Hasan Minhaj Lays it Bare in “The King’s Jester”

Hasan Minhaj Lays it Bare in “The King’s Jester”

Hasan Minhaj has seen rapid growth in his comedy career in recent years, with his Netflix show, “Patriot Act,” and his two Netflix specials, “Homecoming King,” (2017) and “The King’s Jester,” which was released in October 2022. 

Minhaj is known for his bold honesty, and he puts it on full display in “The King’s Jester,” a reflection on everything from the pursuit of validation on social media to his own issues with fertility. 

In “The King’s Jester,” Minhaj describes his own role as a king’s jester, a comedian that must exist to poke at dictators’ power. Throughout the run of “Patriot Act,” Minhaj commented on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, and most notably, Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. 

His confrontation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the driving storyline of the special, as Minhaj recounts how his attempt to interview bin Salman went awry — but Minhaj was so thirsty for attention that he went ahead and released the episode about the very large cracks in bin Salman’s otherwise progressive image. This move endangered his family: he narrates a turning point when his daughter was put in potential danger after he was sent an envelope with white powder, causing him to reflect on exactly why he was honing in on dictators so aggressively. 

Minhaj’s comedy often explores his perspective as a Muslim and a son of Indian immigrants, and this was the core of his previous special. In “The King’s Jester,” he recounts how his Muslim community was surveilled after the USA PATRIOT Act was passed. But this rhetoric is undercut in the very first few minutes of “The King’s Jester.” He jokes, “For centuries, we’ve been debating Indians, Asians, Jews, who is the cheapest one of them all?” This joke seems to imply that Asians and Indians are separate, a curious implication considering Minhaj’s previous statements on the lack of recognition of South Asians as Asian, specifically in his response to comedian Ronny Chieng’s claim on the Daily Show that “Indians are not Asians.” This is one of a few occasional hiccups in what is otherwise an engaging special that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

@representasianproject “The critics have spoken: I am more Asian than Ronny Chieng” — @hasanminhaj #fyp #asian ♬ original sound – The RepresentASIAN Project™

While Minhaj is a very good storyteller, some of the special felt too well-told. Minhaj’s comedic style is often fast-paced, leaving little room for the audience to sit in the tension created by the big moments he describes before he bursts the bubble with a quick punchline. This rhythm becomes more and more expected throughout the special, and while it doesn’t necessarily take away from the story itself, it does become familiar very quickly, and feels a bit over-choreographed.

Minhaj’s style is also characterized by his earnest and self-deprecating nature, and while the ultimate message of him recognizing his clout-chasing as a flaw lands, this honest reflection still has its own flaws. 

When “Patriot Act” was canceled by Netflix, several women who worked on the show stated on their social media that the environment in the workplace was toxic, despite its progressive image presented to the world. If Minhaj wanted to be truly honest and recognize his own flaws, then he would have acknowledged these issues too. 

“The King’s Jester” is filled with smart and fast-paced humor, and Minhaj shines when he is at his most brutally honest and introspective. The special is a worthwhile watch, despite its occasionally too-staged moments, for its exploration of how fame can go to your head and how humor can play a role in challenging the status quo.

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