Hasan Minhaj brings digital-age comedy to Just for Laughs

When Hasan Minhaj, host of Netflix’s Patriot Act, takes the Just for Laughs stage on July 26, he will likely surround himself with LED screens. It’s slowly becoming a trademark of his sets: From his parody news comedy to his standup special Homecoming King, information-dense visualizations are everywhere.

“Look at the way we live our everyday lives,” Minhaj said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “We are constantly flagging through and deep-diving for information through LED screens every single day. You’re probably talking to me on your iPhone while you’re looking [at] questions on a MacBook as you have multiple tabs open in your Mozilla or Google Chrome browser.”

Early on, Netflix producers and critics expressed concerns to Minhaj about the format of his show. 

“[People asked me,] ‘Is it going to be too much for people to take in?’” Minhaj said. “And I was like, ‘No, people watch The Avengers on TV while they are Tweeting [and] texting a friend.’ This is just the way we live our lives now. This is the way people consume and think about information.”

Given that Patriot Act is streamed online, Minhaj makes an effort to discuss subjects that are timely and relevant, but also able to withstand the test of time. In a recent episode about internet access inequality, he joked about basketball player Kevin Durant’s recent leg injury, which sparked a loud reaction from his surprised audience.

“I like that dance between timely and timeless,” Minhaj said. “I love the feeling that you can hear [in] the audience when we did that Kevin Durant joke. It was the day after it happened, so people were like ‘Ooh.’ But internet inequality is […] a relatively evergreen topic, [and] the fight for it has been going for a really long time […] I love that dance. I’m a big fan of blurring those lines.”

In Minhaj’s third appearance at Just for Laughs, he will definitely bring the same energy that won Patriot Act so many fans. While Minhaj does not do cold monologue jokes on Patriot Act, his ability to dive quickly and deeply into a subject while building rapport with his audience will prove valuable to making a memorable gala.

“I knew [that] when we click on a piece of content, whether it’s a sports highlight on House of Highlights or just like a clip from SNL, we just want to get to the show,” Minhaj said. “We get right into the story because I know [that] when you’re clicking in, that is the viewer’s expectation. This isn’t the era of having to fill time because you have a time slot and you’re a one-hour variety show. I think we are seeing an end to that era.”

And, after all, returning to Montreal and performing at Just for Laughs is a meaningful and lasting mark in Minhaj’s career.

“I’m really excited to come back up and be a part of the festival,” Minhaj said. “The last time I was there, I was doing Homecoming King, and the time before that I was doing “New Faces,” and so the festival has kind of been at every critical inflection point of my career.”

 

The Hasan Minhaj Gala will take place in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts on July 26 at 9:45 p.m. 

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