Comedian, writer, producer and actor Hasan Minhaj spoke to Long Beach State students on May 7, discussing how he embraced his talents and pursued becoming a comedian and television host.
Minhaj is best known for his stand-up comedy special “Homecoming King,” as well as his Netflix comedy talk show “Patriot Act.” In April 2019, Minhaj was listed in Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Minhaj, a son of Indian Muslim immigrant parents, grew up traditionally focusing on school, receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Davis. But, Minhaj gained an interest in comedy and decided to pursue it.
Minhaj said he and his wife took their life savings earned from Comedy Central to shoot an episode on the immigrant and refugee crisis during the 2017 travel ban. He he pitched it to Netflix and received a compelling offer. Minhaj took it and created “Patriot Act.”
“As a child of immigrants, as an Indian American, somebody with a global perspective, I just wanted to be on a global platform where I can talk about global issues to 190 countries around the world,” Minhaj said.
Minhaj discussed the issue of students who are pursuing majors that align with their passion, but feel pressure from their families to pursue a more traditional field.
“We always talk about pursuing your passion, but the way I would fix it a little bit is actually figuring out while you’re in college what your gift is,” Minhaj said. “What is the thing you do the best without really having to try hard?”
Minhaj said he understood public speaking was his gift and he leaned toward it, but used it in a comedic sense. He said that one’s gift is valuable no matter if it’s small or big.
During the event, Minhaj talked about the importance of mental health awareness and how it is important to have someone to talk to, especially a therapist. Minhaj said so many comedians suffer from depression and suicidal ideation.
Growing up with his father was tough for Minhaj because his father saw the world from a “defensive standpoint.” His father would tell him, “don’t do this, don’t say this, don’t make fun at that politician.”
Even though his father saw the world through this “defensive standpoint,” it didn’t stop Minhaj from pursuing comedy. Minhaj soon realized that all the people he admired in popular culture, politics, music and the arts were unapologetically themselves.
Minhaj would take his parents to several events he was invited to as a guest so he can show them the change of generations and that one doesn’t have to apologize for be themselves.
Minhaj also discussed American culture and how it encourages entrepreneurs, which is something he appreciates. For Minhaj, it is important to try and be encouraged to try different things. It’s how he came up as a comedian, he said, by constantly trying and failing.
Currently, Minhaj is wrapping up season two of Apple’s “The Morning Show,” his first time doing a television drama series. He is also working on the follow-up to his comedy special, “Homecoming King.”
As for future accomplishments, Minhaj said he wants to continue to challenge himself, leave his comfort zone, push the medium and stretch culture as far as he can.
“Actually living your life to your fullest potential is winning,” Minhaj said, providing life advice to students throughout the event. “Authenticity, being true to yourself. Whatever that means in your identity, background, passion and who you love. That to me is winning.”