Hasan Minhaj brings joy to the Michigan Theater

Sunday, September 16, 2018 - 1:47pm

Hasan Minhaj

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Netflix

There’s something utterly charming about comedian Hasan Minhaj. He has big eyes that bug out whenever he delivers a joke and he’s not afraid to be self-deprecating at any chance he gets. 

Last weekend, comedian Minhaj visited the Michigan Theater with his “Before the Storm” standup show. The show is meant to be a preview for his upcoming show on Netflix, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” which will debut in Oct. 28, 2018.

Ann Arbor didn’t disappoint in its enthusiasm, delivering two sold-out shows. Hundreds of people flocked outside the Michigan Theater’s entrance, and their nervous energy was infectious. I felt like I was waiting outside of the movie theater to watch a Bollywood movie premiere in the U.S. after it became a huge hit in India. 

Minhaj immediately thanked us for agreeing to lock up our phones with Yondr so that we wouldn’t leak any spoilers for “Patriot Act.” At the beginning of his tour, he had asked the audience to refrain from taking and posting videos, but inevitably, he would look down at the front row and see lots of “old uncles” with their phones up, taking a video even as he asked them not to. 

With the quick wit that brought Minhaj to “The Daily Show” as a senior correspondent, he launched into the heart of his show, discussing politics in an entertaining but serious way. Minhaj is a master of using our emotions to build up our laughter and energy so that when he tells us something somber, we feel it hard. Using video clips, graphics and some funny pictures, Minhaj commented on the country’s political and cultural landscape, from the fear of terrorism to media portrayals of people from different ethnic backgrounds.

For the same reason we had to lock up our phones, I’m not going to spoil too many of Minhaj’s bits about politics. What I will say is that if you’re looking to figure out the cost of terrorism insurance, then Minhaj is your guy. 

My favorite part of the show was the conclusion, when Minhaj stepped aside from politics and delved into his personal life with the story of how he proposed to his wife. Upon deciding it was time to finally make the commitment, Minhaj set out to buy an engagement ring, and saw his bank account hit $0 for the first time in his life.

Then, Minhaj realized he still needed money for the actual proposal part.

He turned to the ultimate source of good deals — Groupon — to book a sunrise hot air balloon ride on a Wednesday morning. After facing a few challenges (his soon-to-be wife thinking he was going to murder her when he drove her to an empty field at 4:00 a.m., realizing the hot air balloon pilot would come up with them in that tiny basket and another couple going up on a balloon next to them and the guy proposing to his girlfriend with a massive sign), Minhaj drove her to the closest breakfast place he could find that was open (Applebee’s) and proposed. 

This show was everything I wanted it to be and more. As Minhaj has stated earlier in his Netflix special “Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King,” there weren’t many people of similar backgrounds for him to look up to while growing up. Going to school, dating and pursuing his passions all came with their own complications in addition to his confusion with identity as an Indian American from a Muslim family. Looking at the audience last weekend, it was clear that others felt the same way. But in simply sharing his stories, Minhaj is telling us it’s okay, because we’ve all faced similar challenges, and now we’re better for it. 

“Before the Storm” was just a taste of how Minhaj seamlessly talks about pressing issues in today’s American society without becoming too dark. Sometimes the truth can be hard-hitting, but with Minhaj’s eyes bugging out every five seconds and his self-deprecating personal stories, it’s much less scary with lots of laughter.