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She had just graduated UCLA, come back to the Bay, and was working part-time doing stand-up. That really shapes the scene, that’s being mixed with places like Oakland and Berkeley, with people who have been living there forever. It’s odd — I’m going to jump ahead on this side tangent, but if you look at the Republican debates, Trump was the best comedian out of the 17 people up there. ” The Republican debates were like the Wu-Tang Clan — it was him and 17 other people up there on the podiums. Trump, how do you feel about the allegations that you’re a misogynist or that you’re disrespectful to women? And then they’re just like, “Okay, next question, Governor Kasich,” and I’m like, “We’re just moving on? It’s terrifying, because he basically acts like a comedian, riffing. It was a little bit of a “game recognizes game” thing: He’s a performer and a showman. I remember when he came down the golden escalator, Jon was still hosting . Yeah, so my parents, like a lot of strict Indian parents, didn’t let my sister or I have cable TV in the house. Early on, when you do open mics, you’re performing in bars at like midnight or one. The mechanics in college were, “I’m in the library.” That was a lot easier. It was like, “Meet me here, library’s closed.” Living at home in college, was it tough making friends? I just started becoming friends with comedians, but that’s very weird being 20 years old and your friends are like, a divorcée, or people with kids. Being in SF for those first four or five years was really good for me because I’m around comedians that are significantly better than me; I can fail publicly. There’s the nuances in the way that we as people of color interact with America in the outside world, but also the nuances within our communities behind closed doors. Indian kids who are 16, 17 now, they’re in a completely different stage of self-knowledge, self-confidence, what they’re into. Like, to me, where we’ve gone from there to now is so cool. I am so glad that there are so many talented South Asian artists who are making such strong and bold choices.
Sometimes in cities, there’s a certain vibe, like, “Oh, these are Boston guys.” Everyone in SF was so different. It’s so densely populated with a combination of immigrants who’ve been there a long time, and new immigrants coming in. And the coach might not like it, but I realized that if I constructed the argument right, by the time I got to the end with the closing statement, it would’ve worked out. They just would, because they had a better time listening to you than the other person. I remember when people were like, “When did the game change? You were talking about speech and debate, and law as a profession where you perform. Like, “Hey, I’m an Indian kid and I live with my parents! It wasn’t cutting-edge or groundbreaking or anything like that. They’re still doing comedy and I keep in touch with them. I love that, and I hope it continues to change and evolve. The changes are so dramatic from not even generations, like micro-generations. I remember in November of ’05, the Russell Peters You Tube video of “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt Real Bad.” That was Oh my god. My theory is it’s a byproduct of our parents emigrating here 30 or 40 years ago, and now we’re of the age where we can tell that story.
But why don’t we start with the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? I had loosely heard that my name was being thrown around. You can just put it in a backpack and take it with you. All this extra stuff no one asked him to do, he was like, “I want to make it easier for you.
Obviously your stand-up special tracks your career beautifully.  How did you get invited, and how did it all happen? He gets up onstage, grabs my mom and dad, walks them into the green room and gives them a hug!
James Corden passes on it, all these other people didn’t want to do it. There’s always that fear of if I’m really myself and it doesn’t work out, then what’s gonna happen to me? Yeah, when I started, there was a period about maybe three or four years ago where I was like, “I’m going to double or quadruple down on this, and see where I end up.” I can always add water to the concentrate and be like, “All right,” but I feel like if I go this way, it’ll be the most interesting, honest choice.
My name is tossed about — Passed because it was Trump? There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the branding of the event. Then let that be my best me, because then I’ll know I’m not the one, I’m not meant to be a great comedian or whatever it is. Then I’m in an artistic purgatory where I don’t know who I am. That seems like a really big step to make, with the kinds of family expectations you’ve mentioned.
I don’t know if it’s a product of the choices were making or if we’re just riding a wave in history that we don’t know we’re riding. I think about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I was lucky that I got placed in that moment.
Sure, I said what I wanted to say up there, but there’s all these variables that weren’t in my control.
There’s always that fear of, “If I step out and I say this,” or “If I do this, the people around me will deliver …” Retribution. Forensics is one of those few times where you have the court for ten minutes and you can present your argument go on tangents. The judges inadvertently give you a 15 percent better score. The expectations of shared knowledge are changing culturally. Because there are more people talking and more access to different life stories. Since I started to even consider myself to be in the performing arts, in ’04, what a leap we’ve made.
They can’t run up to you and say, “You can’t do that.” Because there’s so much — and I’m sure you experienced this at work — fear of the slip. I didn’t know that was a great tool, especially when you’re arguing against another person’s position, if you can poke holes in their argument by making them look silly. I remember sometimes my dad wouldn’t let me use the car, and this was so sweet of them: They’d pick me up and we’d drive together, splitting gas money, and they’d drive me back, drop me off a couple blocks away from where I lived, so I’d walk a few blocks in case my dad was driving home from the grocery store and he’d see me and think I was walking home from the bus stop. So when I’d say “drop me off here,” they’d be like, “all right,” not “why? From my perspective in media, but in every cultural realm in the past ten years.
You took this as an opportunity to speak truth to power, and I’m surprised people wouldn’t see it that way. That kind of, “I can’t believe he’s saying this” feeling. So I go, “If you’re going to show up, this the year.” I was really disappointed because I was like, “You guys know better. Like, maybe if we acted like the bigger person, or if we’re polite, Donald Trump will see the error of his ways. That whole “Be nice, give him a chance” shit is dead. My dad’s on the phone with me and he’s like, “Hasan, don’t go so hard. We were talking about this and we were like, when it comes to who I love, who I marry, and what I do with my life, I don’t want there to be any asterisks. This is my perspective on the world, and I’m going to close with that.
I think that was the first White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech that everyone talked about. But still, it was like, “Oh, this can be an opportunity to call people out.”And there was this element of, “Does Bush know he’s being roasted? there was just a lot of controversy around the event, and when that happens, people don’t want to touch that. You know what this event is about, and this is the year to stand in solidarity with journalists to say, ‘They’re not the enemy of the people, they’re not the scum of the earth.’” I was bummed by that, but then I thought, “This is an interesting comedic opportunity.” Of all the things where the country is at from a macro perspective, that an Indian-American is going to stand on that stage, with a president who so publicly hates Muslims — there is a new tension and dynamic. Also, the irony is we’re protecting the First Amendment by what? Don’t do what you did at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner. I’m the first Indian-American Muslim to stand on that stage, and I want you to know that.
” Litigation, being in court and standing up for somebody, I remember thinking that was really cool. Were you feeling the injustices that you talked about in your special, to do with being Muslim?