Hasan Minhaj on the Danger of Social Media, When to Put Family in His Act and Whether He Wants to Host The Daily Show
Hasan Minhaj is open to the idea of hosting “The Daily Show” — but it’s not a decision he would make alone. “That’s a family conversation now,” Minhaj tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. “It’s a very different conversation then when I first got hired at the show, when I was 29. My life is in a very different place. And so that’s a bigger convo.”
Minhaj’s recent Netflix stand-up special, “The King’s Jester,” includes a deeply personal look by the comedian at the evolution of his family, from being infertile to eventually raising two children with his life — and how that has changed a lot of things in his life, including his career choices and his on-stage routines.
“Other people have to live with the consequences of what I say,” he notes. “And I just want to make sure everybody if that were to ever come to fruition. ‘Hey, are we all on board with this?’”
In our wide-ranging conversation with Minhaj, we touch on parenthood, mortality, Twitter, “The Daily Show,” tussling with Saudi Arabia, his upcoming movie and so much more. Listen below!
“The King’s Jester” tackles a wide range of subjects, including the effect of social media and “clout” on the brain. Minhaj shot his special long before Elon Musk took control of Twitter, but what has happened to that service in recent months makes Minhaj’s perspective all the timelier.
“There’s always been this idea of is the is social media and what happens on social media real or not?” he says. “And I think it’s safe to say now that tweets and what you see on the internet is used in congressional testimony and litigation and lawsuits. It’s no different than fiat currency. It’s the same amorphous idea. But it’s real. It’s both of those things. It’s nothing and everything at the same time. And I learned that in my years at ‘The Daily Show,’ when I saw the rise of Donald Trump. I was like, Oh, wow, you can use and manipulate this thing to create something that was ostensibly nothing into something.
“It has a profound effect on me,” he says. “You see the likes, the comments, the retweets, the engagement. And in a way, it has root access to your brain starting at 8:15 in the morning.”
Asked what’s on or off limits with his wife and kids when it comes to his routine, Minhaj says it’s been a learning process. “The thing I’ve talked to my partner about is, as she told me, ‘you get to say whatever you want on stage, and we have to live with the consequences.’ And there’s oftentimes a frustration, which I understand is, it feels like I get to be driving the steering wheel of our family’s life with maximum amount of agency,” he says. “And they get very little of that. Fundamentally, isn’t fair.
“So, the rule I’ve had with my with my wife is, ‘Hey, is it cool? If I open mic and workshop this at the comedy clubs, but before it goes to theaters, or Netflix? Can we go over the Google Doc, and say, yea or nay,’” he adds. “It’s having the artistic freedom to say and be whoever I want to be. But then for us, before we hit publish, for us as a family to go, ‘Hey, are we cool with this because once we hit play on this, it crosses this Rubicon.”
As for his recent experience returning to “The Daily Show,” Minhaj said he was surprised at “how fun” guest hosting was. “I’ve loved seeing the gamut of talent, between someone like Leslie Jones, and then Marlon Wayans, and then John Leguizamo, to Chelsea Handler to Sarah Silverman, and everybody’s got their own different take or spin on things,” he says. “And I think it definitely has added a level of unpredictability to the to the form.”
Despite some of the dark headlines about the world around us these days, Minhaj says he remains optimistic about the future. “And in a weird way, as a guy who’s built his career off of making jokes about the headlines, if you actually take the time to zoom out, 10,000, 20,000 30,000 feet out, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished,” he says.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.
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