By Shreya Vuttaluru
Seeking entertainment amid the stressful pandemic, around 700 viewers tuned into the online stream of SEE’s Homecoming Comedy Show featuring Patriot Act comedian Hasan Minhaj.
Sitting in his basement and dressed in a dark-gray University of Maryland hoodie, Minhaj answered questions from host Sammy Garcia, SEE’s Comedy Director and senior supply chain management major.
“Your energy is infectious,” Minhaj said, joking that Garcia must have taken stimulants to maintain his liveliness.
The first segment of the show began with a general interview. Garcia posed several questions to Minhaj while bonding over their shared experiences with stand-up comedy.
“Those bombs stick with you for the rest of your life,” Minhaj joked after Garcia mentioned a few failed attempts to get a reaction from a crowd during a show.
Although marketed as a comedic event, the segment hit some insightful notes. When asked whether there was a topic that was too painful to joke about, Minhaj brought up how traumatic events often breed tension and discomfort.
“Comedy is a release of tension, so we need it during painful, troubling times,” Minhaj said.
While Garcia and Minhaj continued their discussion, viewers took to the chatroom to express their thoughts throughout the show, commenting on the conversation and engaging with each other.
The event subsequently transitioned into a short question-and-answer session. Eliza White, a sophomore animal science and Spanish major, and Dhilan Shah, a sophomore computer engineering major, each had a chance to ask Minhaj a question.
In response to Shah’s question about subverting common South-Asian tropes, Minaj talked about his efforts to be as authentic as possible to the Desi-American experience.
“I try to put all my energy into speaking for us and putting us on a pedestal…and hopefully I made y’all proud,” Minhaj answered.
Simran Chertara, a junior information systems and OMBA major, enjoyed the interview segment of the show.
“I think the questions at the beginning where we could learn more about him and his perspectives were one of the best parts,” she said. “It was nice that they had a South-Asian student ask questions, but I also wish the conversation went a little further.”
Unique to this edition of SEE’s Homecoming Comedy Show was a game of “Six Picks”—a Pictionary-style game involving one participant naming a word and the remaining participants creating a drawing in six seconds. White and Shah joined Garcia and Minhaj for this segment of the show, taking turns drawing words like “vegetarian,” “Sriracha,” and “capitalism.”
Audience members flooded the chatroom with “#JusticeForDhilan,” claiming that Shah should have received more points for his rendition of Pikachu.
Junior information science major Kirtik Mirg knew that the format of the homecoming show would be a little different this year. Still, he was impressed with the overall production of the show.
“I was expecting more of a Zoom call, so hats off to the SEE team,” Mirg said. “I will say, I have never seen that intense of a game of Pictionary before. ”
Finally, Minhaj took audience questions from SEE’s Instagram story on a wide variety of topics, including reforms to the school system, the role of politics in comedy, college experiences and the legacy he hopes to leave.
“I hope people say he was super real, he brought our story from the margins to the mainstream, and he’s our Hasan Bhai,” Minhaj said, reflecting on his impact in comedy and his role in representing the South-Asian community.
Apoorva Ajith, freshman behavioral and community health major, was slightly disappointed by the format but understood the difficulties in performing without a live audience.
“Hasan Minhaj’s career is so heavily based on telling his story to an audience,” she said. “It helps South-Asian kids feel seen and heard.”
Despite the unconventional format, students appreciated the lighthearted and casual tone of the event amid a stressful semester and rampant Zoom-fatigue.
“It’s great to see that even in the middle of a pandemic that they are doing everything they can to give their students the full UMD experience,” Mirg said. “These past few months we’ve been so accustomed to seeing nothing but a Zoom screen on our laptops. It’s nice to have an event like this.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of SEE’s Facebook page.
Shreya Vuttaluru is a sophomore government politics and journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.