Sunday, November 4, 2018

Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj | Lefsetz Letter

Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj

What kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where a comedian explains the Harvard lawsuit better than the “New York Times”?

One in which an Asian-American gets his own show on Netflix and breaks all the rules. You know, you’ve got to have a monologue of disconnected jokes, a desk and a sidekick as well as a deejay or a band. That’s how Michelle Wolf failed and why all the late night shows are irrelevant, even though the mainstream press keeps telling us they’re cutting edge, and I’m including you SNL, skits without a viewpoint regarding topics we don’t care about no longer float our boat, but Hasan…

Let’s be clear here, one other person is going down this track, John Oliver, but he’s got the imprimatur of HBO, for those who are afraid of streaming and can’t use the clicker, who just leave the TV on one station and sit somnambulantly before it. But Minhaj is a member of a younger demo. And he is not white. And his long pieces are not about explaining obscure stories which are important but not our focus, but what’s on our mind right now, like the Harvard lawsuit. I ain’t gonna explain it other than to point out it’s about Asian-Americans being excluded from Harvard, even though the lawsuit was filed by a white guy with a bug up his ass who has fought this battle previously, most notably at the University of Texas. This is not about Asians so much as it’s about a conservative viewpoint, but Hasan points this out, as well as catching the attorney changing the facts to suit his position. Sound like someone else we know?

And the second episode was a bit different. Unlike Oliver, the long piece came first, the short bits second, illustrating that Minhaj is still playing with the formula. But one thing I love is he’s using references, not as a put-down like Dennis Miller, but to illustrate culture and insider membership. We want to belong, when you’re bland we cannot sidle up to you, play to everybody and you play to nobody.

And the second episode was all about Khashoggi, only it was really about the Saudi Crown Prince. His continuing slew of bad behavior. Minhaj told the story of what’s happening in Yemen in a minute, to the point you understood it, meanwhile the “New York Times” posts stories of starving babies but we don’t really know why they’re starving, although now we do.

And the reason I point out the “New York Times” is because it’s the king, the “Washington Post” is gaining ground, but the “Wall Street Journal” is going backward and as for cable news… All Fox and MSNBC do is comment about what’s in the paper, how often have you heard Rachel Maddow say THIS JUST IN FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES! They don’t do any reporting, as for background, it’s like a soap opera where if you haven’t watched forever you don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s like the Hundred Years’ War on cable news, it’s endless.

But Minhaj just takes half an hour.

Now for those playing the home game, and one day there is going to be a test, for sure, you know that my favorite comedy special last year was Hasan’s “Homecoming King.” I know, I know, all the press is about John Mulaney, but I turned his specials off, I was riveted by Hasan.

And he talks with his hands, and sometimes you can see him reading from the teleprompter, but he’s a millennial speaking to that generation, and despite decrying that generation, all the boomers and Gen-X’ers want to be just like the millennials, they wear their clothes and adopt their slang…

Now I’m pissed at Netflix for not making those movies day and date, you know, “Roma,” etc. I mean SO WHAT! The audience doesn’t even watch the Oscars anymore, never piss off your audience, never sully your brand. But by giving people a chance and letting then do what they want Netflix is pushing the envelope. The first two episodes of “Patriot Act” were not cut to length, they ended at different times. And broadcast TV is not ready for an Indian who pokes fun at other Indians, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, but the audience is.

How come everybody ignores the audience and then pays fealty to them at the end? Why not try to go where the people are to begin with and satiate them!

Now a show can get lost on Netflix. But I’m watching “Patriot Act” and I implore you to too. Because you might learn something. It’s not as simple as preaching to the converted so they’ll nod their heads and agree with you, you’ve got to edify and stimulate people, make them question their preconceptions. And who better to do this than an Asian-American who jokes his dad is glad Hasan finally got his own show so now he can save up for graduate school!

America is all about the upper and lower classes. The middle is avoided. You rarely see people similar to you. But hopefully you went to high school with someone like Hasan, whose skin might be a different color, whose parents might have different customs, but is otherwise just like you.

More like this Ted!


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