How to Take a Stand with Hasan Minhaj
Comedy As a Career Path
Hasan Minhaj humbly credits luck as one of the main reasons he found his path in comedy. Coming of age during the era of high-speed digital revolution, the internet broke open a reservoir of comedic talent around the world. Of particular inspiration? Minhaj remembers watching Chris Rock and noticing how he constructed his arguments — using tactics similar to speech and debate, which Minhaj had been part of during his high school years.
“He was constructing these arguments and making them funny,” says Minhaj of Rock’s knack for establishing arguments and providing evidence in a comedic way.
That’s when the light switched for Minhaj and the floodgates opened — he realized that pop culture and current events could be integrated into comedy.
Politics in Comedy
Minhaj’s interest in politics initially stemmed from his speech and debate days. But from a comedic standpoint, he was inspired by Jon Stewart’s ability to frame arguments and think critically about the news, which helped shape his own perspective on world events.
Being a part of Stewart’s team and show “...shaped my [sic] alacrity to want to inhale the news and think about the world and think about international politics and ask myself, what is my take and why?” says Minhaj of Stewart’s influence.
It’s something that’s helped him as he later developed his own show, Patriot Act. With the depth of news and topics to choose from, he asks himself, “what is the capital P Problem,” to help focus his efforts on bigger picture issues. The takeaway?
- • Step back
- • Form your own opinions
- • Determine why you have that perspective
Being authentic in tone, voice, and topic is critical to effectively communicating your work — from comedy to business.
Be a Good Faith Actor
Of his show, Patriot Act, Minhaj’s goal is not to pull people over to his side, politically. Rather, it’s to “tell the truth and then be as human and as vulnerable as possible,” he says. “Be a good faith actor.”
There are people in the media landscape genuinely trying to do good work and he emphasizes his desire to make a good faith effort to do deep, meaningful work.
By pouring your emotions into your craft, hopefully it strikes a chord of inspiration in someone else — even if it means they don’t agree with your point of view, it’s more important for people to be able to respect and understand the good faith in your actions.
Social Issues Take the Main Stage
“I'm really happy to see that members of society in big companies are understanding that it's not morally difficult to say something is wrong,” Minhaj says of large brands and corporations taking on social and political positions. “I think there is actually a competitive advantage to being more authentic and personal,” he adds of companies that are willing to take a stance versus those that may feel pressure to remain neutral and avoid offending potential customers.
What are some pieces of advice for those who want to speak out on controversial topics?
• Frame things without a political spin and focus on humanity. “You're asking for human decency. And so I've always tried to frame things in that perspective,” he says of his past experience publicly discussing topics like student loan debt, police reform, and LGBTQ rights.
• Another tip from Minhaj: “take your shot and do it on your terms.” Look at that larger topic you’re trying to address and pinpoint an angle that has the potential to make the most changeable, scalable difference possible, and again, find common ground centered on ethics and decency.
Sitting on the sidelines and keeping quiet on issues is a luxury that companies can’t afford to take. In an age where customers crave transparency and authenticity, forward-thinking businesses and leaders should thoughtfully form and share their own points of view — which will ultimately lead to a deeper level of connection with their audience.
As a leader, how can you apply Minhaj’s approach when addressing contentious topics?
• Use humor to humanize your brand
• Engage authentically with your audience
• Demonstrate good faith
• And always consider the human aspect in a situation
Your voice matters. The question is, how will you use it to make a difference?