Hasan Minhaj calls attention to refugees in his stand-up

Minhaj performs at MIT to sold-out audience

Hasan Minhaj performed at Kresge Auditorium last Saturday at 8 p.m. as a part of MIT Undergraduate Association’s FallFest.

Hasan Minhaj is an American comedian, best known for serving as the MC for the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner and his Netflix stand-up comedy special, the Homecoming King. Minhaj currently serves as a Senior Correspondent on The Daily Show.

This comedian and political activist was well-received by the MIT community. In fact, his show at MIT last Saturday was sold out weeks in advance, and attendees began lining up outside Kresge at 6 p.m.

Audience members were generally restless during the opening act for Minhaj —a 30-minute stand-up routine by James Austin Johnson, a comedian from Los Angeles.

“Anything seemed funny after that,” one student told The Tech.

Minhaj presented a roughly 30-minute set accompanied by a slideshow presentation. He later opened up the floor to a question and answer session with the audience.

Minhaj opened his set by recounting his flight back to New York City from Alabama. He explained how the other passengers on the plane were uncomfortable with Minhaj’s mother speaking to him in Urdu on speaker phone.

He recalled feeling guilty for responding in English and quickly hanging up on his mother. He then pointed out that he saw a fellow passenger using a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on the flight. Minhaj wondered why this phone wasn’t making anybody else uncomfortable.

He then reasoned that “just because one Samsung Galaxy Note 7 blows up, it doesn’t mean they’re all going to blow up.”

He used this subtle jab to transition into the refugee and immigration debate, and showed several clips from American media outlets that perpetuate the idea that refugees posed a threat to American safety.

In response, he presented a comical comparison of the statistics of the causes of deaths in America, and pointed out how the number of people who have died from less politically-charged causes, such as being buried alive or choking on food, is exponentially higher than those who have died at the hand of a refugee.

Minhaj further lamented the double standard in how we view those who commit acts of extremism — white males who commits acts of terrorism are labeled as “lone wolves,” while people of other races who commit acts of terrorism suddenly come to represent their race as a whole.

Minhaj ended by urging that we give these refugees and immigrants a chance, as our nation was built by refugees and immigrants who were given a chance generations ago.

Audience members were generally impressed by Minhaj’s spontaneity during the question and answer session.

Attendees lined up at the mic and asked Minhaj several questions, ranging from how he balances his roles as both a comedian and a political activist to what his favorite kebab is.

One MIT student asked Minhaj to reveal what question he would like to ask an MIT student, to which Minhaj asked, “How does it feel to know that you’ve made it?” — a response that elicited a long applause from the audience.

Others thanked Minhaj publically for being a role model and working to advocate for not only for the Muslim community but also for other minorities. One audience member even climbed up on stage to given Minhaj a hug.