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'The Daily Show' comedian Hasan Minhaj puts his life onstage

15 October 2015, 19:02

New York - On a small downtown stage, comedian Hasan Minhaj is practicing for his latest gig. He wonders aloud: What do immigrants love? Then he answers himself.

"They love secrets. They love them! They love bottling them up inside and then unleashing them on you when it's no longer relevant," he said.

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"'What? Mom's a communist? Dad's a ninja? Why are you telling me this now?' I feel like every conversation with my father is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, 90 minutes of buildup to no pay off."

Minhaj, a correspondent with "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central has turned his sharp, satirical skills to his own life in a one-man show "Homecoming King," which starts Thursday at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

It's a show about a first-generation Indian-American navigating between those two worlds but never completely at ease in either. His humor has that fish-out-of-water feel.

"I'm an Indian-American, Muslim comedian that's married to a girl that's Hindu. I'm constantly outside every single community," he said in an interview. "You constantly are like, 'Am I crazy?' coupled with 'Wait, you guys are seeing this, right?'"

The show explores his experiences growing up in northern California with bullies, being slapped by his parents, discovering a sister he knew nothing about and his long walks home from school because he was shunned from carpools.

The young Minhaj eagerly embraced everything about America from Capri Sun to "Ghostbuster" toy proton packs and BMX bikes but America didn't always embrace him back.

"I don't think I would have done this show if I would have been accepted into the carpools," he said. "If I was inside those Toyota Previas, this show would have never happened."

One searing memory is the time he tried to bring a white girl to his senior prom but was quietly told by her mother: "We're taking pictures tonight, and we don't think it'll be a good fit."

He got her not-so-subtle message and it stuck: "People like me don't go to prom," he said. "Let's be honest: I'm a brown kid. I don't see myself in movie posters."

Minhaj cites as his biggest influences the writer Junot Diaz and the storytelling of hip-hop. His comedic idols are Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and former boss Jon Stewart.

The one-man show came into focus after his marriage in January that crosses cultural and religious divides. He spent so long fighting to be with his love that when it finally happened, he began to look back.

"To me, it represented this huge mental and emotional shift in my life," he said. "There was a lot of growing up and now I feel like there's a lot of, 'OK, what are we fighting for and where are we going?'"

Minhaj, 30, also is busy with "The Daily Show," having mocked everything from the pope to robot journalists. He's gone through the transition of hosts from Stewart to Trevor Noah and said the show has rediscovered its ensemble roots.

Fittingly, Minhaj is so steeped in American culture that he references both "Star Wars" and a classic Matthew Broderick movie to explain Stewart's legacy on the show.

"We've hit the reset button. He's trained all us young Padawans how to use our light sabers and how to do what Jedis do," he said. "And, a la 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' he's like, 'Here's the keys to the Lamborghini. Feel free to drive it.'"

- AP


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