Stand-Up Meets Story: Hasan Hits A Home(coming) Run

The Messy Artist reviews Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.

Take a minute to try and understand the levels of pride I feel seeing this image. (via @SamSpratt on Twitter)
Donald Trump is white ISIS. WISIS!

This is one of the very first jokes I remember hearing from Hasan Minhaj on The Daily Show. While he was well-established as a Daily Show correspondent at that point, that segment was where a curious Messy Artist first stumbled upon the elder Minhaj sibling.

Ever since then, I’ve been a huge fan of Hasan Minhaj. Be it his old homemade YouTube videos, witty banter with Daily Show host Trevor Noah, or #BrownPeopleProblems jokes that are hilariously easy to relate to, Minhaj rarely misses a beat. He’s quickly become one of my favourite comedians today.

It’s that last point of relation that is most important when it comes to this new stand-up special. On the surface, Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King looks like any other comic’s Netflix Original: flashy thumbnail, big name, mildly intriguing description, the works. A few minutes in, however, and one begins to see that this special is unlike others; this one is explicitly for us. For every young Muslim, every kid of South-Asian descent, every acha bacha elder sibling, Hasan tells his story.

He even kinda said so himself:

Now, while having a comedy special directly targeted at my personal demographic is amazing, I understand that this targeting begets a somewhat important question. That is, since this special works best for a young audience of South-Asian descent, does that mean it’s not for anyone else?

Absolutely not.

Perhaps the greatest triumph of Homecoming King is Minhaj’s ability to make almost every joke resonate with just about anyone. Regardless of one’s creed, colour, or political standing, everyone can find something to connect with in this set. Ever been wronged by a girl? We got you covered. Ever felt too much pressure from your parents? We got you covered. Ever experienced racism? We got you so covered, even white people might feel it.

Enough praising preamble. Let’s get into this.

En route to the review actually starting… (via @SamSpratt on Twitter)

To start off simply, the set is downright hilarious. Hasan covers a variety of topics, from brotherhood to religion to dealing with girls when Muslim and in high school. What’s more, he does so in the framework of his own life story, from birth to the very moment in which he performs the special. Be it veiled racism, unexpected siblings, or even ridiculously long names, Minhaj never drops the ball in Homecoming King.

That framework of his life story is an important part of the set. Whereas a typical stand-up special will have a comedian bouncing from topic to topic, often with the use of personal anecdotes, Hasan instead bounces from life chapter to life chapter, with a smattering of jokes in each tale. This different style of storytelling makes for an engrossing special; as we move through key chapters of Minhaj’s life, an engaging narrative is formed. After starting with jokes about his own recent marriage, the comedian segues into that of his parents, from their first meeting to his birth. And thus, the story of the Homecoming King begins.

It’s just good storytelling. Though an English major, I find no need to add any grandeur to my description of Hasan’s storytelling style. It speaks volumes for itself. Even aside from the humour, Minhaj adds both flair and emotional impact to his narrative through actions such as looking right into the camera when making key points about major issues. By utilising this technique, Hasan not only drives his points home, he manages to connect both with the audience in front of his stage and those watching the special on Netflix. Emotional significance while properly addressing multiple audiences is difficult to achieve, but Minhaj does so easily.

He’s talking to you. And me. And them. Okay this is harder than I thought…

Then there’s the aforementioned point of being able to relate. As I said, this special is undeniably geared towards my own demographic: the first-generation South Asian youth living in the West. We were born here, yet we still struggled with accepting our ancestral cultures, with “fitting in” in school, with finding representation of ourselves on TV. At least, I did, to an extent that is common among many of my peers. Nowadays, finding good representation of us in the media isn’t nearly as difficult as before. With Hasan, however, the answer to our desire for representation reaches (in my opinion) its peak.

Minhaj strikes gold by tapping into this first-gen grief. By taking our shared problems and looking at them from a comedic perspective, he makes us laugh at things we would never have thought to be that funny. Sure, many of us crack jokes over our similar parental grievances, but few have done so in such a detailed and relentless manner. I was happy to find so many points that resonated with me throughout the set. While my own parents aren’t nearly as archetypal as Hasan makes his father out to be, they’re not immune to every stereotype and trope he throws out. I often found myself looking up from my screen, image of my parents in mind, thinking “lmao same tho.” It was a fun time.

On the note of family, another strength of this special is how surprisingly evocative it can be. Though I wasn’t taken aback at the inclusion of emotional tidbits, I wasn’t expecting them to be so hard-hitting either. While the story of his sister Ayesha is often funny, Hasan manages on more than one occasion to make us feel deeply for the younger Minhaj. The story of the bike makes us feel sorry for her, while the story of her saving her brother’s marriage makes us as proud of her as Hasan himself. It’s truly heartwarming stuff, even managing to almost drive me to tears when he ends Ayesha’s tale by saying “I couldn’t have been more proud to be her Hasan bhai.”

*sniffles* You beautiful little darpok.

The beauty of brotherhood is just one of the life lessons Hasan teaches us with this special. Humility, love and respect for our parents, maturity with closure, and acceptance of mistakes all make the cut. Homecoming King is warm, loving, intelligent, and bloody hilarious.

I wish I could write more about this special. Not only does Hasan perfectly capture the views of the millennial Muslim, he does so in the form of a story so admirable I couldn’t help but clap at my screen when the credits rolled. However, to say anything further would require spoilers, and to write spoilers would be an injustice to this special.

Do check out Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King on Netflix. It truly has a special place in my heart.

Till next we meet,
Sarim