US comedian Hasan Minhaj arrives for the Critics Choice Association's inaugural celebration of Asian Pacific Cinema & Television at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California on November 4, 2022. (Photo by LISA O'CONNOR / AFP)
American comedian Hasan Minhaj, known for his work on Patriot Act and The Daily Show, recently shared that his stand-up story, Arnold Palmer, contains a mix of emotional truth (around 70 per cent) and elements of hyperbole, exaggeration, and fiction (around 30 per cent). This revelation has stirred discussion about the line between storytelling and artistic exaggeration in comedy.
Minhaj's comments came to light in a report by The New York Times, which suggested that he had fabricated details in his Netflix special The King's Jester, released in 2022.
In response, Minhaj defended his approach to stand-up comedy in a statement to The New York Post. “I use the tools of standup comedy—hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories," he said. “That’s inherent to the art form. You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’—The point is the ride. Standup is the same."
He emphasized that using hyperbole, altering names and locations, and compressing timelines are tools commonly employed in the art form to create entertaining stories. He compared this to the experience of going to a haunted house, where the audience expects a thrilling ride rather than factual accuracy.
"All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter," he further said. “I use the tools of standup comedy—hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form."
This debate highlights the complex nature of comedy and storytelling in the context of entertainment, where artists often blur the line between reality and exaggeration to engage and amuse audiences.
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