Initially, Hasan Minhaj’s revelation that he exaggerated jokes appeared to be a one or two day story.
Instead it sparked a week-long debate about how much exaggeration is proper in comedy.
Today’s Stand-Up Spotlight offers three more takes on the issue – hopefully the last three in this space.
While it’s true that all comedians exaggerate at some point, the most common take on Minhaj’s fibs is that they deserve rebuke because they were lies told to advance a political perspective – and in one case they appear to have done real damage to one woman’s reputation. To some, they also give the appearance that he’s leveraging the 9/11 tragedy for personal gain.
Arguing the opposite is an article from slate that calls into question the motives of the author in the original New Yorker story.
Three stories. That may seem like a lot for a little exaggeration, but people really seem to care. Judge for yourself whether those cares are valid.
Rounding out today’s Spotlight is news that, with the writers’ strike finally resolved, Saturday Night Live has a target date for its first show of the season. Feel free to argue whether that qualifies as good or bad news.
Keep the faith. Find the funny.
STAND-UP SPOTLIGHT – September 26, 2023
Comedians may exaggerate for a punchline. When is that not OK?
It turns out that a lot of the stories that former “Daily Show” correspondent and “Patriot Act” host, Hasan Minhaj, has told in his stand-up comedy acts – stories from his lived experience as an Asian American and a Muslim – never actually happened, at least not to him. He told The New Yorker those stories are the emotional truth, not the actual truth. So the one about Minhaj getting roughed up by police after speaking with an FBI informant…
Hasan Minhaj addresses use of hyperbole and fiction in stand-up comedy
American comedian Hasan Minhaj, known for his work on Patriot Act and The Daily Show, recently shared that his stand-up story, Arnold Palmer, contains a mix of emotional truth (around 70 per cent) and elements of hyperbole, exaggeration, and fiction (around 30 per cent). This revelation has stirred discussion about the line between storytelling and artistic exaggeration in comedy.
Minhaj’s comments came to light in a report by The New York Times, which suggested that he had fabricated details in his Netflix special The King’s Jester, released in 2022.
Hasan Minhaj and the New Yorker: Who decided comedy needed fact-checking?
Comedy legend Richard Pryor had a regular bit where he talked about his father’s death. “I’d like to die the way my father died. My father died f**king,” he’d say. “My father was 57. The woman was 18. My father came and went at the same time.” For years, according to Pryor, the woman couldn’t get anyone to have sex with her. Then one day she apologized to Pryor for killing his dad, to which Pryor said there was no need to apologize. His father had died having sex: “That’s called recycling.”
Pryor’s joke is infamous. Yet guess what? No one, to my knowledge, ever tried to fact-check it. No one fretted over whether the woman had really been 18, whether, in fact, she didn’t have sex for years after that, whether Pryor’s father had actually died during sex and whether, as Pryor suggests, the woman got pregnant. And you know why nobody checked all that? Because doing that would have been stupid. It would have missed the point of the joke, misunderstood the difference between literal and figurative communication and missed the power of comedy to make us think.
Report: Saturday Night Live has a return date in mind for season 49
The WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have a deal in place that could see unionized writers return to their jobs in TV and movies. Late-night TV is reportedly already gearing up to return.