Hasan Minhaj — a stand-up comedian and former Daily Show contributor — admitted that he has lied about several jokes/stories where he “experienced” racism during a recent interview.
“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” the 37-year-old told the New Yorker in a profile published this past Friday. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”
Minhaj — who has the distinction of being the last Daily Show correspondent who was hired by Jon Stewart — later expanded on what he meant in a statement to the New York Post.
“I use the tools of standup comedy—hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories,” he said. “That’s inherent to the art form,” he added. “You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’—The point is the ride. Standup is the same.”
In one example from his recent Netflix comedy special, The Kings Jester, Minhaj details an “experience” where an envelope with white powder was sent to his home. He then supposedly rushed his daughter to a doctor after she was exposed, who informed him that the substance was not hazardous.
Minhaj swore to the New Yorker that an envelope was indeed sent to his house, but admitted that the bit about his daughter being exposed and rushed to the hospital was not true.
The comedian also tells a joke about the time an FBI informant infiltrated his local mosque in Sacramento. Minhaj joked that he told the informant that he planned on pursuing his pilot’s license, which led to local police showing up and slamming his head into the hood of a car.
In reality, the joke was spawned from an incident in which Minhaj and his friends were playing pick-up sports with middle-aged men they suspected to be police officers. One of the officers then supposedly shoved him.
The Daily Show veteran explained to the New Yorker that there is “emotional truth” to his grand tales when asked if his jokes amount to audience manipulation. “No, I don’t think I’m manipulating [the audience],” Minhaj told the outlet. “I think they are coming for the emotional roller-coaster ride…To the people that are, like, ‘Yo, that is way too crazy to happen,’ I don’t care because yes, f**kyes — that’s the point.”