At the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the annual event where a comedian makes fun of the media and politicians, a Muslim comedian took the stage to criticize Washington in the midst of a “Muslim ban.”
Hasan Minhaj’s hilarious performance that night was the first of many steps that led to his Netflix show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which released its first two episodes on Oct. 28.
Minhaj describes the show as “investigative report meets comedy show meets political satire meets Malcolm Gladwell, but funny, and it’s on a bunch of screens like a Drake concert.”
While those goals seem lofty, Minhaj is determined to make it work. In terms of subject matter and format, it is similar to former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver’s Emmy award-winning HBO program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The diversification of topics gives audience a well-needed break from the Trump-filled monologues of other late-night talk show hosts; it instead focuses on elaborating on overlooked, yet important, current events.
The first episode takes on affirmative action, a subject many college students have thought about if not discussed already. The second is about Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The show doesn’t deliver as many laughs as The Colbert Report nor does it have the witty jabs that Jon Stewart used to take, but it’s still well put-together and funny. It runs like a well-orchestrated TED Talk, featuring visuals similar to those used in Minhaj’s Netflix special Homecoming King or his Homecoming Comedy Show performance at this university in 2017.
But in the past, Netflix has produced promising-looking shows where a new episode is released every week, with mixed results. David Letterman’s show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction saw solid reviews, but likely because Letterman was joined by mega-celebrities like Jay-Z, Howard Stern, Tina Fey and Barack Obama — people with large followings who don’t do many interviews.
Fellow Daily Show correspondent Michelle Wolf tried her hand at a Netflix “late-night” show as well. The Break with Michelle Wolf debuted in late May of this year, but was canceled after just 10 episodes. Chelsea Handler’s show Chelsea was also discontinued after two seasons.
Regardless, an Indian-American comedian hosting a show on a premier TV-streaming platform is a real accomplishment. Minhaj does not shy away from his identity at all — jokes about his Indian parents, his religion and his culture are plentiful.
Patriot Act is an original and unique show, but I don’t think it will be able to sustain its initial comedic inertia. Netflix still has not mastered this release-one-every-week concept, and it is possible Minhaj’s show will not last more than two seasons. For the time being, however, Patriot Act is a show that will leave you informed and entertained.