Hasan Minhaj

Graduated 2007
Comedian/Political Commentator
B.A. in Political Science

Comedian Hasan Minhaj has been on a roll since graduating with a B.A. in political science in 2007. He came to prominence as senior correspondent on The Daily Show starting in 2014. His first stand-up comedy special, 2017’s Homecoming King, won a Peabody Award. In 2018, he began hosting Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, a weekly talk show on Netflix. In 2019, he was named to Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of 2019. 

When asked to reflect on whether his brand of political comedy has made an impact, he recounted words Jon Stewart once told him. “There’s no song or joke or movie that can change the world. All it can do is provide a lens to take a look at something that’s happening in the world. Hopefully, if it strikes a moment in the zeitgeist when people connect or feel moved by it, they will actually take action. That is when it’s really powerful. But the necessary condition is the people.”

In Homecoming King, he talks about growing up in the city of Davis as a child of Muslim Indian immigrants and weaves together themes of race, heartbreak, forgiveness and love. He says the one thing that has amazed him most is how the show resonated with people who don’t even share his background. “I’ve had people tell me stories about growing up and not being able to talk about their sexuality, and there was a moment where they put themselves on the line to someone they loved and they weren’t accepted for who they were. It’s great that it transcends race, class, gender — all these lines. Everybody has felt like an outsider at some point. It’s ironic that’s what unites us all,” said Minhaj.

It was at UC Davis where Minhaj first made the leap into performing stand-up. “It felt like I was a superhero,” recalled Minhaj. “I would put on my costume and go out into the city. By day I’m a political science student, and by night getting in my Nissan Stanza and hoping my car won’t break down on the way to San Francisco and doing open mics.”

But even then, Minhaj was an organizer as well. “I applied for funding and found a way to bring all these bigger comedians from San Francisco to Davis. And it gave me a great opportunity to perform for people who would end up becoming a huge deal, people like W. Kamau Bell, Arj Barker, Ali Wong. Not only did the headliners agree to come and let me open for them, but people actually filled the lecture halls. And then someone wrote about it in The Aggie. I couldn’t believe it.”

It was at UC Davis that Minhaj also made another important connection. His freshman year he met fellow Aggie Beena Patel (’07, MPH ’08) and went on to marry her in 2016.

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