“We’re part of the Brown Illuminati,” Minhaj announced.
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Penn added, “Yes, Priyanka and Mindy were not available — but we’re here!”
They sat down and Minhaj immediately jokingly asked the audience, “Who of you can tell us apart?” One person raised their hand as the audience laughed before they showed an image of them with fellow South Asian comedians Hari Kondabolu, Aasif Mandvi and Joe Biden.
The conversation then led to world leaders — specifically Justin Trudeau. “We both came dressed like him today,” quipped Minhaj. It took a while for the audience to catch on to the crack referring to the brown face controversy the Canadian Prime Minister was faced with earlier this year.
A clip from Patriot Act was played and featured Minhaj interviewing Trudeau and playfully grilling him about his questionable choices as Prime Minister — particularly his arms sales to Saudi Arabia. From this, Penn asked Minhaj, “What do we do imperfect progressives?”
Minhaj pointed ou that the clip was filmed months ago and was designed to talk about the Canadian election. He said that even though Trudeau was the better, trustworthy candidate he is always looking for ways to “look past the big dings.” Minhaj adds “We were trying to figure that out and that was the debate in the writers’ room.”
“Politics has become a binary thing,” he said. “It’s an interesting space and it’s about poking both sides equally.”
Minhaj talked about how he approaches his weekly Netflix show, the topics he covers and how he handles them. He referenced advice given to him by writer and producer Larry Wilmore before he hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“Change things within the building or outside the building,” he said. Wilmore also told Minhaj that he was a compelling enough guy to make things his own. Since then, he has.
With Patriot Act, Minhaj does jokes and covers news about things that scare him a little bit. Above all, he wants ease of access with the news he reports on — which is why it is on Netflix. “Our show is a news-driven show,” Minhaj points out. “It should be easily accessible as possible on the easiest platform.” He said that Netflix gives them a lot of freedom on social media which allows them to go beyond the streaming platform.
“News is news only if it’s shared,” he said. “If not, it’s a secret.” He continues to say that there shouldn’t be a paywall with news and with Patriot Act there is stuff on Netflix but also they have a social reach that is free to everyone.
Minhaj said that with all the jokes, comedy and satire in media prodding at the issues in the news, “there is not one joke that will change things.” Even though there are thousands of jokes, many of them don’t have any impact but it doesn’t negate the impact of the art.
“Comedy as an art form is built on pressure and releasing pressure, through a punchline,” said Mihaj. “The key is figuring out the thing that’s going to cut the pressure.”