Published Jun 02, 2017It's striking how much swag Hasan Minhaj has during this thoughtfully crafted, painfully passionate rumination on immigration, racism and heartbreak. It's his verve and self-belief that puts this one-man show across, which, given how badly he's haunted by his high school prom date that never was, is no small feat.
Known now as an uncompromising comedian and correspondent on The Daily Show, Minhaj is a first-generation Muslim American whose parents left India and moved to Davis, CA in 1982. He describes his earliest memories of being a brown kid in a predominantly white suburb and, with masterful storytelling, details how fractured his family life was initially; his mother stayed in India to complete med school, leaving Hasan to cope with America while living with an uncommunicative, culture-shocked dad.
Filmed at a theatre in Davis, Minhaj name checks neighbourhoods and local malls, garnering cheers from an audience that actually contains a number of Indians (and likely more than it did when Minhaj's parents first arrived there). These faces embolden him to occasionally speak Hindi, translating along the way, but really pointedly invoking the Hindi phrase for "What will people think?"
Like many first-generation Indian kids, the shame of public perceptions was implanted within Minhaj by his parents, who are prideful and worry about keeping up appearances —primarily socio-economic and material appearances — almost more than anything else.
Ironically, the crux of Homecoming King involves Minhaj trying to take his high school crush, Bethany Reed, to their senior prom, only to be blocked by her mother, who is similarly concerned about how such a date might look to people back home in Nebraska. It sends Minhaj on a spiral of self-flagellation and is a psychic wound he spins into a brilliant narrative about power dynamics, shame and how cultural borders can be broken.
"What will people think?" It shouldn't matter, he seems to conclude.
A live show that is gorgeously, almost interactively shot, Homecoming King is funny, dramatic, and heart wrenching. It casts a light on the darkest corners of the American dream, all while earning Minhaj his place as one of contemporary comedy's most outspoken and intriguing young voices and performers.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.