'Patriot Act': Hasan Minhaj's one-man political comedy on Netflix is a win for Indian representation

'Patriot Act': Hasan Minhaj's one-man political comedy on Netflix is a win for Indian representation

New perspectives

Text: Aravin Sandran

Who: A first-generation Indian-American Muslim, Hasan Minhaj's claim to fame began at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah where he was a senior correspondent, but he really got people talking when he hosted the White House Correspondent's Dinner in 2017. The political science graduate went on to get a Netflix stand-up special called Homecoming King, which recounted many of his personal experiences growing up as a brown kid in a predominantly white neighbourhood. 

What: Launched on 28 October, Patriot Act is the first-ever late-night talk show that's hosted by an Indian-American. With new episodes dropping every Sunday, the show will offer a bite-sized look into a topic each week — an approach that is similar to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The first two episodes see Minhaj tackling a couple of topical subjects: affirmative action and the lawsuit brought forth by Asian-American students against Harvard University as well as American's complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of the recent assassination of a journalist. 

How: The show is basically a PowerPoint presentation on steroids. Instead of sitting behind a mahogany desk in a suit-and-tie combo, Minhaj stands atop a stage — looking fresh as hell in a knit sweater, a pair of tailored trousers and clean Common Project sneakers — with LED screens everywhere, behind him and even on the floor. In Minhaj's own words: "Imagine a Bruno Mars Superbowl halftime performance, but Bruno is doing a TED Talk". 

Why: Patriot Act might sound, well, patriotic, but in fact, it is named after a legislation that former President George W. Bush enacted to increase surveillance on the Muslim community in post-9/11 America. The relevance and resonance of Minhaj's identity as a Muslim Indian-American is sneakily embedded into the show. In front of a live audience that consists of South Asians, he drops cultural references like "lotas", a water vessel used for personal hygiene among Muslims in South Asia, and produces a whole spiel on "shitty Indians" in the current American administration. In a media landscape that has been saturated with news and opinions about the orange man in power, Minhaj's much-need palate-cleansing and self-deprecating perspective — particularly during this racially and politically charged time — is a win not only for Indian-Americans but the entire Indian diaspora.

The first two episodes of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is available on Netflix right now.