TV Review: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King
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For those of you who have been living under a rock, or in an exam-haze for the past few weeks, this is your wake-up call: watch Hasan Minhaj’s comedy special Homecoming King on Netflix ASAP!
You might know Minhaj from his work as a correspondent on The Daily Show alongside Trevor Noah, or perhaps from his now-infamous speech from this year’s Press Correspondent’s Dinner, where he effortlessly and hilariously dragged Donald Trump without breaking a sweat.
But to be honest, if you don’t know much about him, that’s okay. Homecoming King, as well as being a stand-up show, is an autobiography, telling the story of his life.
Comedy specials have become a staple of Netflix, but Minhaj’s show is like none you’ve ever seen before. It’s rib-splittingly hilarious, but the humour is woven into a narrative stretching from his early youth to the present day. Minhaj lets us in to his childhood as a second generation Indian immigrant in America, struggling to connect with his emotionally closed father, throughout his experiences in high school, and as a struggling comedian, right up until his current success.
His relationships with his father, his mother, the sister he didn’t know he had, his high-school sweetheart and his wife provide much in the way of the emotional rollercoaster he leads his audience through. So much of the show, alongside this, is about his experiences with racism; How 9/11 changed his life; How differently his generation and his parents’ generation dealt with that crisis; How he, born and raised in the US, has the “audacity” to demand equality.
I don’t want to spoil any of the ‘storyline’, because each moment is so powerful in its own right, but suffice it to say, Minhaj’s showmanship brilliantly carries the audience through the ups and the downs. One moment he’s leaping around the stage in the highest of spirits drawing laughs and whoops from his hometown crowd, the next he’s standing stock still with tears in his eyes, and I for one was right there with him.
As a second generation Indian immigrant myself, so much of what he was saying hit so close to home. The funny moments and the serious ones — all of them felt so familiar to me. I connected to it in a very personal way, but that doesn’t at all mean that it’s inaccessible to other audiences.
Anyone with immigrant heritage would be able to relate personally to some of the material, and for non-immigrant audiences the show carries a powerful message. Minhaj jokingly claims to be “the cure for racism,” and though he’s just being flippant, there’s a note of truth to that too. By speaking so openly about his experiences, in such an entertaining and raw way, there’s a shred of hope that viewers can learn something about how to overcome prejudice.
My whole family won’t stop talking about how this is the best thing they’ve ever seen, and that ability to strike a chord with a whole range of generations is something that I’ve never seen a comedian utilise with such effectiveness and charm.
Watching this was genuinely the most cathartic hour of television I’ve ever experienced — you all deserve that too.
Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King is available to stream on Netflix now.