By Aisha Sharipzhan
One minute the room was cheering with laughter and then the next minute it was silent — Hasan Minhaj had full control of the audience’s emotions at Ritchie Coliseum Oct. 26.
The Indian-Muslim comedian delivered 40 minutes of thought-provoking stand up for the 8 p.m. SEE Homecoming Comedy Show, touching on subjects such as the refugee crisis and Islamophobia.
Minhaj’s narrative resonated strongly with people of color, immigrants and Muslims in the audience. Maryland Technology Center employee Ammar Ali, 25, said he was happy to see someone who looked like him and shared his background up on stage.
“I don’t think I’ve had that opportunity ever,” he said.
Using creative analogies to real life issues, Minhaj’s humor had people laughing on the edge of their seats while at the same time acknowledging and relating to the reality behind his jokes.
Minhaj told a story about being on a plane and panicking when he saw a guy pull out a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a device that the crowd knew was infamous for catching fire.
“Every time a cell phone blows up it just happens to be a Samsung,” Minhaj joked. “This is an Apple country!”
A clear analogy to being profiled as a Muslim, the joke quickly turned serious as Minhaj compared this irrational thought process to “the fear of terrorism.”
On the screen behind Minhaj appeared a photo of refugees desperate to reach shore. The crowd was silent, understanding Minhaj’s message. These aren’t simply jokes; this is real.
“Hasan Minhaj does a really good job of building it up in a way that when he brings up his main point, no one is shell shocked by his absolute truth,” senior neurophysiology major Areeba Mushtaq said. “It’s [told] in a humorous way but he still portrays the analogies in a really respectful, non-obtrusive way.”
Unique to Minhaj’s performance was his use of visuals, reminiscent of “The Daily Show’s” style, as graphics flashed behind him to supplement his anecdotes. Minhaj made fun of people’s exaggerated fear of terrorism, providing charts and statistics to show that “you are more likely to die from furniture” than terrorism. Also on the chart was the category of being buried alive.
“Buried alive?!” Minhaj said. “Why are white people burying each other alive?”
Atif Munawar, a 2011 UMD alum, felt the show was cleverly put together, combining research with comedy in a hilarious yet powerful way.
“Being an immigrant from South Asia, you make connections with [Minhaj’s jokes],” Munawar said. “The way he thinks through problems logically, he mixes emotion with stats and facts… it was very well done.”
Also similar to “The Daily Show”, Minhaj did not hesitate to criticize the media, particularly right-wing media such as Fox News and Alex Jones’ Infowars. While addressing the double standard of labeling a shooter as a “terrorist,” a montage of these media repeatedly described white male shooters as lone wolves.
“How is every white guy part wolf?” Minhaj said. The crowd went from reflective to holding their sides as they laughed.
Minhaj’s final message was supplemented by another media montage of news commentators debating whether refugees had the ability to come in and accept American values. That is not what we should be questioning, Minhaj said. The real question is “whether Americans can accept American values,” he said.
His message was clear. The whole standup routine pointed back to the American Islamophobia that is hurting refugees in need. We owed it to the people desperately trying to make it to America to take a look at their immigration applications, he said as the quiet audience began to clap in agreement.
“He does this great job of making you want to cry, but also making you want to laugh,” senior neurophysiology and public health science double major Samiha Ahmed said.
Despite the abrupt ending to the show, Minhaj proved the power of comedy, leaving a strong impression on a crowd that had a lot of heavy subjects to reflect on.
“Everybody learned something from the show yet enjoying it the whole time,” Ali said. “I think that’s what makes a really great comedian … they are able to present philosophical ideas without you really realizing that you’re questioning your own thoughts or beliefs … anyone who was in the audience that may have had a change of heart, I think it’s beautiful that it was through comedy.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hasan Minhaj’s Facebook page.
Aisha Sharipzhan is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.