For the live Election Night episode of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah," correspondent Hasan Minhaj wrote a sketch in which he would appear, via green screen, at a Donald Trump concession party. "Whoa, for a concession party, it is hot in here," Minhaj would say as footage of a Ku Klux Klan cross burning appeared behind him. Noah's reply: "Hasan, I don't think that's hot in a good way."
That segment, informed by pro-Clinton polling data and written hours before election results began streaming in at 7 p.m., never aired. When Minhaj, Noah and "Daily Show" producers realized that Trump would clinch the presidency, they hastily rewrote the entire show two hours before airtime.
"That whole funny, correspondent's wink to the camera became irrelevant. Donald Trump won," Minhaj recalls by phone in New York. "Trump legitimizing these hate groups was valid. It wasn't satirical anymore. We ended up doing a chat with [correspondent] Roy [Wood Jr.] at the desk, and I tried to internalize how I felt about it. This is the mascot America chose to represent what we believe in the most."
Minhaj, 31, has plenty of reasons to condemn the president-elect ahead of his inauguration in January, and one of them — Trump's stance on immigration — underlines "Homecoming King," the comedian's one-man show appearing Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. An autobiographical piece set during Minhaj's childhood and high-school years, the standup comic riffs on growing up a first-generation immigrant in Davis, Calif. ("not a super-diverse place," Minhaj says) and recalls when a white girl asked him to prom, and the racial backlash that followed.
Recalling that prom night, which ended in disaster, Minhaj says he defied his father's edict about no dating before medical school. "I hopped out the shower, put on my suit, and put on my Michael Jordan cologne. Six puffs, one for each championship," Minhaj says, invoking two lines from his show. When he knocked on the front door to his date's house, a girl named Bethany Reed, the water-polo team captain was already there, pinning a corsage to Reed's wrist. Reed's mother told Minhaj that he "wasn't a good fit" and asked him to leave.
"The show centers around this love story, my distinct ethnic background and the first person I fell in love with," says Minhaj, who is Muslim and Indian-American. "The reason I picked that story is because when we talk about race, politics, forgiveness in America, it can get heated. But when we make it specific to our experiences, I'm not toeing any partisan line when I tell you about my love life, and why it didn't work because of racism."
Minhaj's father, a strict and strong-headed figure who refused to let his son play football or attend movies, plays a vital role in "Homecoming King," Minhaj says. His mother spent the first eight years of her son's life in India attending medical school, leaving his father alone and confused in America, and not acting as the mentor Minhaj needed.
"Dad was the only brown guy at his office, and I was the only brown guy at my school, so it was really the two of us making it," Minhaj recalls. "It wasn't an ideal situation, and I realized they sacrificed a lot for us all to be together, which is why this show is like an immigrant's love letter to America."
Much of "Homecoming King" came together before Minhaj joined "The Daily Show," one of Jon Stewart's last correspondent hires before leaving in August 2015. After an invitation to read his prom story on "The Moth Radio Hour" (theme: "Heartbreak"), a friend asked him to flesh out the narrative. After "The Daily Show" hired him, Minhaj expanded the story into a one-man show, which debuted off-Broadway in October 2015.
Much of Minhaj's creative energy and standup comedy is woven into his segments on "The Daily Show," which he says has grown tauter and more focused "under Trevor Noah's administration."
"I always felt with Jon, it was like working with Jewish Yoda, and we were the young Padawan learning from him. Now, with Trevor, it's like working with a contemporary, a comedy brother. It's very collaborative," Minhaj says, adding that a recent sit-down with right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren revealed the "graciousness, kindness but firmness that Trevor showed, and I was really proud of him."
Unlike "The Daily Show," "Homecoming King" is designed to be apolitical, Minhaj says. But his upbringing leaves him anxious about Trump and his incoming administration, he says.
"I'm scared to think about what he's planning to do to immigrants," Minhaj says. "If I'm to judge him based on his policy positions before getting elected — his rhetoric about building a wall, a Muslim ban — that's frightening. What I'm trying to do is to channel that anxiety and channel it into the positive message on my show."
"Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King" will take place 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $27.50-$37.50. Call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.
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