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The King's Jester - Hasan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj made us laugh with his comedy special Homecoming King 5 years ago, in the distant world of 2017. Since then, he's made headlines with his Netflix show The Patriot Act, tackling political subjects few dared to broach. Now back with a new comedy special, Hasan Minhaj's The King's Jester tackles some big subjects, including fertility, the life of a new father, and freedom of speech. We sent our writers to find out if this jester is as funny as he once was...

A dark green background with dark orange splodges. In the foreground is a circular photo of Hasan performing on stage. He is wearing a cream jacket and trousers, and holding a microphone, mid sentence. His dark hair and beard are neatly styled.


It almost feels like cheating to put my name down to write a rrreview for something I knew 100% that I would enjoy. I have been an avid enjoyer of Hasan Minhaj’s work for quite a while now. I really started to know who he was during the events depicted in his latest special The King’s Jester. You know, when he was making worldwide news by taking on… everyone. I devoured his show The Patriot Act (it was probably a good thing it was released week to week) and then I went to seek out any other work he had made.

Then I found his special Homecoming King. I say found; it was suggested on Netflix because I had just watched every episode of The Patriot Act. The algorithm knows what it’s doing. I settled in and gave it a go. That show had everything that I want and love in a comedy show, funny parts, sincere parts, and parts that let you into the deeper experience of that person. It was vulnerable, relatable and connective. Some comedy feels as though it keeps you at arm’s length, at the surface, and whilst I enjoy that, I don’t think about those shows long after I have seen them. But I thought about Homecoming King for a long time. Still do sometimes.

If Homecoming King starts the backflip, The King’s Jester sticks the landing. They feel so linked for me; the latter build on the themes, ideas, and feelings of the former. You can see the thread between them, which feels like an obvious thing to say – of course they are similar, Hasan Minhaj wrote them both, and delivers it in his power-point style. But it’s not just these surface things, it’s mechanical. The timing, rhythm, the lurching between satire and sincerity, the trust that Minhaj puts in the viewer. It’s wonderful. I also appreciate the vulnerability in covering fertility problems, external validation, social media, and relationships. A lot of these are tough subjects that I personally find it quite cathartic to hear through a funny lens.

I have heard and understand the criticism that this show is polished but like, too polished. These criticisms say that every line, every syllable, raised eyebrow and wide-eyed sincere moment feels so rehearsed.It’s true: by the time the show is filmed for release, it is so rehearsed, having been done at venues across the country lots of times. But I do understand and see that criticism. There are moments where the delivery feels rushed; some of the jokes could have been given more space to land with the laughing audience and I did find myself wanting to go back as I had missed something. I have seen other criticisms of the show (again that algorithm knows I have seen it and wants me to see every article about it) and, as much as I enjoyed this show, I kind of agree with them or can at least see what they are saying.

But sometimes, that doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just like something. And I like The King’s Jester.

Show poster for The King's Jester. Hasan is sitting on a white block looking up, with a red neon heart in the background. He is dressed all in white. Text reads 'Hasan Minhaj The King's Jester available only on Netflix, watch now.'
Image copyright - Netflix


I laughed out loud within the first 5 minutes of The King’s Jester. This is a good litmus test for any Netflix special, but is particularly impressive when considering that I’ve held a grudge against Hasan Minhaj ever since my ex said he was better looking than me.

After that first laugh I was willing to put our personal beef to one side and just enjoy the show. Minhaj is down to earth and charming, and his humour is rooted in relatability to the point where a lot of the special feels more like a friend telling you a story than a highly-polished Netflix special. In spite of the lights, the crowd, and the huge stage, Minhaj managed to make the special feel intimate, and I was so engrossed that I didn’t look away from my screen once.

While touching on politics, The King’s Jester is not as expressly political as Patriot Act. Whenever Minhaj makes reference to politics it is always in connection to the story he is already telling, often a personal one, and I actually think this makes the political statements, although indirect, more impactful. It feels like a direct rebuttal to things like The Daily Show or The Mash Report, where the political slant always feels a bit superficial when proselytised from the confines of a studio. Minhaj harnesses the strength of his relatability to embed his sincere values within the structure of his act, and when it lands it is totally compelling.

However I understand that this kind of comedy isn’t for everyone: at times it wasn’t for me. It got plenty of laughs out of the audience, but whenever Minhaj put on a “funny” voice, or rasped into the mic to punctuate his story I found it really grating. This habit often undermined the punchline he was setting up, because I was too busy waiting for him to talk normally to pay attention. Likewise, he sometimes wound me up by talking fast and loud to try and seize my attention when he already had it. For me, Minhaj is funniest when he takes his time to work through a bit, and these shouty bits felt forced to me.

This sense of being forced could also be a problem when Minhaj pivots to sincerity. These moments when he switches between funny and serious make up some of the best bits of the special, but every now and then they seem to come at the wrong moment and feel just a little awkward. Not annoying or bad, just a little bit out of place and it can feel weird.

But these awkward beats never linger and Minhaj was charismatic enough to keep me moving through the special. Occasionally bringing in some really dark personal moments and then pulling it back with just the right dose of levity. It felt like a chat with a close friend in more ways than one, and was the perfect show to end my day.

And Hasan, I will cede, despite looking like a raccoon on adderall, you are still better looking than me.


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