“The way I break it down, the gas I have in the tank is, I have your attention for 22 minutes,” declares Hasan Minhaj about his innovative variety talk show “Patriot Act.” “Or maybe 27 minutes, maybe 25 minutes, but I want to give you as much information and as much of my perspective in a short period of time.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Minhaj above.
“Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” is the award-winning Netflix political comedy talk show that he created with writer/producer Prashanth Venkataramanujam, years after getting his breakthrough as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” The show dissects a range of topics that captures the zeitgeist of the world we are currently living in, from social issues to the political circus driving the relentless 24-hour news cycle.
Each volume or cycle of “Patriot Act” consists of roughly six to eight episodes that premiere weekly, tackling topics stateside (for example “The Broken Policing System,” “Trump’s Worst Policy: Killing Asylum” and “How Coronavirus Broke America”) and overseas (for example “The Two Sides of Canada,” “The Real Cost of Cruises” and “The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion”). The show presents each issue from a unique point of view, influenced by Minhaj’s age (he’s 34) and his first-generation Indian-American heritage. It delves into themes that are familiar across the variety talk show genre like the Trump presidency, the global pandemic and social media, but it also branches out into topics rarely seen on American television. It also delivers its facts and arguments by deploying ambitious and engaging visual graphics and a tone that pivots from sarcastic to earnest depending on the subject matter, all of which suits Minhaj’s comedic style to a tee.
Some of the best episodes of the show are the ones that spotlight those more unusual topics. Last cycle, the show tackled the ugly side of the cruise industry as well as the terrible price the planet pays for our voracious appetite for fast fashion. Minhaj acknowledges that at first blush, maybe those ideas wouldn’t fill an entire episode. But when his team pitched them within a larger conversation about climate change, it was like a light bulb moment for him.
“This isn’t just a story about cruises, this is a story climate change and global warming,” he explains when recalling the initial pitch for the episode. “It’s a way we can back into a larger conversation around global warming and that’s when I think this show is firing at its best. When we use something that is maybe poppy and sexy to back into a larger conversation that’s a little bit confusing or esoteric.”
This latest cycle that premiered in June saw the team pivot agilely into remote production when everything began to shut down due to the ongoing global pandemic. Minhaj admits to missing the live audience element of the show, but also points out that the sense of urgency and intimacy feels appropriate for the times we are living in.
“We have been put in a very interesting predicament where we have had to produce this show, quarantine edition. One of the things that we had when we had a live studio audience is that there’s a tempo an a rhythm. Me performing in front of the crowd. So I would generally go to camera one, and then occasionally you’d see me break, turn to my right, turn to my left and have a conversation with the audience,” he says. “When we built the green screen here at home, I realized there’s one camera, I’m speaking to one person and there’s a level of urgency to that and I thought really the urgency fits the time we’re living in right now.”
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