“Who would have thought, with everything going on in the country right now, that a Muslim would be standing on this stage?”
The 31-year-old comic and regular contributor to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is the first Muslim and first South-Asian-American to headline the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and on Saturday night, he killed.
Minhaj began with:
“Welcome to the series finale of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner…”
He may have, or may not have been instructed to not go after POTUS, but early on Minhaj quipped:
“We have to address the elephant not in the room. The leader of our country is not here. But that’s because he’s in Moscow.”
“Historically, the President usually performs at the correspondents’ dinner, but I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s done far too much bombing this month.”
Minhaj built his 25-minute routine around his experience growing-up as a member of a marginalized minority in the USA, including being bullied in high school. After the Orange Thing was elected, Minhaj revealed that his mother was afraid that POTUS’s ban on Muslims would keep her from returning to the country.
Minhaj’s Muslim family is originally from Uttar Pradesh, India. His parents immigrated to Davis, California, where Minhaj was born and grew-up. After he was born, he and his father remained in California while his mother returned to India for eight years of medical school.
He might not be as famous as some of the previous hosts like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Al Franken, Conan O’Brien, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, or Wanda Sykes, so Minhaj played-up his outsider status at the event:
“I would say it is an honor to do this, but that would be an alternative fact. It is not. No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant.”
In 2012, Seth Meyers hosted and he famously joked about the Government’s apparent inability to track down Osama Bin Laden. President Barack Obama and Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates laughed at Meyers’ joke even though they were just a day away from the operation to assassinate him. Both President Obama and Meyers openly mocked a certain Celebrity Apprentice host for the promoting of the Birther Movement. Many people believe that being the butt of jokes by Obama and Meyers made him to decide to run for POTUS and we all know how that turned out. The Orange Thing with the tiny hands might be the Leader Of The Free World because he couldn’t take a joke.
Minhaj says that he is part of the “New Brown America”. He is part of that new generation of handsome young Muslim performers like Master Of None’s Aziz Ansari, Riz Ahmed from The Night Of and Girls, and Reza Aslan from CNN show Believer, who embrace their heritage after the post-9/11 Muslim stereotypes.
He was funny, but honest, in his expressing irritation at the honor of hosting, joking:
“As a Muslim, I like to watch Fox News for the same reason I like to play Call Of Duty. Sometimes, I like to turn my brain off and watch strangers insult my family and my heritage…”
He is even a minority within a minority. Only about three percent of Muslims in the USA are from India. You wouldn’t know it by the President’s policies, but Muslims are just one percent of the USA’s population. Yet, that number is expected to double in the next 25 years, making Islam the second biggest religion in the country, after Christianity.
“I’m a first-generation kid in this country. I so identify with America and its culture. I’m a citizen, I was born here. I’m American. At the same time, like most first-generation kids, I have this other identity to another country back home, which is India. What’s interesting is from a young age, because I had to have this dual narrative, I’ve always had a soft spot for other marginalized groups, whether that’s LGBTQ people, women, the African American community, the Latino community, I’ve been able to connect to their civil rights struggle through my own feelings of racism or disenfranchisement.”
Minhaj advocated for the American Muslim community to join the fight for rights of LGBTQ people. Polls show that only 42 percent of American Muslims support Marriage Equality. He spoke after the Pulse Nightclub murders in Orlando, telling Congress that American needs them to “make our society better, not tweet, not tell us about your ‘thoughts and prayers.’”
“Think about the way people look at your hijabi sister or your bearded brother when they walk through the mall. Think about the grumbles and stares you get at airports. Think about the vitriol that’s spewed on you by your own elected political leaders. That’s how your LGBT brothers and sisters feel every day of their lives. Are you okay with that?”
“No one is asking you to change your beliefs. If you feel your faith tells you that homosexuality is haram, fine. We disagree with your interpretation, but you’re entitled to it …. Bottom line is this: Standing up for marginalized communities, even when you disagree with them, is not just the right thing to do, it’s the Muslim thing to do.”
At the White House Correspondence Dinner, Mihaj closed by noting:
“This event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech. Free speech is the foundation of an open and liberal democracy from college campuses to the White House. Only in America can a first-generation Indian Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the President.”
Minhaj’s one-man Off-Broadway show Homecoming King has been filmed for Netflix. It premiers on May 23 and I can’t wait because I have a major crush! Man, he rocks a tux.