Former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj is ready for his next act
Hasan Minhaj is going through a lot of emotions right now. “It’s giddiness, excitement, stress, joy, all wrapped in one,” the former Daily Show correspondent says of his anticipation in the days leading up to the premiere of his new “comedy investigative visual podcast,” Netflix’s Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj (launching Sunday). “There have been a few moments in my career that have felt like this, but this feels like a culmination of a lot of them.”
Following in the footsteps of past Daily Show alums like Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee, Minhaj is striking out on his own and taking center stage with his own political satire series. As if there’s not enough pressure on the 33-year-old comedian, he’s making history with Patriot Act, becoming the first Indian-American host of a weekly comedy show.
“I revered all the late-night hosts growing up, but they all looked a very specific way,” he says, citing favorites like Conan O’Brien and his former Daily Show boss Jon Stewart. “We were either spoken to or spoken for, and I think this is one of the first times where people will be able to turn on their TV and go, ‘Yes, finally.'”
Uninterested in being in the “reaction and recap business,” releasing an episode weekly — as opposed to daily, like his former show — was crucial to Minhaj when he was preparing for his next move. “My biggest thing is not chasing tweets or headlines,” shares Minhaj, who earned rave reviews for hosting the President Trump-less 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “It’s synthesizing information and condensing it into one comedic essay. That, to me, dictates dialogue and provides value to the viewer more than just playing catch-up on the day.”
For his comedic essays, Minhaj will use the type of visual storytelling that he executed to hilarious results in his 2017 Netflix standup special, Homecoming King. And when it came to Patriot Act, the streaming service once again proved to be the perfect home, affording him the “game-changing” opportunity to both avoid commercial breaks and reach a worldwide audience. “So many things that I think about in terms of my life and my identity in this country speak to both a domestic and global identity,” he says. “We always faced this challenge at The Daily Show of ‘How does that link back to Trump?’ Netflix has so many people watching around the world that I can speak directly to them. I’m looking forward to attacking that white space, where it’s not tied to a presidential tweet or some gaffe at the White House.”
But as much as Netflix appealed to Minhaj, weekly comedy series haven’t appealed to the service’s audience thus far. (The streamer recently canceled attempts from fellow Daily Show alum Michelle Wolf and Joel McHale.) Minhaj isn’t ignorant to this, leading him and his team to investigate how to create a distinctly Netflix show. “To me, the medium is the message,” he shares. “As much as artists want to develop a show in a vacuum, we have to understand where our art is being placed. Quickly, through process of elimination and using the platform itself, we were able to eliminate things that not only weren’t my strengths but wouldn’t do well on the platform. But time will ultimately tell if it works.”
Luckily, he has plenty of that, considering Patriot Act’s initial 32-episode order. “I never would have imagined [this] when I first started doing stand-up,” admits Minhaj. “Over the last five years or so, I’ve become really obsessive about ‘What is the next thing that I want to say?’ Patriot Act has now been a two-year journey and something that I uniquely want to share with the world.”
Now he just hopes the world is listening.