How Hasan Minhaj is funny with a purpose.
Hasan Minhaj is funny – and he takes that very seriously.
Just being funny isn’t all he’s after, however. Minhaj wants to do more. Following in the footsteps of some of his mentors and predecessors, Minhaj’s comedy routines make a statement.
Named by Time Magazine as one of 2019’s 100 most influential people in the world, Minhaj carries himself with humility and a passion that is driven by a tireless pursuit of truth – a truth he shares with his worldwide audience.
Minhaj recently sat down with Jay Shetty for an interview on his podcast, On Purpose with Jay Shetty. Here are Shetty’s best takeaways from the interview.
Focused From A Young Age
From an early age, Minhaj knew his passion in life was comedy and performing. With a knack for debate, speech, and politics, it’s no surprise that the comedian, actor, and correspondent wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer or grocery store bagger. He was so dialed in on his passion, he was fired from every other job he’s had.
Jay Shetty could relate to struggling to figure out where he fit in too.
“I always joke that I grew up in a family where there were only three main options – a doctor, a lawyer, or a failure,” said Jay Shetty. Thankfully, things panned out for both of them.
That pursuit of his craft has landed Minhaj among some of the most thought-provoking comedians and commentators of our time. He worked under Jon Stewart as a correspondent on The Daily Show, then alongside Trevor Noah after Stewart left. Eventually he went on to host the show. In 2017, he added hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner to the list.
These days, his time on screen is primarily devoted to his hit Netflix show, Patriot Act. He continues to raise the bar for entertainment, respectful dialogue, and thought-provoking comedy.
Away from the camera, he spends time with his wife and daughter, stating that fatherhood is a role that has challenged him to be more honest and selfless.
A Man of Good Faith
Hasan Minhaj acknowledges that creating his content takes special thought and consideration. He’s serious about the responsibility of being a good faith actor who presents truth in a calculated manner. He strives to share the truth in ways that get people to think and is constantly riding the balance between “tell it like it is” and polished dialogue.
“I would say right now the things that drive me the most are saying and doing the things that I did not believe were possible five, 10 or even 15 years ago,” said Minhaj to Jay Shetty. He always strives to do whatever he’s doing in the most honest way possible.
Telling the Truth
For Hasan Minhaj, the relentless pursuit of truth is nothing new. It bleeds over into every area of his life – including his unwillingness to settle. The one non-negotiable in his life is pursuing work he’s passionate about.
“I’ve got to do and pursue what I love,” said Minhaj. “I just have to. If I can't – if I do anything else – I'm going to die.”
Minhaj told Jay Shetty this was obvious about him even in his childhood. His father often remarks that even as a child, he pursued whatever he put his mind to, successful or not. He never gave up and was always trying out for things and putting himself out there, even if he failed. It is this perseverance that pushes him to put it all on the table each day.
“Hopefully while I'm on this earth, I do significant meaningful work I feel is challenging,” said Minhaj.
“That's really it. I'm just holding myself accountable, “Is that the best joke you could really do? Is that the best show you could put together?’”
Minhaj acknowledges his work isn’t always easy. Grappling with tough topics such as gun control, policing, and calling out politicians and large companies can get dicey. Despite the risk, he’s unapologetic in his approach.
Minhaj is able to stand firm in this because of how he has honed his voice. His goal is not just to get the laugh. Sweeping comedy that hits hard just to be funny can leave damage in its wake. Sometimes the power of the message is lost in the comedy chaos, and he wants no part of that.
Minhaj executes his comedy routines with what he calls, “surgical precision”. The secret to being able to hit hard on one specific issue or problem without hurting the individual is to do it with dignity.
“Comedy can be like a sniper shot,” he explained to Jay Shetty. “When you're making people laugh, it's so easy for the audience members to assume that you kind of just went for the easiest shot.”
That’s not Minhaj’s style. Instead of low blows that destroy the person, Minhaj practices precision by calling into light the truth and examining it while still recognizing the person’s humanity.
“I position it like, ‘This is the thing I'm trying to say’ or, ‘This is the thing that I think we need to sort of assess and analyze.’ I love the humanity in that,” Minhaj explained to Jay Shetty, “I feel like that's often missed.”
Minhaj explains his approach puts him in a unique position of drawing people to him even if they may not fully agree with what he says. Presenting the truth kindly upholds dignity for both him and the person listening.
“I've sort of come to terms with two realities,” Minhaj said to Jay Shetty, “Number one, just accepting and believing that the truth is the truth. Even if people don't want to go there, the truth is still the truth. And then number two, my job really isn't to convince you, just to present it.”
People rarely completely disagree with Minhaj on everything or discount his voice entirely. People cannot shy away from the truth in the end, whether they like the facts or not. He rests easy at night knowing he has upheld his end of the work.
“There's just so much satisfaction and contentment in doing the work,” agreed Jay Shetty. “That is such a great place to get your satisfaction. You don't get ever get that taken away.”
Truth is a Team Sport
While it is said that truth stands alone, Hasan Minhaj does not. He is quick to give credit to his team for the content they create. While many will assume he pulls talking points out of his hat, there’s actually a significant amount of work, research, and collaboration that go into what he delivers on screen. Content that rests on truth and introspection is especially crucial for a good faith actor such as Minhaj.
“We really try to tweak and finesse and just really focus on every little detail,” said Minhaj to Jay Shetty, adding that he wishes more people understood how much work goes into what they present.
“I think because of social media, we live very much in a hot take society,” he said. “We've got to beat everybody to the next hot take. How do you get people to also see the beauty in introspection and finessing and refining what you're working on?”
Minhaj told Jay Shetty that he and his team are committed to finding this balance. They have good feet to stand on and the results to show for it
On Humanity With Jay Shetty
The holiday season is creeping closer, and Jay Shetty and Hasan Minhaj both agreed this time of year leaves people stressed. During a season of joy and togetherness, moments of tension and differing opinions can pop up. It’s often challenging to navigate such interactions.
This rub with other people is something that Minhaj has come to expect in his life and work. His key advice comes from the bedrock of his life and work.
“You can still disagree with people and love them very much,” he said.
His commitment to speak the truth while still seeing the humanity in others enables Minhaj to successfully navigate hard topics on the show and in real life. Often he finds himself speaking out against issues that pertain to people that sit in his audience or make up his team. He walks this line with grace and believes this dual commitment is the secret to his success both on the screen and off.
“We have to separate people's humanity from their views, and we have to respect them on a humanity level,” agreed Jay Shetty. “The fact is, we all bleed the same blood. Ideas and beliefs do form us to some degree, but not the whole of us. Being able to make that distinction is so important.”
Hasan Minhaj is a voice to listen to. Whether a person agrees with him 100% or not, his commitment to humanity, while asking hard questions, is a lesson for us all.
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on How to Express Yourself and Take Criticism Positively now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.