Hasan Minhaj Admits to Embellishing Stand-Up Stories, Including Daughter’s Anthrax Scare: ‘The Punch Line Is Worth the Fictionalized Premise’

In a new profile published by The New Yorker, comedian, former “Patriot Act” host and “The Daily Show” alum Hasan Minhaj admitted to fabricating details in past stand-up specials, such as 2022’s “The King’s Jester” that streamed on Netflix.

“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” Minhaj said. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

One story Minhaj told in “The King’s Jester” related to an envelope with white powder that was sent to his home. Naturally, he thought the powder was anthrax. According to the comedian in the special, the powder accidentally spilled onto his daughter and she was rushed to the hospital. The doctor told him it was not anthrax. Later that night, he said his wife told him: “You get to say whatever you want onstage, and we have to live with the consequences. I don’t give a shit that Time magazine thinks you’re an ‘influencer.’ If you ever put my kids in danger again, I will leave you in a second.’ ”

However, Minhaj admitted to The New Yorker that his daughter was never exposed to the white powder or hospitalized. He maintained that a letter with white powder was sent to his house and he joked to his wife, “Holy shit. What if this was anthrax?”

In another story told in “The King’s Jester,” Minhaj talks about an FBI informant who infiltrated his family’s mosque in the Sacramento area. The informant, named Brother Eric, was a white man who said he was a convert to Islam. Minhaj said Brother Eric tried to get the men of the congregation to talk about jihad, and he messed with Brother Eric by saying he was applying to get his pilot’s license. The police allegedly showed up and slammed Minhaj onto the hood of his car. This story was also a fabrication.

Minhaj told The New Yorker that both stories were based on “emotional truth” despite being made up, adding, “The punch line is worth the fictionalized premise.”

The Brother Eric story was “based on a hard foul he received during a game of pickup basketball in his youth,” The New Yorker reports. “Minhaj and other teenage Muslims played pickup games with middle-aged men whom the boys suspected were officers. One made a show of pushing Minhaj to the ground.”

According to The New Yorker, Minhaj said that he allowed himself to create characters during his stand-up routines.

“No, I don’t think I’m manipulating [the audience],” Minhaj said. “I think they are coming for the emotional roller-coaster ride…To the people that are, like, ‘Yo, that is way too crazy to happen,’ I don’t care because yes, fuck yes — that’s the point.”

Minhaj said his stories are all “grounded in truth,” to which The New York reporter said, “But it didn’t happen to you.”

“I think what I’m ultimately trying to do is highlight all of those stories,” Minhaj replied. “Building to what I think is a pointed argument.”

In a statement on the matter to Variety, Minhaj said, “All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had an interaction with law enforcement during the war on terror. Yes, I had varicocele repair surgery so we could get pregnant. Yes, I roasted Jared Kushner to his face.”

“I use the tools of standup comedy—hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form,” he added. “You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’—The point is the ride. Standup is the same.”

Head over to The New Yorker’s website to read the story in its entirety.

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