“All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me,” Minhaj said in a statement to TheWrap. “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.”
Several of the examples Minhaj uses in his statement appear in the New Yorker article but are disputed by those familiar with these incidents. For example, though a letter with powder was sent to Minhaj’s apartment and he joked to his wife it could have been anthrax, in the article Minhaj admitted that his daughter was never exposed to white powder and that she wasn’t hospitalized due to the event.
Another complicated example is when Minhaj “roasted Jared Kushner to his face.” It’s true that during the Time100 Gala, Minhaj publicly criticized Kushner for the Trump Administration’s response to human rights violations orchestrated by the Saudi government. However, according to the article, that admonishing did not happen after Kushner sat in a chair reserved for the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, principally because that ceremonial seat never existed.
“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,” Minhaj continued. “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.”
Filled both with explanations from Minhaj himself and anonymous quotes from writers and researchers who worked with him on Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” the New Yorker article dives into several stories used in his standup that the comedian admits were embellished or exaggerated. Though comedians exaggerating stories is nothing new, the article questions whether that’s still acceptable when these embellished first-person stories are a large part of a brand that calls for political activism.
In the article, Minhaj maintains that though the stories he tells in his standup may be exaggerated, the “emotional truth” they present is not.