This is comedy we need right now
Stop what you’re doing.
Okay. Now that you’ve stopped, redirect your attention to the video above in which comedian Hasan Minhaj gives a room full of media and congresspeople a smart, impassioned spanking over their insufficient efforts to promote true equality in the United States.
The whole routine is about 23 minutes long, and it starts off in typical fashion. Minhaj congratulates everyone on being present for The Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner—aka the less cool White House Correspondents Dinner—and makes jokes comparing Hillary Clinton to a Toyota Camry.
They’re good jokes, and everyone is laughing. But near the end of his time, around the 18:00 minute mark, Minhaj shifts the tone entirely to address the massacre in Orlando, telling the unsuspecting crowd, “I don’t know even know how to pivot here, to be honest with you guys.”
Everyone laughed, but for the last time, as Minhaj proceeded to lay into the banquet hall of lawmakers for their inaction in the face of blatant systemic hatred across this country they were elected to serve, “What we say in Orlando was one of the ugliest cocktails of problems that we still see here in America, a cocktail of homophobia, xenophobia, lack of access to mental healthcare and sheer lack of political will.”
The camera periodically cuts to the crowd where sheepish audience members sit silently, taking their lashes. The following excerpts are a selection of his toughest blows:
“Everyday in our workplaces, our homes and our religious institutions there is cover or overt discrimination or phobia towards people of different religious, racial or sexual walks of life. And we just sit there and we let it happen, because it doesn’t affect our bottom line.”
“The sad reality is that stuff like this is going to continue to happen unless we realize that civil liberties are an all or nothing game… So whether you like it or not we all have to step up and fight for each other, otherwise the whole thing is a sham.”
“My brothers and sisters in the African American community, their spines are going to continue to get shattered in the backs of paddy wagons until we stand up and say something.”
“You get paid almost $200,000 a year to write rules, to make our society better. Not tweet, not tell us about your thoughts and prayers. To write rules to make our society better.”
“Right now, since 1998, the NRA has given $3.7 million to Congress… So I don’t know if this is like a Kickstarter thing, but if $3.7 million can buy political influence to take lives, if we raise $4 million would you guys take that to save lives?”
Minhaj has been performing versions of his routine around the comedy circuit, sharpening his jokes before showtime at the RTCA dinner. I know, because I watched a 10-minute version of it at Los Angeles’ famed Comedy Store just two weeks ago. I recognized a number of the jokes—all of which slayed during his test run—and even his scathing quips about congressional inaction were already on display. But it’s clear that after Orlando happened Minhaj resolved to cut the gloves off and show up swinging hard, despite the fact that governor John Kasich is sitting just a few chairs away from him.
This is comedy at its best. Brave, tough, intelligent, honest and essential. It feels like Jon Stewart in one of his Daily Show peaks. The kind of thing that made you feel better about the world after you watched because someone with a megaphone heard your anger and managed to channel all your frustration so effectively that it transformed into a sword of satire. It’s the kind of comedy that makes you feel armed in a situation that otherwise leaves you helpless.
Here’s to you, Hasan Minhaj. In a dark and terrible time you were one of our every day heroes this week.