Hasan Minhaj Defends Embellished Details in Stand-Up Specials, Including Story About Anthrax Attack on His Family

Stand-up comedian and former Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj is defending his embellishment of stories told in past stand-up specials, as reported in a profile published by The New Yorker Friday.

In his 2022 Netflix special “The King’s Jester,” the comedian told a story about his daughter being exposed to a white powder that was sent to his home in a letter. Minhaj said he and his wife rushed the girl to the hospital, which ultimately caused friction between the married couple. But in the New Yorker piece, he maintained that a powder was, indeed, sent to his home, but revealed that he only joked to his wife, “Holy s–t. What if this was anthrax?” His daughter was never exposed, and the family did not rush to the hospital.

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“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” said Minhaj in the interview. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

Another story involved the infiltration of an FBI agent into his family’s mosque in 2002. The comedian recounted that he messed with the man by saying he was applying to get his pilot’s license. The police allegedly arrived shortly after and slammed him onto the hood of his car. This was also reported to be largely fabricated.

Minhaj defended his process, stating that the stories were based on “emotional truth” despite being falsified, adding, “The punch line is worth the fictionalized premise.” The interviewer responded: “But it didn’t happen to you.”

The stand-up also released a new statement to our sister publication Variety Friday, once again defending his choices and method. “All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me,” he said. “Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had an interaction with law enforcement during the war on terror. Yes, I had varicocele repair surgery so we could get pregnant. Yes, I roasted Jared Kushner to his face.

“I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form,” he added. “You wouldn’t go to a haunted house and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’ The point is the ride. Standup is the same.”

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