“We are a news-driven comedy show, and to be honored with other amazing journalists and investigative reporters was really cool,” says Hasan Minhaj about the Peabody Award he and his team won for their Netflix series “Patriot Act.” “It was just a testament to all the work we’ve put in this past year.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Minhaj above.
The comedian rose to fame as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” before striking out on his own with this series. Satirical news shows have become especially popular in recent years, so Minhaj knew that in such a “host-driven” medium it was crucial to bring his unique point of view to the stories he covers, from student loans, to drug pricing, to global political influence of hip-hop. “We generally like to pick topics … where we’re saying, where are the trends and forces heading? What is something we can comment on that’s coming up?” he explains. “And also, what is the white space of stuff that’s been talked about in the news but hasn’t been talked about on the news comedy shows?”
“Patriot Act” has the additional benefit of Netflix‘s global reach, which gives it the opportunity to explore topics beyond our borders. “News in America is a very myopic thing. It’s very Trump-centric,” Minhaj points out. “Global news is so much bigger than just what’s happening in the States.” So the series has produced deep-dives about Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India and China in addition to domestic subjects. And since all of its episodes remain available to stream on the service, its focus is often broader and not tied to the ever-changing news cycle. By not getting “caught up in the day-to-day tweets and gaffes” Minhaj and his writers and researchers are free to look “at larger trends and forces that are happening around the world. We try to connect the dots.”
The series is also distinguished by its use of its set, which surrounds Minhaj with LED screens “to my right, to my left, on top of me, even literally I’m standing on an LED … The stage itself is almost like Jarvis.” It plays “clips, graphs, SOTs, tear-outs, all those things” to the audience and allows him to work the stage and engage the studio audience directly. He thought it would be “confining to be looking at the camera and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Hasan Minhaj and this is the television show,’ when you’re performing in front of 200 people. I like the ability to break things out.”
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