee immigration policies currently in place.

“The solution is to create a place where people can practice their religions in peace,” he said. “If [refugees] have been waiting in line for two years, we owe it to them to look at their applications because at some point, someone looked at ours.”

After his performance, Minhaj sat down with The Lantern for an exclusive interview, and discussed a number of topics, such as the importance of speaking for young adults.

“There is this really cool intersection between culture and academics that you only get that at universities rather than performing at a comedy club,” he said. “All these topics that are discussed at universities were talked about through a comedic lens, which I think could only be done in environments like this.”  

Joining The Daily Show as a correspondent in 2014, Minhaj became a political commentator and satirist.

He also was the speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a job that numerous comedians turned down in light of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Minhaj noted that comedians and political satirists have tapped into ways to report on current politics.

“Comedians, I think, in this day and age have found a really unique way to say ‘All right, we’re not only comedians, but we’re also going to be librarians. We’re going to break down this stuff in a real, tactile, meaningful way,'” he said. 

With the release of his Netflix comedy special, “Homecoming King,” this past summer, Minhaj rapidly gained popularity for not only his comedic ability, but also his social commentary on racism in America and the authenticity of his experience growing up as a minority and second-generation American.

“Hopefully while I have this position, I will see more people like me and people from other backgrounds come in and add their story, too,” Minhaj said. “I just hope that everything I do is true and authentic and the work that I do opens up a door to new voices that want to come in and share their story.”

Minhaj acknowledged he serves as a role model for minority students who wish to pursue comedy. He also recognized his impact on people who relate to his everyday struggles as a targeted minority, which he reflects in his comedy.

“The decisions I make for standing up for myself or choosing not to, I want it to be shaped by what I feel my true north star is,” he said. “And as long as I didn’t compromise that, I can go to bed at night. Be unapologetically yourself. If there’s anything I can do to open the door a little bit more to help [minorities] get a shot and get in the door and share their stories, that’s all I want to do.”

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