Just over a month after The New Yorker published a story in which it was revealed that Hasan Minhaj embellished some of his stand-up routines, the comedian has responded in a 20-minute video in which he calls the New Yorker’s exposé “needlessly misleading.”
“With everything that’s happening in the world, I’m aware even talking about this now feels so trivial,” Minhaj says in the video. “But being accused of ‘faking racism’ is not trivial. It’s very serious, and it demands an explanation … To everyone who read that article, I want to answer the biggest question that’s probably on your mind: Is Hasan Minhaj secretly a psycho? Underneath all that pomp, is Hasan Minhaj just a con artist who uses fake racism and Islamophobia to advance his career? Because after reading that article, I would also think that.”
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“I just want to say to anyone who felt betrayed or hurt by my stand-up, I am sorry,” he continues. “I made artistic choices to express myself and drive home larger issues affecting me and my community, and I feel horrible that I let people down. The reason I feel horrible is because I’m not a psycho. But this New Yorker article definitely made me look like one. It was so needlessly misleading, not just about my stand-up, but also about me as a person. The truth is, racism, FBI surveillance and the threats to my family happened. And I said this on the record.”
In the article, published Sept. 15, Minhaj admitted to embellishing stories for his stand-up routine. For instance, he tells a story in his Netflix comedy special “The King’s Jester” about an envelope with white powder in it being sent to his home. Minhaj thought the powder was anthrax. In the stand-up routine, he says the powder accidentally spilled onto his daughter and she was rushed to the hospital. In reality, he admitted, it did not spill on his daughter but an envelope with white powder was still sent to his home and still ended up in his daughter’s vicinity.
In a statement to Variety made right after the story’s publication, Minhaj said, “All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me … 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. 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.”
In his new video response to The New Yorker article, Minhaj brings up one of the stand-up stories the publication addressed about the time Minhaj asked a white girl to prom. The girl goes by the pseudonym “Bethany Reed” in the stand-up special, with Minhaj saying that her mother did not want her going to prom with “a brown boy” and scolded him when he showed up to take Bethany to the event.
“Bethany’s mom really did say that — it was just a few days before prom,” Minhaj says in the video about his minor embellishment of the story. “I created the doorstep scene to drop the audience into the feeling of that moment, which I told the reporter.”
Minhaj then plays an audio clip of his conversation with The New Yorker writer Clare Malone discussing the embellishment. He also shows alleged emails and texts that took place between him and the real Bethany that he sent to The New Yorker to prove the basic events of his story were still true.
“My team and I repeatedly tried to give them the emails you just saw,” Minhaj explains. “We confirmed the emails were sent to the reporter and their fact checker before the article came out. They knew my rejection was due to race. I confirmed it on the record and provided corroborating evidence. And yet they misled readers by excluding all of that and splicing two different quotes together to leave you thinking that I made up a racist incident.”
Minhaj says that he “totally gets why a journalist would be interested” in the topic of embellishing stand-up jokes, but he adds: “I just wish the reporter had been more interested in their own premise. Someone genuinely curious about truth in stand-up wouldn’t just fact check my specials. They would fact check a bunch of specials. They would establish a control group, a baseline, to see how far outside the bounds I was in relation to others. They wouldn’t just cherry pick a few stories.”
A spokesperson for The New Yorker issued the following statement in response to Minhaj’s new video: “Hasan Minhaj confirms in this video that he selectively presents information and embellishes to make a point: exactly what we reported. Our piece, which includes Minhaj’s perspective at length, was carefully reported and fact-checked. It is based on interviews with more than 20 people, including former ‘Patriot Act’ and ‘Daily Show’ staffers; members of Minhaj’s security team; and people who have been the subject of his standup work, including the former FBI informant ‘Brother Eric’ and the woman at the center of his prom-rejection story. We stand by our story.”
“The guy in this article is a proper fucking psycho, but I now hope you feel like the real me is not,” Minhaj concludes at the end of his video. “I’m just a guy with IBS and low sperm motility. Again, there is much more important news happening in the world right now that needs your attention. So I appreciate you watching, I take the note and I hope to see you at the next show.”
Watch Minhaj’s full video below.
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