Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, Feb. 5, the Associated Student Programs Board (ASPB), the Middle Eastern Student Center (MESC) and the Asian Pacific Student Programs (APSP) hosted “Chai Chat with Hasan Minhaj.” Minhaj is a well-known comedian, writer, actor and political commentator. He is best known for his Netflix political comedy show, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” his comedy film, “Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King” and his time as the senior correspondent on “The Daily Show.”

Ali Saadat, a UCR alumni, was the moderator for this event. The night started with Saadat asking Minhaj a variety of questions. One topic that was brought up was Minhaj’s attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2017. Minhaj revealed that when he received the invitation, he “thought it was a set up, but then [he] thought about it” and realized “this is the job a lot of immigrants work hard to get.”  He attended the event with his parents, two Muslims who immigrated to the United States from India before Minhaj was born. Although his mom originally considered wearing something more American, Minhaj convinced her to wear a sari, an elaborate piece of clothing traditionally worn by women from South Asia. 

Minhaj is proud of his heritage and uses his background to help educate others. One of the causes that Minhaj has been very vocal about is student loan debts. During the virtual discussion, Minhaj advised students to “take an income-based repayment plan.” Later, when questioned about his experience with stage fright, he encouraged students to “lean into [their] strengths, try to get into things that [they] know [they’re] already good at.” He claimed, “The more you get up in front of an audience the more you get comfortable.”

To conclude his interview with Saadat, Minhaj revealed some of his newest projects that fans can look forward to. Minhaj stated that he’s going to appear on season two of “The Morning Show,” a TV drama on Apple TV+ that stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspon. He’s also working on a sequel to “Homecoming King.”

The discussion was then turned over to the student Q&A portion, where students submitted questions through the Q&A feature on Zoom. Kirsten Lambincio asked, “Would you ever run for a government position?” Minhaj replied that he “would hate to run for office and be boxed into a corner.” He believed that, unfortunately, politicians have to serve their party first, their re-election second and their constituents last. He stated that this prevents politicians from representing the truth.

Aram Afghajanian asked Minhaj what inspired him to blend political commentary and comedy. This blend is most notable in his show, “Patriot Act.” Minhaj replied that “a huge point of inspiration is that people would be down to watch that” and that he already “kind of introduced the visualize style with ‘Homecoming King.’” 

The conversation quickly turned to the topic of Minhaj’s celebrity connections. In response to Neha Saxena’s question about the “coolest” celebrity Minhaj’s met, Minhaj said that it was Nicki Minaj. Next, Pari Asif asked which of Minhaj’s celebrity friends he’d go to college with, and Minhaj replied that it would be John Mullaney because “John’s always been my big bro.”

During the pandemic, Minhaj’s wife, Beena Patel, gave birth to their second child. Simrithi Sethupathi asked, “How has being a parent in the pandemic been?” Minhaj expressed his excitement towards the birth of his new son. He also reminisced on all the time he gets to spend with his daughter during quarantine. He stated, “Me and my daughter, we got super close.” He said, “This year I haven’t been able to tour, I haven’t been able to go out,” but that he was happy he got to be with his family more.

The night was full of fun and enlightening questions. All the students who were chosen to ask questions couldn’t contain their excitement as they introduced Minhaj to their roommates or parents. Some students even asked to take pictures or videos of the experience. Students can stay up to date on future events by checking out ASPB’s Instagram page. Their next event, “Spice it up with Nick DiGiovanni,” will be on Feb. 12.