Staff Writer, Amith Jagannath
Imagine this: There’s an Indian biking as fast as he can to a his prom date’s house on his blue BMX bike. He stumbles up to the doorstep to find his date with another boy and they’ve already exchanged corsages! In general, comedy shows appeal to their audience by relating real-life experiences that they have gone through, to other instances where the audience can relate. When it comes to the demographics of the audience, it really depends on the race and religion of the comedian, because the viewers most often relate to comedians that share the same obstacles and/or advantages.
Being an Indian American, social interactions between me and my peers are still a little awkward because there’s always a constant stigma I can sense in even the closest friends. The film “Homecoming King,” a Netflix special of “Daily Show” starring Hasan Minhaj, discusses one man’s journey during a decade of interracial conflicts. Minhaj addresses his struggles to fit in as a resident of Davis, California, as well as his efforts to develop a stronger relationship with his father. There’s always this problem in Indian relationships where the father struggles to understand the son’s issues or fitting in at school, and normally, one would think that the father would take time to understand the son, but instead, he just moves on with his life.
Now, I am not going to say that I can relate to that because thank all the gods in my religion, my father is so down to earth. Typically, when I watch comedy shows, I don’t understand all the references made, because half of them are about ancient crap that I don’t really care about. For example, while Gabriel Iglesias is a great comedian, most of his jokes are directed to either white people or Mexicans because he can relate to those people the most. However, watching this specific comedian make such relatable jokes, as an Indian, made the entire experience so positively and negatively emotional.
Throughout the show, Minhaj addressed specific instances throughout his life, where he felt that he was living vicariously through his father, rather than himself. Spoiler Alert: He explains that his mother is in India working towards her medical degree, while he and his father are trying to get by in America. His entire world turns around when he realizes that he has a younger sister that was five years old that he had no idea about. It is only when his mother walks in the door that he understands that his father had impregnated his mother in his frequent trips to India.
Moreover, Minhaj describes how there exists this norm of “conditional love,” where the kids have to work their butts off to get the parents’ love. To describe this, Minhaj shows a clip of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee where Arvind Mahankali won. His parents are shown towards the end of the clip emotionless, which explains itself.
While this may be the comical side to living in America as an Indian, even the American Dream is not as easily achievable as it is described. Minhaj touched many people in one of his areas of discussion, where he talked about the emotional environment post 9/11. Many of us out there are privy to racial discrimination and unfortunately the more we hear it, the more it becomes a part of us. He told his audience that the night of the event, his family had gotten a call from a group of teenagers calling his family racial slurs. Minhaj went on to explain that he had “the audacity of equality,” after this event. He uses this event as a mode of explaining his righteousness and freedom during such a difficult time for the United States.
In the entirety of Minhaj’s comedy special, he talks about one high school experience that changed his life. So, I’m in highschool and I’m Indian and after watching this, it made me realize that this could happen to me. Spoiler Alert: Bethany Reid, Minhaj’s high school sweetheart is what this is about. They get to know each other in their Calculus class as Bethany finds herself being the new girl. After a process of studying together, going to each other’s houses, and a class bracket to decide prom dates, Bethany and Hasan see that they’re meant to be. Minhaj goes to the extent of climbing out of his window on the second floor, to racing on his Blue BMX bike to fulfill his and Bethany’s dreams. But, it all changes when he is welcomed to a puzzled mother who tells him that he wouldn’t fit into the family pictures. Their connection resumes a couple years later over Facebook where he finds her profile to see that she’s with an INDIAN! Minhaj even relates this instance to greater social problems such as the Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray issues to portray that prejudice against brown people is prevalent each and every day.
From those moments onward, Minhaj depicts more of his father’s worldly views and his own. He tells the story as it is, without seeking the reaction in laughter or gasps that other comedians seek. “Homecoming King,” still but a few weeks old, casts its banner as an interracial comedy like no other.