Hasan Minhaj on a Post-Covid-19 'Patriot Act' and Getting His Comedy Undergrad From 'The Daily Show'

Illustration by Britt Spencer

"I got my political science comedy undergrad degree at The Daily Show."

Hollywood, like the rest of the world, has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. If there's one area of entertainment perhaps best suited to tackle a global crisis, it's comedy talk shows like Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act on Netflix. "People are trying to find new places to get information to figure out what's going on. I think comedians have been able to do that in a meaningful way." Finding meaning during a never-ending news cycle while remaining funny may seem impossible, but Minhaj, who rose to fame originally as a senior correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, thinks late-night shows are uniquely up to the challenge. "Late-night comedy has always been very urgent and immediate and able to pivot." Even though a release date for the sixth season of Patriot Act has been temporarily pushed back due to the crisis—new content has been posted to YouTube in the show's absence—Minhaj says he is excited about the new realities the current situation demands. "I'm really excited for people to see the new iteration of Patriot Act."

What can we expect from the new season of Patriot Act?

We'll obviously be covering stuff pertinent to the new reality that we're living in, a post-Covid-19 world. But also topics that are still very relevant to our lives—health care, education, international politics.

How has the coronavirus impacted how you'll cover things like the upcoming presidential election?

The silver lining to this pandemic is that it's really pulled into focus what fundamentally matters, and it's grounded a lot of things that were just previously vague talking points that politicians would throw around.

Was there a moment in your career where you realized you could successfully do political humor?

I wasn't into comedy. I was actually a speech and debate and public-speaking kid. When I got to college, I found out stand-up comedy is basically funny speech and debate.

How do you make Patriot Act stand out from other political satire?

A huge inspiration was getting to explain things with a level of depth that I didn't previously have the opportunity to do on The Daily Show.

How's it been being a dad to a newborn during a pandemic?

I'm trying to enjoy moments of joy and beauty in the face of, you know, abject horror. I'm remaining optimistic. We have no other choice.