Comedian and former “Patriot Act” host Hasan Minhaj made up some alarming stories in his stand-up routine, including one about rushing his daughter to the hospital because of feared anthrax exposure, he admitted in one too New Yorker profile Published Friday.
This story, which he included in his 2022 Netflix stand-up special “The King’s Jester,” involves Minhaj receiving an envelope full of white powder that he thought was anthrax, and the then poured out on his little daughter. He and his wife rushed her to the hospital, he said, where doctors told him the powder was not anthrax.
Much of it never actually happened, Minhaj, 37, confessed when The New Yorker confronted him with the fact that there were no police reports or hospital records and that the front desk and mailroom employees in his apartment had no memory of the incident would have. He continues to receive the powder, but admits that none of it reached his daughter and that there was no hospital visit. When it happened, he recalled, he joked to his wife, “Holy crap. What if this was anthrax?”
But he didn’t just tell the anthrax story in his stand-up. Minhaj answered questions about the experience in a Daily Beast Interview last year and emphasized his fear for his daughter.
“What you say and do has consequences,” Minhaj said. “And when it hurts the people who count on you the most and someone as innocent as my daughter, I really have to reevaluate and reexamine what I’m doing here.
He admitted that threatening tweets he showed on a screen during “The King’s Jester” were “amplified for comedic effect,” as The New Yorker put it.
The profile focuses on several instances in which Minhaj fabricated or exaggerated stories, and it questions whether his distortion of facts exceeds the creative freedoms that fans have come to expect from comedians and makes people think about the reality of social issues Doubts about justice – the focus of much of Minhaj’s comedy.
One such case concerns the central story in his 2017 Netflix special “Homecoming King,” in which Minhaj, a second-generation Muslim and Indian American, recounts his request from a white friend to take him to the prom just for him in high school has accepted to show up at her door the night of the dance to see another boy as her date. According to Minhaj, her parents did not want their daughter to take prom photos with him because of his race.
That woman has since come forward to say that Minhaj did not adequately protect her identity and that her family was drugged and received death threats from his fans. Furthermore, she says that she didn’t accept Minhaj’s request for a prom date at all.
Minhaj admitted to The New Yorker that while she never agreed to go to prom with him, there was an “emotional truth” to the story he told in “Homecoming King” and that each of them had a different understanding of what happened her rejection. “There are so many other children who have had a similar experience on their doorstep,” he said.
Another story minted by Minhaj in his 2022 feature featured a white undercover FBI informant who infiltrated his family’s mosque in the Sacramento area, pretending to be a brother Eric who had converted to Islam. According to the story, Brother Eric tried to get Minhaj and other male community members to talk about jihad, and Minhaj, knowing Brother Eric’s ploy, responded that he was applying to get his pilot’s license. Shortly afterward, they say, police showed up and slammed Minhaj on the hood of a car.
In the special, Minhaj even showed news footage of an FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, who had infiltrated Muslim communities. But Monteilh told The New Yorker that he had never had anything to do with Minhaj’s mosque, had never worked in the Sacramento area and that he had “no idea why.” [Minhaj] would do that.”
In the profile, Minhaj says he linked Monteilh’s story to a real-life experience he had as a child when he was pushed by an older man during a basketball game. “The punchline is worth the fictional premise,” he said.
Minhaj entered statement to Variety defends his storytelling.
“All of my stand-up stories are based on events that happened to me,” he said. “Yes, I was excluded from prom because of my ethnicity. Yes, a letter was sent to my apartment with powder that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had contact with law enforcement during the War on Terror.”
He continued, “I use the tools of standup comedy – exaggeration, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent in the art form.”