Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hasan Minhaj-Homecoming King | Lefsetz Letter

This is the best comedy special of the year. Forget Seinfeld, forget Chappelle, this is it.

Not that it’s a competition. It’s just that we’re searching for excellence, something that touches and titillates us, in an era of ever more product we’re overwhelmed with choices and looking to be led to the promised land.

Which is why I research.

This is what the studios hate. Statistics. They believe the enemy is Rotten Tomatoes, no, the enemy is quality! We learned this in the music business, why can’t they learn that in movies too?

Not that everything on Netflix is great, but one thing’s for sure, they give the artists control, and the artists know best, they can lead you into the wilderness, over the cliff, miss deadlines, but they’re also the only ones who can deliver that indescribable element that keeps us hooked.

Like Hasan Minhaj.

That’s how far we’ve come, you don’t have to change your name to make it.

The Jews used to rule comedy, and Hasan is doing the Jews’ act. Making their insularity universal. By time you’re through watching “Homecoming” you too will wish that you were brought up in an Indian family.

Hasan’s an outsider with brown skin, raised by a single parent who expects A’s and has no time for pleasure, work is king and all gratification must be delayed. Isn’t that interesting, we live in an instant gratification society and only those who can hold off win.

Anyway, I’d never heard of this guy.

I know, I know, he’s on the “Daily Show,” but I don’t watch that! I’m wondering when we’re all gonna agree we’re clueless, stop putting each other down for what we don’t know. No one can watch every show, listen to every record, but those “in the know” expect us to. And the whole story of how Hasan got that gig is detailed in this special. But to be sure, he was a nobody going nowhere before he got it, that’s the line between success and failure, very thin and very sharp, meanwhile his sister is an attorney with an Ivy League degree, the apple of his parents’ eye.

So I Googled. Again and again. My time is just that valuable. And that’s how I found out about “Homecoming King.” And I got it from the very first instance, because Hasan was sincere. Not smarmy, not playing to the audience, but real. Authenticity rules. This is what they don’t understand in D.C., the duplicity will be the death of them.

And Hasan chronicles his growing up. As the outcast who wants to be in.

Yes, this is not your typical standup show, flailing from joke to joke until the last ten minutes when the comic winds up and delivers an extended piece that represents their best material.

This is the story of Hasan’s life. Previously it was a one man show.

And I really don’t want to delineate the high points. But I’ll put in just a couple to give you flavor.

The Camry. Referenced over and over again as the family’s automobile. That’s us, we’re trying to individualize, look cool and superior, but underneath it all we share the same basic building blocks, it used to be Wonder Bread, now it’s the Camry.

Bethany Reed. The one who got away. The one whose parents couldn’t accept Hasan. The one he can’t stop thinking about.

She reappears.

They always do. Not the pure fantasies, but the ones you felt a spark with, just wait, they’ll reach out and touch you online, it’s just a matter of time, it’s a very long game.


They hurt you so badly, yet you wanted them so much. They affected your whole life.

Bethany’s story is here.

As well as the sibling rivalry. Does the number one son plow the way for those who come after, or is he given unfair advantages?

The reason “Homecoming King” works so well is because of its humanity, because of its truth. At times Hasan is a bit awkward, his delivery could be a bit more natural, but that’s picking nits. That’s review talk, always trying to balance the good with the bad.

The point is comedy rules. It’s more profitable to be a comic than a musician. Just check the grosses and realize it’s almost all net.

And during the last comedy boom everybody sold out to be on television. Sawed off their rough edges to fit in.

But now those sitcoms don’t pay so well, because so few watch them. The cultural icons are those who grab the zeitgeist and wow us when we finally find them.

Now the truth is after you watch this show we’ll have a number of shared references. That’s what connection is about, the references. The above-mentioned Camry, the slapping of the children, the faces during the spelling bee. We’re all affected and we all want to talk about it.

So fire up Netflix. Or borrow someone’s account. The service stole comedy from under HBO’s nose, by not only paying more but realizing there were many more slots. There’s a competition to be great. And right now Hasan Minhaj is the reigning champion.

It takes more than a decade to become a household name.

But with “Homecoming King” Hasan is on his way.

It’s got more truth than any hip-hop record.

And it’s no different from you and me.

Welcome to America where we’re all immigrants and we’re all alienated.

If only we’d admit and own this.

Hasan has.

Which is why he’s a giant.

Hasan Minhaj-Homecoming King


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