Hasan Minhaj’s ’emotional truth’ is threatening an artist’s responsibility to facts

The New Yorker magazine’s article on Hasan Minhaj’s ‘exaggerated’ lies is part of almost every elite WhatsApp group. On X (formerly Twitter) the article, and the follow-up conversations going around. But, what really happened?

The Amerian magazine points out how Minhaj’s stand-up materials fabricate, exaggerate, and sometimes outright lie about certain anecdotes, and events for dramatic or comic effect. His last stand-up The King’s Jester, is a remarkable stand-up special where he deals with how fame impacted his personal, and toxic reality of social media obsession.  I would recommend you to read the primary article. It is daunting.

There were certain anecdotes which were dramatic, and very impactful. And, some were really hilarious. However, the catch here is that most of them might not have happened. I remember quoting some of them to my friends, thinking that happened for real. But, they didn’t. Or, they didn’t happen as they were narrated.

Who is Hasan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj is an American stand-up comic with roots in India. He has used his Indian experience a.k.a. Desi life for a lot of his stand-up material. There is a lot of association that the Indian diaspora feels towards him, as he questions a lot of American ways through an Indian pov. He is popular for his stint at The Daily Show, and then later landing Netflix’s Patriot Act. The latter garnered him a lot of recognition, and respect. There were reports of a toxic work culture at Hasan’s Netflix-produced show.

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Hasan’s defence

The comic defended himself. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, he said

“All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had an interaction with law enforcement during the war on terror. Yes, I had varicocele repair surgery, so we could get pregnant. Yes, I roasted Jared Kushner to his face. I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories.”

Conclusion

Vir Das’  Netflix special ‘Losing It’, is a really funny stand-up special, where an Indian stand-up comic narrates his unbelieve journey. But, time and again, he questions if the audience should believe everything he is saying. That in a sense is an interesting journey to a moral that we shouldn’t take anything at face value. Although, the more unbelievable the things are, the more we’re tempted to share with more people.

Salman Rushdie, in their book Midnight’s Children, uses the troop of ‘unreliable narrator’ to put forth the point of magical realism.

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‘A lie which is almost a truth is always hard to distinguish’, this is a line from Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Boymkesh Bakshi. There are other kinds of lies too, termed as ‘white lies’. Sam Harris’s book ‘Lying’ explores the dimension of lies in the world, which we tell in situations where the truth will be more harmful.

But, at what point did we give the responsibility to the comics to tell the facts, or that we should take it at face value? We live in a post-truth world. Manipulation is the new norm, and with social media, the concept of truth or reality is crumbling.

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