Hasan Minhaj Discusses The Sixth Season Of 'Patriot Act'
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Hasan Minhaj does not hold back.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PATRIOT ACT")
HASAN MINHAJ: Tonight, I want to talk about the coronavirus - the pandemic that has destroyed the health and livelihood of billions of people and also the NBA. Despite the fact that local newspapers are well-trusted, produce tons of original stories and keep powerful people in check, they're in serious trouble. That's why I want to bring the focus back on November. And I know you're, like, Hasan, November? Dude, I don't even believe in Thursday anymore. But whether we like it or not, we also have an election this year.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And in the sixth season of his show "Patriot Act" on Netflix, he's tackling police brutality, the student debt crisis and so much more. And he joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
MINHAJ: Hey. How's it going? Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to start, actually, because I'm curious about the practical challenges here. Your show normally has a live audience. And then the pandemic put an end to that in the middle of the season, and you moved, you and your showrunner, into your home in New York. How did that work out?
MINHAJ: OK (Laughter). So what ended up happening was we were in the middle of production. The week of March 14 was a very crazy week. There was a bunch of outbreaks. For the health and safety of the staff and everybody who comes to the show, we had to shut things down. We had to figure out, what's the new iteration of the show? And it quickly transitioned from, wait a second - "Patriot Act" can't really be live from my living room...
MINHAJ: Like, you know, shout-outs to our graphics and our animations department. And what we came up with together was, hey - what if we do this all through green screen? We kind of make it a direct-to-camera type of experience. And it will feel more intimate. It will feel more intense. But given the subject matter of everything that was going on with COVID, we really just leaned into the urgency of the times we're living in right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Speaking of the urgency of the time, you've been dropping new episodes every week. But as we all know too well, every week, it seems there's a new major story. Did you ever just hit pause on an episode and just say, OK, we're going to have to start over and do something completely different?
MINHAJ: Yeah. There was a couple that we had been holding on. And I'm sure you deal with this on the editorial side as well, where - right, and evictions was this topic that we had been sitting on for some time, and eh, we'll drop it in on a slow week. And as the public health crisis - we were just getting over that, everybody started worrying about, wait, what's going to happen if I can't pay rent? And so the urgency of that story moved up.
There was all these things that I kind of wanted to address in regards to these conversations that were happening within our own living rooms. And the same thing happened with our George Floyd piece. I was watching stuff happen in my own living room, and I was watching conversations via WhatsApp with my family where I felt like, no, we have to talk about this right now in this specific way.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I actually want to talk about that and the episode where you address, you know, your own community. Many of the clips from your show go viral on social media, but the one about this got, I think, at last count over 3 million views on Instagram alone after the death of George Floyd. And a quick warning to our listeners - there's some strong language. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PATRIOT ACT")
MINHAJ: Look - I can't speak to what it's like to be Black. But I know how we talk about Black people, and it is [expletive] up because it is a microcosm of America. Asians, we love seeing Black excellence - Barack, Michelle, Jay, Beyonce. How could we be afraid? We love Black America. Yeah, on screen in our living rooms. But if a Black man walks into your living room or wants to date, God forbid, marry your daughter, you call the cops.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I feel like it's exactly what you say. These are conversations that we've been having in minority communities in the U.S. about anti-Blackness since George Floyd's killing. How did you come up with this, and why was it important to say?
MINHAJ: What I saw happen was, hey, we are first-generation independent business owners. And a lot of times, we consider ourselves as on the sidelines in the racial conversation. Race is seen as a black-white dichotomy in America, and we're kind of on the margins. We don't get involved in the fight. We just try to put our heads down, make our money and provide for our family.
And for the first time, this national movement touched our pocketbooks. It touched our businesses. And the questions that were being asked was, hey, is this really helping their cause? And I got really upset with a family friend, and I said, their cause? We've piggybacked on their movement, and so we're direct descendants of civil rights legislation, and just because MLK CCD'd us on that email of progress, we have to acknowledge them and stand with them in this moment.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just as an aside, I think immigrant family WhatsApp deserves, like, its own special series because...
MINHAJ: You know what's crazy, Lulu? It's, like, people say we live in the age of...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's, like, if we're Latinos, this is, like - I mean, honestly, like, the stories are very similar. It's a thing.
MINHAJ: And if you talk about misinformation, Lulu, like...
MINHAJ: ...It's crazy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Crazy. Oh, my God - forwarding messages from Dr. so-and-so - Dr. Juan, who tells you something.
MINHAJ: (Laughter) I don't...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And everyone's, like, Dr. Juan - Tio Pepe (ph) sent it. He knows Dr. Juan.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who's Dr. Juan? Where did this come from?
MINHAJ: And then somebody else on the family thread will just be, like, no, Dr. Juan is actually photoshopped. That's actually really not Dr. Juan. It's Dr. Fauci, but they...
MINHAJ: It's, like, what is going on? Yeah. There's no fact-check on WhatsApp.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, it gets pretty crazy. At the end of this video, you address state Attorney General Keith Ellison directly. He watched the video, and then you sat down with him. What did he say to you? What did you learn? Because he's obviously in charge of prosecuting the four policemen who killed George Floyd.
MINHAJ: Yeah. So I'd been familiar with Keith for a long time. We crossed paths at, you know, your traditional (laughter) Muslim fundraisers for the community, for a local mosque or for a local organization. And I just felt, like, dude, I know this guy. Like, I've eaten biryani three plates away from you.
I felt like there is this very interesting national moment where we have bipartisan condemnation of the police officers. You have to capitalize because I remember when Eric Garner was murdered - another famous I can't breathe case. And yet, the officers were charged, and they walked.
And so visiting him at his office, one of the things that I was most amazed at was how calm and collected he is about the case. He said something really powerful to me in the interview. I don't want to overcharge, and I don't want to undercharge. I just want justice to be served.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In your show, you take these piercing, you know, funny, sometimes irreverent looks at the underlying problems in America. But it's done in these sort of slices, right? You take a topic, you go in deep. I am curious what your feeling is about this moment overall as someone who is examining America right now.
MINHAJ: Yeah. I felt these two core feelings. Number one, who's in charge? I feel like we're living in a time where there is just no real leadership from a government level, from a corporate level, I think even in our own families.
And the second thing is, is who do we trust? Because the science keeps changing. The news keeps changing. We're all sequestered to our living rooms. And I should be grateful - like, Lulu, like, I'm with my wife and my two kids, and we're safe and healthy, and my parents are healthy. We're all good. But I feel this feeling of, like, I don't know what tomorrow holds, and I don't know who to trust because every few hours, reality itself is changing.
MINHAJ: Hasan Minhaj is the host and executive producer of "Patriot Act" on Netflix. The season finale drops today. Thank you so much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.