When Hasan Minhaj hits the stage at Ritchie Coliseum on Oct. 26, he’ll be third comedian with Daily Show ties to perform in College Park in the past two years. He’ll also be a powerful example of why representation matters in entertainment.
Minhaj has emerged as a fresh voice through his work as a correspondent on The Daily Show, his stint as the host of this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner and his recent Netflix special, Homecoming King. As a first-generation American, he offers perspectives on the United States that are as thoughtful as they are hilarious.
“Homecoming King is really, really influential and highlights super relatable cultural problems Indians face,” sophomore criminology and criminal justice major Mrinalini Nagarajan said. “[It’s] gold in the Indian community.”
Student Entertainment Events Comedy Director Michal Antonov, who planned the show, said students should expect “Hasan’s normal humor,” and a “very intimate event,” given the venue. Lawrence Moody, facility manager for Ritchie Coliseum, said a concert setup in the gym typically holds less than 1,300 people.
“I think SEE chose him because he’s a minority that made his mark in the entertainment industry and he’s a very relatable person,” Nagarajan said. “I love that he is so hip to pop culture and [also] portrays serious topics in a humorous manner.”
With a youthful energy and self-described “Indian boy-band member” look, Minhaj is equally equipped to tackle sharp, topical humor (see: his Correspondents’ Dinner monologue) and goofy jokes about his affinity for ’90s hip-hop.
“Minhaj puts feeling in with his comedy,” sophomore information systems major Sunaina Gupta said. “His enthusiasm, ingenuity and ability to keep it real within the satirical setting is refreshing.”
Serious topics are where Minhaj thrives as a unique voice. Homecoming King and his segments on The Daily Show are at least partly built upon his experiences growing up as a Muslim and first-generation Indian-American.
Gupta said she believes choosing Minhaj to headline “helps spread the word and feeling of UMD as an all-inclusive, diverse campus.”
Diversity in comedy can be difficult to come by. Out of the 188 stand-up comedy specials based in the U.S. currently on Netflix, about a third star comedians of color. Only four are by Indian-American performers — three by Parks and Recreation and Master of None‘s Aziz Ansari, one by Minhaj.
Striving to “program diverse comedy events” is part of the job description for the SEE comedy director. In the past six years, half of the homecoming comedians have been minorities.
“I’ve seen his standup on Netflix,” said junior bioengineering major Elliot Bromberg, a member of The Bureau, a comedy group at this university. “Some people want to see really big names like Kevin Hart or Louis C.K., but I like seeing younger people who are really starting to make a name for themselves.”
Daily Show bossman Trevor Noah headlined the show in 2015 just a few weeks before taking over as host following the departure of Jon Stewart. Ansari and The Office‘s Craig Robinson performed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller, Community‘s Joel McHale and comedian Jim Gaffigan have also headlined in recent years. In the fall of 2016, former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams performed in Stamp Student Union.
“I’ve liked Hasan Minhaj ever since my family and I saw his White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech,” Nagarajan said. “I can’t wait to just see if he has a greater impact in person because he’s awesome on TV.”
For some, Minhaj’s influence is a chance to come together as a community — to bond with friends and classmates over both his universal humor and his life experiences that many might never have considered.
“There is a certain pride and school spirit that is further emboldened [by the decision to bring in Minhaj],” Gupta said. “I hope that not only do other students enjoy the show but [they] also gain some perspective on the thoughts of fellow students if [they’re] unable to relate to Hasan Minhaj themselves.”
Minhaj performs Oct. 26 in Richie Coliseum at 8 p.m. Doors open an hour in advance. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Oct. 5. Cost is $10 for students, faculty and staff — with a valid University of Maryland ID — and $25 for the general public. Purchase tickets online at umdtickets.com or in the Stamp Ticket Office.