Hasan Minhaj talks immigration, refugees, and American society

The comedian and actor turned to politics to engage SU students on October 27

Hasan Minhaj, correspondent on The Daily Show, comedian on the Netflix special Homecoming King and 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinner host visited a sold-out Syracuse University Goldstein Auditorium on October 27¬† to give a presentation discussing racial tensions, immigration, and refugees.


Minhaj opened up discussing the differences in reactions to jokes across various geographic regions of the country. He was able to smoothly move back and forth between serious conversation and jokes about racial profiling and told a story of how he was on a plane talking to his mom and was afraid to say goodbye to her in Urdu, [one of the official languages of India]. “I can’t speak to my mom in Urdu on a plane because of terrorism and racism,” Minhaj said.

Minhaj said aims to use comedy as a way to address certain issues in our society. Being a political science major in college, he has used that knowledge to better inform himself on issues that have affected him personally. He originally planned on being the “stereotypical” Indian doctor, but switched majors after his first chemistry class. Minhaj went on to joke about how over time he gradually lowered his parents’ expectations for him until they came to the realization that he was a comedian.

Minhaj went on to give statistics about terrorism and false-narrative pushed by some that refugees are violent and a threat to our country. “You are more likely to be killed by furniture or being buried alive than you are to be killed by a foreign terrorist, and there is a 1 in 3.6 billion chance of being killed by a refugee,” he said.

While at the Republican National Convention during a segment for The Daily Show, Minhaj discussed how he would run up to delegates and get into a friendly conversation and ask if he can visit the delegate’s state. When the delegate said yes, he would tell them “Oh, but your Presidential candidate wants me deported so I probably wouldn’t be able to come.”

Minhaj uses comedy to show people that the reality and issues of our society are comical, but they’re real. The most powerful comment of the night in which Minhaj highlighted his entire presentation and purpose in one sentence: “It isn’t whether refugees can accept American values, it’s whether Americans can accept American values.”

Lastly, when asked about the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and being “brave” for taking the role, Minhaj¬† told the crowd he wasn’t as brave as other journalist in other parts of the world who risk imprisonment for speaking out against their leaders.

Minhaj was happy to come home to New York after being in “a much tougher crowd in Alabama” days before. His passion, personal anecdotes, and hilariously thought-provoking stories made this an event that students won’t soon forget.

Syracuse University