Indian American comedian and “The Daily Show” correspondent Hasan Minhaj will be premiering his Off-Broadway show, “Homecoming King,” this October. (Ty Watkins photo)
By Sonia Waraich
SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj has been telling it how it is since the beginning of his comedy career, so you can expect some more of the truth in his upcoming autobiographical one-man show, “Homecoming King,” which he will perform at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal July 23 to 26 before premiering it Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater in October.
“Growing up, going to school, being around certain friends and having a part-time job, one thing I noticed is that in all aspects of life you have to tell a certain line,” Minhaj, of “The Daily Show” fame, told India-West.
The 29-year-old Davis, Calif., native explained how if you work at Office Max, for instance, you have to tell customers that your printer is the best even if customers could get a better deal elsewhere.
“Stand-up is one of the few things where you can get up on stage and be like, ‘Hey, this is b.s. and don’t you guys see it,’” he said, “and everybody through their applause and laughter agrees or disagrees with you.”
The comedian said he first saw stand-up’s potential to use humor to talk about real issues when he went over to a friend’s house and saw a Chris Rock special when he was a political science student at the University of California, Davis.
“He was talking about race, he was critical of the current administration, he was talking about the war and life and marriage in really, really cutting ways,” Minhaj said. “It was something I had never seen before.”
Scrapping the idea of becoming a lawyer, which is what his parents expected of him, Minhaj began traveling wherever he could perform in the Bay Area to become the best comedian he could be.
“I would drive wherever there were gigs in the Bay Area, and so I would be putting miles on the Camry going back and forth from Davis,” he told India-West. “I was commuting like I had a tech job in the Bay Area.”
Working hard paid off for the comedian, who ended up winning a contest that allowed him to open for the Wild 94.9 Comedy Jam, an annual Bay Area comedy festival.
“I only got to do five minutes at 7 o’clock and you know the sun was still out, but it was a big accomplishment for me because it was a moment where I was like, ‘Hey I’ve arrived. I’m one of the better comics in the Bay Area,’” he said.
Minhaj will be returning to San Francisco with “The Daily Show” correspondents Al Madrigal and Jordan Klepper to perform at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco Aug. 6 to 8.
In 2009, Minhaj ended up moving to Los Angeles when he won NBC’s Stand-Up For Diversity Initiative, which also gave him the opportunity to perform at colleges around the country.
He soon began making his way onto television with an appearance on “Chelsea Lately” and roles on “Disaster Date” and “State of Georgia,” eventually hosting his own show in 2013 on MTV, “Failosophy,” which only lasted one season.
“Just getting onto a television show is really difficult,” Minhaj told India-West. “Whether that show is crap or not … and whether it stays on the air is a whole other challenge in itself.”
At the same time, Minhaj began making his own videos with three friends, Asif Ali, Fahim Anwar and Aristotle Athiras, as a part of the group Goat Face. Their videos began to go viral and get them recognition.
“The Truth with Hasan Minhaj,” in particular, got him enough recognition to land a job as the host of “Stand-Up Planet,” a documentary that explored comedy in areas facing considerable adversity.
Now on the “The Daily Show,” combining humor with important information is something Minhaj does regularly. Though Jon Stewart’s last day on air is fast approaching, Minhaj explained how watching Stewart is akin to watching Michael Jordan.
“He’s phenomenal from his ability to dissect the issues to going into bits and being funny and then going back to the issues,” he said.
Though Minhaj is interested in acting as well, he said, “At the moment I just want to be the best possible correspondent I can be on the show.”
This story originally appeared on India West.