Should Comedians Stretch The Truth?

In the art of stand-up comedy, comedians stretch the truth for the purpose of drawing laughter from the audience. Although it is not a new thing, Hasan Minhaj has been called out for lying in his new comedy special titled “King’s Jester.” From fabricating stories and changing details about his life, Minhaj has been accused of stretching the truth for sympathy rather than laughter. 

The two main “jokes” of Minhaj’s that are facing backlash are about his daughter and an undercover FBI agent.

In the special, Minhaji tells of the time he opened hate mail and a “white powder” (Anthrax) fell onto his daughter, which sent her to the emergency room. Then, Minhaji recalls a time of his youth where an undercover FBI agent followed him to his mosque and forcefully arrested him.  

Following the release of the special, an article from The New Yorker was published disproving his stories. There were no police reports of the white powder incident and staff of Minhaj’s former residence do not remember him rushing his daughter to the hospital. 

As for the “Islamophobic” FBI agent, the agent was not working for the FBI at that time and primarily worked in southern California while Minhaj’s story took place in Sacramento.

Also in the special, Minhaj created more stories to gain sympathy for his status a Muslim and a person of color. Minhaj admitted to exaggerating the discrimination faced by Muslims in the United States. “ I fabricated routines about the racial and political injustices Muslim and Indian Americans face,” said Minhaj. 

Another comedian Bill Maher has said on his show “Real Time With Maher ” that Minhaj has also made false accusations towards him saying he’s racist towards Muslims. 

“Because he’s done this before with me accusing me of saying Muslims should be put in internment camps—something I’ve never come close to thinking, let alone saying” said Maher. 

 “Comedians making up stories for the purpose of entertaining their audience is part of their job description,” said Jake Frombach, the creator of Joke WRLD.  

“Hasan Minhaj lying about his kid getting sprayed with anthrax is the funniest thing he’s ever done,” said comedy podcasters Haus of Decline.

In my opinion stretching the truth in comedy to draw sympathy is not okay.  Especially when it is at the expense of actual things that happen to people such as racism. It delegitimizes other people’s experiences of discrimination by making it up to draw sympathy from a crowd. 

If we are going to hold entertainers to this standard, the same should be for our  politicians and public figures not fabricating stories to receive favor from an audience. Such as when George Santos, a representative elect, lied during his campaign in 2022 for a seat in the U.S. House. 

Santos admitted to lying about his college education and job experience. “I own up to that. We do stupid things in life” said Santos.

Either way it is not okay to fabricate statements whether that is to win a campaign or to obtain sympathy from an audience during a comedy special.