“Patriot Act”: A Much-Needed Perspective
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Political comedies are a defining characteristic of American television, but the television scene is already saturated with shows such as “The Daily Show,” “The Late Show,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Often, it feels like every show is another version of the previous one. However, “Patriot Act” brings something new to the table.
This weekly Netflix special is hosted by comedian Hasan Minhaj, whose name you may recognize from “The Daily Show.” Each week, Minhaj covers a different topic ranging from Amazon to cruises to retirement. Minhaj attempts to educate his audience on issues that are easily overlooked, but this does not mean the show does not cover more relevant topics. Several episodes cover events relevant to the current political landscape, such as President Donald Trump’s policies, climate change, the policing system, and drug pricing and regulation. Hip-hop music, student loans, and public transportation are some of the topics Minhaj discusses that directly speak to us as high schoolers.
The immediate reason this show stands out is its set up. Unlike the typical talk show, the set up of “Patriot Act” is very engaging; instead of sitting behind a desk, Minhaj does the show in a “PowerPoint presentation-style.” The background and stage of the set are filled with graphics and data that not only enhance Minhaj’s speaking, but also provide the audience with context and visuals, making “Patriot Act” a true form of “infotainment.”
Minhaj breaks down each episode’s topic and makes it more comprehensible for the viewer. In each episode, he offers a deep analysis of the issue at hand and looks at it from several perspectives. Minhaj’s style of presenting information is very different, offering viewers a breath of fresh air. Minhaj presents the topics in a more objective way, instead of exaggerating or downplaying certain facts. In his episode titled “Fentanyl,” Minhaj explains the different sides of the topic so that his audience can understand its magnitude. In addition, unlike mainstream news, Minhaj discusses not only the issue at hand, but also how it relates to other issues as well.
Minhaj’s sense of humor and stage presence is the focal point of “Patriot Act.” Unlike other talk show hosts, Minhaj often paces back and forth across the stage and accents his jokes and punchlines with extravagant gestures. Minhaj’s sense of humor is quite universal as well. Most of his jokes are satirical, like the majority of political comedy shows, but the vehicle he uses for these jokes is what makes them stand out; Minhaj often references and draws parallels to pop culture with jokes about “the drip” and “Ray Donovan.” He also weaves his personal experiences into the show, making his jokes more relatable and engaging. He frequently discusses his experiences growing up—particularly from his teenage years—and touches on topics such as the SATs or part-time jobs. Minhaj makes jokes with cultural specificity, yet finds a way to make them accessible to the masses. For example, he makes a joke about a prevalent item in Indian culture called a “lota,” but makes it understandable to the rest of his viewers by calling it a “manual bidet.” He also uses witty humor to convey his ideas to his audience in a more lighthearted way—which is necessary, especially when discussing heavy topics. The episodes often feature interviews and guest appearances, ranging from sneaker experts to candidates from the 2020 elections. Minhaj’s distinct voice and ability to engage his audience make watching “Patriot Act” much more enjoyable.
At face value, “Patriot Act” is simply a different iteration on a political comedy, but unlike other shows, Minhaj connects with his audience and focuses on morality. In addition to educating the viewer, Minhaj teaches them how to be a more conscious person. Every episode informs us about not only the issue at hand, but also the role that we play in it and the changes we can make. In the most recent release “How America is Causing Global Obesity,” Minhaj spends the entire last portion of the episode teaching his audience about focusing on issues that are important to them. He stresses that we must not keep track of every issue in the world, making the analogy of “closing tabs” in our brains. His consistent emphasis on the viewers and their personal lives is indicative of a sense of authenticity that many other shows lack.
One of the greatest appeals of “Patriot Act” is the unique perspective offered by Minhaj. Being a Muslim Indian-American, Minhaj speaks to a lot of us with his personal anecdotes. Having grown up in California with strict parents, caught in between two cultures, as well as being a first-generation American, Minhaj is a necessary voice. Growing up, Minhaj did not see people who looked like him on television, and he often faced various forms of discrimination throughout his life (most notably high school), making representation in the industry a high priority for him. His content fills a void in television and relates to viewers from a similar background. Minhaj’s distinct point of view allows him to cover issues in a way that others cannot, enriching the talk show scene. Boiled down, “Patriot Act” isn’t a show about affirmative action or immigration enforcement; it is about exploring an underrepresented point of view.