Arts & Media

The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is Changing the Landscape and Scope of Comedic News Commentary

By Simone Henry ’22
Staff Writer

The manual titled, “United States Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia (USMTM for Saudi Arabia),” updated June 2018, described the Saudi people as “indigenous tribes” with some “mixture of Negro blood from slaves imported from Africa.” Hasan Minhaj wittedly responded in his new Netflix show, “Oh America. Even in boring technical manuals, you still somehow manage to be racist.”

Hasan Minhaj’s new show shares its name with the controversial anti-terrorism act imposed by George W. Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. The act increased surveillance on U.S. citizens in the name of National Security. The trailer for the show plays off of this idea by acting as the U.S. surveying Minhaj and intercepting his emails and texts. It ends with one man watching him saying, “So, should we frame this guy for murder?,” and his coworker responds, “I don’t know. Let’s wait and see if the show’s any good.”

“The Patriot Act” delivers comical, often brutal, critiques of U.S. politics and culture. Minhaj offers his unique identity as an Indian-American Muslim and as a son of immigrants to connect with wildly underrepresented audiences, and notes the significance as “this idea of being an insider and an outsider at the same time in this country, while holding citizenship and being born in this country… I don’t think we’ve heard enough from that type of voice in this medium.”

After an episode showing the United States Military’s outdated and derogatory language used to describe the Saudi people, the USMTM for Saudi Arabia was taken offline and the military has since offered an apology for the offensive language and sent the manual back for review. Moreover, that same episode has been banned in Saudi Arabia because it exposed the Saudi prince’s direction to kill the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot act first aired Oct. 28, 2018, and it is already making change. His wit and delivery provide the perfect political comedy. His stand-up in 2017, “Homecoming King”, received high praise for insightful humor that provided space for the second-gen immigrant experience in America and, as The New Yorker put it, “expose realities that his monocultural peers can’t, or won’t, perceive.”

What makes Minhaj stand out so significantly is not only his wit, but that “The Patriot Act” is the first major U.S. talk show hosted by a Muslim American, which provides a base to a major, underrepresented portion of our nation.

The Patriot Act has eight episodes and will return Feb. 10 on Netflix.

Image Credit to Variety

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