By Tanisha Bhat (‘20)
As the political divide within the country continues to grow, many celebrities have started to publicly express their political views through social media and television. Late night talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert often talk about the current situation in politics and offer their stance on relevant issues. But one show has stood out among the dozens of other political television programs: the new Netflix show, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
Patriot Act, released in October of 2018, tackles controversial news that is often not on the front page of newspapers but still affects millions of people. The current season will contain seven episodes with a new episode uploaded every Sunday.
Minhaj is able to combine relevant events with comedy in order to inform his audience about the ongoing issues of the country while entertaining them at the same time.
Junior Nikhita Borkar said Patriot Act is different from other shows because “Most comedy show hosts are Caucasian and/or Christians and [Minhaj] utilizes his background as a Muslim Indian to bring a different perspective on the issue he discusses.”
The first episode is about the recent federal court case Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard that has made headlines across the nation. Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA), a group lead by activist Edward Blum, sued Harvard University on behalf of Asian American students claiming that they held a higher application standard for Asian students than for applicants of other races.
Minhaj takes on this issue by showing his audience the truth of Harvard’s admission practices when it comes to Asian American applicants and how the percentage of Asian Americans in Harvard has actually been increasing. He sheds a light on the importance of Affirmative Action and recounts his own experience while applying for college, specifically how he followed the practice of not mentioning his race in his applications because of the false assumption that colleges accept people only based on their race and not their merit.
Minhaj then decided to tackle the topic of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia through the Jamal Khashoggi case in his second episode. Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, was brutally murdered in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. The government of Saudi Arabia is allegedly accused since the murder happened at their embassy and Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the crown prince.
In this particular episode, Minhaj does not spend too much time about the actual murder and instead talks about the recent actions of the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Minhaj highlights the progressive acts made under MBS like women getting the right to drive, but also shows the human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia with impunity.
The show has been very well-received among critics and SBHS students alike.
A top critic from Vox, Karen Han, said, “[Patriot Act] Addresses issues like anti-black sentiments in Asian immigrant communities, which is a thorny subject that’s rarely (if ever) so explicitly addressed in popular media and [Minhaj] does it all without making any of his discussion topics seem like the domain of an "other.”
Brendan Gallagher of The Daily Dot said, “At a moment when everyone seems to be talking, Hasan Minhaj has a voice actually worth listening to.”
Additionally, reviewers commented on how Minhaj’s style of hosting the show is different from many other political comedy shows where the hosts typically sit behind desks.
A top critic from Salon.com, Melanie McFarland, said, “The stand-up adjacent style of "Patriot Act" feels livelier and more original than other satirical series mimicking the traditions and conceits of the evening news.”
Many SBHS students also had a variety of opinions on the popular new Netflix show.
Junior Nivedita Krishnakumar said that she enjoys watching the show because “It’s humorous” and “there are jokes regarding the Indian culture that are not there in other shows.”
Krishnakumar’s favorite episode so far is the one about Affirmative Action because it was the most relatable to her.
Other students viewed the show as a way to be informed about social issues while being entertained at the same time.
Junior Rithika Ravula said, “[Minhaj] says things that [many people] want to say but are afraid of offending someone. I like how it is light hearted but very informative and it helps the audience be aware of the current events without having to read an article or watch a boring documentary.”
To Ravula, one thing that sets the show apart from other political comedies shows is that “[Minhaj] talks about news worldwide whereas other political comedy shows focus on the USA; more specifically, Trump.”
Although it may seem that Minhaj just appeared out of the blue, he has actually been a well established comedian prior to the release of Patriot Act.
Hasan Minhaj was born in Davis, California in 1985 to two Indian immigrant parents, Seema and Najme Minhaj. He majored in political science at The University of California before deciding stand up comedy was his calling. Minhaj got his big break when he was casted by Jon Stewart to be a correspondent on The Daily Show in 2014. In May of 2017, Minhaj’s comedy special, Homecoming King, was released on Netflix and was well received by viewers and critics alike. In the special, Minhaj describes his experience being brought up in America by immigrant parents and the various obstacles he faced due to the color of his skin.
He then went on to host the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner and delivered jokes regarding the political climate at the time. Towards the end of 2018, Minhaj left The Daily Show in order to host Patriot Act weekly.