Thousands of people lined up outside the Chicago Theatre Oct. 2 waiting with anticipation for Hasan Minhaj. The historical venue’s gleaming signage reads, “SOLD OUT.” The audience couldn’t be more diverse — multiple generations, different cultures, a real melting pot. All signs pointed to a terrific, memorable night.
Megan Gailey, a 35-year old comedian from Indianapolis, opened the show. Gailey’s standup, which mostly revolved around her future baby’s attractiveness, was awkward and unfunny. At 8:05 p.m, Gailey leaves the stage and, finally, the announcer says:
“Please welcome, Hasan Minhaj!”
From stage left a tall man wearing track pants, a zip-up jacket and sneakers emerged and waved to the audience, ready to begin his exceptional show.
Most people recognize Minhaj from his Netflix show, “Patriot Act.” Prior to that, he was known as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” the speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner and for his hit standup special on Netflix, “Homecoming King.”
“The King’s Jester” is Minhaj at his best — raw, jumpy, touching and hilarious.
For almost 90 minutes, he goes through a myriad of experiences starting off with his trips to the NYU fertility clinic. The bit — partially featured on “The Tonight Show” — revolves around the comedian finding out his childhood friend works at the clinic and will be examining his body. Minhaj jokes about the doctor having a D.O. over an M.D. and possibly flunking Caribbean Medical school twice in front of an audience bound to have a lot of doctors in it.
He makes it very clear this isn’t your typical standup show.
Minhaj knows his audience — in the beginning, he yells to the crowd, “Devon showed up!” — and he knows what they respond to. He has this special ability to deftly combine his personal experiences as a second-generation Indian-American Muslim with comedy and make it relatable for everyone in the crowd, regardless of creed, class or color.
From there, he tells a story about being a teenager in a post-9/11 world. It starts off funny but gradually becomes a heartbreaking tale about a dark time in America. He then reveals the reason for calling his show “Patriot Act” and the whole segment culminates in some of the best work he’s done — it’s equally funny and emotional.
The crux of the show is about Minhaj dealing with the success of “Patriot Act” for better and worse. He gained a lot of attention for doing his first episode critiquing the Saudi government for the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The backlash from the Crown Prince was so immense, Netflix had to pull the episode in Saudi Arabia.
Minhaj doesn’t lie and says initially the popularity, likes, retweets and news coverage felt intoxicating. However, going after kings and dictators posed a risk to the safety of his family.
It’s not easy for anyone to admit popularity and fame corrupted their mind like Minhaj does. He owns up to it and acknowledges he put his wife and daughter in harm’s way. As dire as it sounds, Minhaj delivers everything with an irresistible energy.
One of the best aspects of the Peabody-winning comedian is his physicality. Minhaj doesn’t restrict himself to center stage — he runs around, jumps, gets on his knees and even lays on the ground as he reveals his most embarrassing moments to the audience.
Just like his Netflix show, Minhaj’s graphics team does an incredible job. The lights and lasers give the show a vibrant feel and he uses the screen behind him to display pictures, videos, highlighted portions of documents, etc.
There’s not enough South Asian and/or Muslim representation in entertainment — something Minhaj points out in the show. People like him, Kumail Nanjiani and Aziz Ansari are helping in that case, even if Minhaj is right when he mentions Nanjiani has set the bar too high for South Asian men with his washboard abs.
“Homecoming King” revolved around the common, troubling South Asian saying, “what will people say?” What will people say if you don’t become a doctor? What will people say if you don’t marry a traditional girl?
With “The King’s Jester,” the only thing people will say is, “bravo.”
Tickets for “The King’s Jester” can be bought on any major ticket sales website and will be running in the United States until March 27, 2022.