Warning: The following contains mild spoilers from The King’s Jester. 

Now, you may remember him as the guy who corrected Ellen on how to correctly pronounce his name, or as the host of the Netflix show Patriot Act in which he shined light on some of the ongoing issues in the world. Minhaj talks about a range of topics from taking down dictators and interviewing Justin Trudeau, to bragging about sneakers—all while doing it from the lens of a first generation Muslim Indian-American. 

He really does do it all. 

His latest Netflix special The King’s Jester recently came out and is getting rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.

I had the chance to see The King’s Jester live in Vancouver last November and it was an experience like no other. Seeing the line at the door go around blocks while it was pouring rain, just to  see a brown guy perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was a pretty special moment. 

In typical Indian fashion, the show of course started 30 minutes late, but still Minhaj casually strolled on stage and shouted out Surrey. He said something along the lines of, “Hey Surrey, yes I say Surrey because even though I’m in Vancouver uncles, aunties, and everybody else packed their cars from Surrey to see me.” 

It felt good to be acknowledged. 

It wasn’t just me who felt the energy in the room, the entire audience was captivated by his honest, vulnerable yet goofy energy. A wave of silence fell over the theatre when he spoke about the threat that came with him challenging world dictators in his comedy or his family’s fertility struggles. He would share his story and you would see a vulnerable side to him. 

But before you know it, the audience would erupt in uproarious laughter when he would explain how doctors of osteopathic medicine are the people who are currently sitting in the backseats and medical doctors are the front row people. He would shift back to this big TV personality who took over Twitter within the matter of seconds, and you were there along with him for the entire journey. 

I remember this lady who had a unique laughter and even when everybody had stopped laughing would keep laughing. Hasan after repeatedly ignoring it, finally put up his hands and jokingly went “I can’t continue this ma’am, your laughter is something else.” The entire audience laughed with her. 

After the show, people stood around waiting to take a selfie or pose with Hasan’s cut-out to somehow capture this moment. This brown boy had managed to charm every uncle, auntie, mum and dad who came to the show that night. 

Last week, I rewatched the Netflix special, and although the script was the same, it certainly wasn’t the same show. Firstly, the special was filmed in Brooklyn, a city that is as different from Vancouver as it gets. 

Secondly, the crowd responded differently to some of the jokes at the show I went to. There’s a part in the special, where Minhaj talks about racial hierarchies in Saudi Arabia. 

“Saudis make Indians their servants in some kind of twisted Asian-on-Asian hierarchy, and the only other people who love shitting on us more are the Brits. But we love when they shit on us, they go ‘Look, my cousin lives in London. Long Live the queen.’ And I am like, ‘eff the Queen.’” 

You can hear the sighs of the audience through the T.V. There’s laughing, sure, but it's almost awkward.

The difference is that this joke landed in Vancouver. People started whistling and cheering for a full one minute. It makes sense though, there is a gap because the majority of people who came for the Vancouver show were brown and belonged to countries that had been under British rule. 

We understand what it means to have a complicated history with the monarchy. There is a shared history and cultural phenomenon we’re connected by. Sharing one part of our identity meant we understood those jokes in all their depth and glory, along with the stains of the past.

There were other tidbits throughout the show that made The King’s Jester even more hilarious, like how he knew his daughter was Indian because she had a staring problem, or the whole rant on Kumail Nanjiani sharing his gym pictures and making all other brown dudes feel bad. The audience finally gained  a  connection with a famous comedian who could joke about these stereotypical topics, while finally being in on the joke. It’s special. 

All the topics he shared on that stage could’ve had a show of their own. As hilarious as the show was, he covered ground that hadn’t been covered before. He talked about the important issue of fertility problems, but from a man’s perspective. Throughout the show, he came across to me as secure in his masculinity. He stood up there, made fun of himself and did not shy away from discussing topics that are usually hush-hush in the brown community. He knew his audience and every brown kid knows what topics should and should not be talked about in front of ‘others’. 

The King’s Jester also highlighted how much Minhaj respects his cultural values. He constantly mentioned family being important to him and often referenced his wife Beena. 

Minhaj spoke to many important rites of passages that all brown kids could definitely relate to. From the brown mom approved Kumon to DJs and comedians rarely being considered as valid careers. 

The beautiful way in which he was able to weave serious conversations about racism and Islamophobia into the dialogue was really something. If there is one thing you can praise about Minhaj, other than his sneakers obviously, is his delicate manner of discussing complex societal issues in a way that makes the reader aware of their own prejudices.

He laughs at himself while also making you comfortable enough to laugh at yourself—while adding a layer of social commentary to almost every bit. 

Minhaj jumps from issue to issue, many from different parts of the world, but as an audience member I never felt lost. Even if only for a moment, the viewer feels special when they catch on to all the layers of his joke. 

King’s Jester is the perfect title for a guy who loves to make fun of everybody no matter how poor, rich, Indian, or white you are. His special, really is a special tribute to being Indian, American and everything in between. If you haven’t already, this is your sign to watch it. 

About the author

Manraaj Grewal

My parents named me Manraaj, which means Queen of Hearts, and I have been trying to justify that name ever since. I am an immigrant from India changing one country, and five schools since then. I am known from dropping Bollywood references in daily conversations and am currently studying Communications at Douglas, hoping to become a journalist. I love reading biographies of successful people, watching a select few TV shows (fine it's mostly Bigg Boss!) and every imaginable sport there is (I especially enjoy the yelling during cricket matches). Follow me @manraajkaur27"

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