REVIEW: Hasan Minhaj @ The Anthem, 2/17

By Eva Lettiere-Roberts

Hasan Minhaj opened his late show at The Anthem by calling his audience “freaks.” He quickly clarified that he loved the late shows the best, specifically because of their apparently unhinged energy. It was an energy that flowed from audience to stage and back again as Minhaj was notably loose and, to quote the man himself, “silly.” In moves reminiscent of his stand-up specials Homecoming King and The King’s Jester, Minhaj strode across the stage, posing frequently and using broad gestures all in the name of his unique delivery of his jokes. 

The show wasn’t sold out, but it was packed, and it was Minaj’s third show The Anthem added to its schedule, a testament to his dedicated legion of fans. A line stretched down the Wharf boardwalk before the show began and the delayed start could do nothing to diminish the excitement in the crowd. The excitement persisted throughout both openers, Malik Elassal and Meg Indurti who had tight ten-minute sets packed with good material, and for Minhaj as he covered some of his tried-and-true material, like his family, and delved into new subjects like his recent public scandal. 

For the uninitiated, a 2023 New Yorker article by Clare Malone fact-checked stories Minhaj had told in previous stand-up specials and declared that aspects of them were embellished or untruthful. Online discourse ensued, much centering on the need for political comedians to stay committed to the truth, and it’s rumored that Minhaj might have lost out on hosting The Daily Show as a result of the article, something he made reference to several times during the show. All this to say Minhaj expertly played off the mild tension his article created. Despite the audience likely being big fans of his work, there was no doubt that everyone was also wondering how much of it was true and how much had been embellished which led Minhaj to make some fascinating jokes regarding how he views himself and his role in comedy. 

In what was perhaps the least successful bit on a wildly successful night Minhaj also tried his hand at crowd work. A couple and their ten-year-old child purportedly sitting in the front row became the subjects and stand-ins for many of Minhaj’s jokes. In a moment reminiscent of the recent John Mulaney special, Baby J, Minhaj asked the ten-year-old what he knew about Minhaj, what his favorite of Minhaj’s work was, and reminded both the ten-year-old and his parents that the show wasn’t really for young’uns. Minhaj opened with this bit, providing an interesting framing device for the rest of the show and thrilling the audience as they wondered what was to come. While there were some bright spots to the running bit, it felt somewhat awkward for Minhaj to continually use the family as stand-ins (and not necessarily in the most favorable way) for his jokes, though such is often the nature of crowd work. 

Minhaj has built a successful career, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Minhaj still has all the same tricks that made him an intriguing and amazing comedian in the first place: a unique delivery, a hectic energy, and comedy infused with both emotion and logic. And, through the ebbs and flows of his fame, he has managed to build on everything that made him so fascinating in the first place. Minhaj remains a worthwhile comedian to follow, even if only to find out if he made it all up.

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