If you’ve watched the Daily Show, you’re probably familiar with Hasan Minhaj.
Now the former correspondent is moving his act over to Netflix. His new show Patriot Act debuts Sunday. The Indian American comic acknowledges the important role he will be playing in his community.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure. I don’t want to let my people down,” Minhaj said to USA Today. “The things that I used to think were a disadvantage — be it my upbringing, my ethnicity, my background — have actually been a huge advantage, because I can speak to an American and international experience.”
The success of any satirical program hinges on the timeliness and relevancy of the topics it tackles.
“How do you make a project that doesn’t age like bread, but rather ages like wine? The biggest thing we ask ourselves is, what central question is being answered? Gun control is not a debate on guns, it’s a debate about safety. So the larger question is, how do we keep Americans safe? Same thing goes with immigration: The central question is, will outsiders hurt or kill us? As long as we center episodes on a larger conversation, they have a shelf life.”
Minhaj is the latest South Asian American to gain a large audience either through streaming or on traditional television. Newsday reports Minhaj will also appear on Comedy Central with other South Asian comics in Goatface. Minhaj along with Asif Ali, Aristotle Athiras and Fahim Anwar will joke about the “unique trials and tribulations of being Brown in America.”
The long list of South Asians on TV includes “Hannah Simone, New Girl, Priyanka Chopra, Quantico, Kunal Nayyar, as Raj on The Big Bang Theory, Aziz Ansari, Parks and Recreation, Indira Varma, Game of Thrones,” Mindy Kaling, Mindy Project, Priyanka Chopra, Quantico and Sarayu Blue in the new NBC sitcom, I Fell Bad.
“I went to school in Mineola and was the only South Asian in my class in the mid-90s,” said Harjot Singh to Newsday. “South Asian at that time was Apu and we do still feel a bit of stereotyping. But as more South Asians come to TV and as they present more positive personas, that definitely affects how the community at large perceives you.”
Newsday gathered a number of South Asians on Long Island to hear how the increased representation is being viewed by the community.
Harsh Bhasin, a professor at Stony Brook University, said this increased representation could even break down stereotypes held by some South Asian parents.
“The mindset still persists among parents in the Indian community of Long Island that they want to see their kids go into engineering and medicine [but] it’s increasingly becoming important now if a kid goes to dad to say ‘thank you I don’t want to go into engineering but journalism.’ “Every time they see an Indian face on CNN, it gives them a sense of encouragement, that this is something I can aspire too. The parents will not look down on it, while in my generation they would have.”
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