American comedian Hasan Minhaj has confessed that he sometimes tweaks details on stage to add a dramatic effect to his jokes, which are otherwise based on a “seed of truth”.
“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” Minhaj said during an interview with the New Yorker, adding, “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”
However, Minhaj feels that he was not deceiving his audience but rather using the tools of his craft to entertain them. “I use the tools of standup comedy hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories,” he explained.
“That’s inherent to the art form. You wouldn’t go to a haunted house and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’—The point is the ride. Standup is the same.” said the 37-year-old Indian-origin comedian whose 2022 Netflix stand-up special The King’s Jester was an instant hit.
The host of Netflix’s Patriot Act also gave some examples of how he “embellished” his stories for comedic effect.
He recalled a story he told on The King’s Jester about receiving a letter containing white powder and panicking when his daughter got some of it on her. He stated that he hurried her to the hospital, where a doctor informed him that the powder was safe to use. He further claimed that his wife threatened to leave him if he ever put their children in jeopardy again.
The letter containing white powder, according to Minhaj, was genuine, but his daughter was never exposed to it or taken to the hospital. He also clarified that his wife never said such “awful things” to him.
Minhaj explained that he created fictional characters and scenarios for himself in his comedy. “No, I don’t think I’m manipulating. I think they are coming for the emotional roller-coaster ride…To the people that are, like, ‘Yo, that is way too crazy to happen,’ I don’t care because yes, f**k yes — that’s the point.”
“All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter,” he said.