Comedian Hasan Minhaj uses platform to debunk xenophobia

Comedian Hasan Minhaj performs during the comedy show in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the USO and the 5th anniversary of Joining Forces at Joint Base Andrews in Washington, D.C. May 5, 2016. (DoD News/EJ Hersom via wikicommons)

Hasan Minhaj’s use of comedy to address foreign policy and terrorism left a nearly full Macky Auditorium bursting with laughter on Thursday night. CU’s Cultural Events Board paired with Project Nur, an campus organization that combats islamophobia, to host Minhaj.

Minhaj is an Indian-American comedian, actor and writer based out of New York. He’s best known as a senior correspondent on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show. He came to Boulder to practice new material he’ll use on his upcoming Netflix series.

Minhaj started the night by recounting his recent experience trying to buy a gun in Alabama.

The clerk saw his brown skin and refused the sale saying, “You could be in ISIS.”

Rather than being too offended, Minhaj sympathized with the Alabaman gun salesman. Minhaj reasoned that he can’t blame Americans for fearing Muslims and immigrants because the rhetoric surrounding them in American politics is so frightening.

According to Minhaj, Ann Coulter, Donald Trump and other conservatives’ depiction of Muslims is comparable to that of the White Walkers on Game of Thrones. He joked that mainstream media in America suggests that it is in the nation’s best interest to keep the “Brown Walkers” out.

This led him into a conversation about immigration, with a focus on refugees.

Minhaj mentioned his visit to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. His goal was to discover how likely an American is to be killed by a refugee. Cato looked at 40 years of data. They discovered the likelihood of being killed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion.

With the help of a statistician, Minhaj put this into perspective for the audience.

To compare, someone would have to be born an only child, be called out on The Price is Right, win it in the first round and get hit by a car upon leaving. Then, their identity would have to be stolen stolen shortly before being stung by a bumblebee and dying.

All these events would have to take place in the exact same order.

“That’s still 15 times more likely than you being killed by a refugee,” Minhaj said.

CU student and Nepali immigrant Kushalta Subedi commended Minhaj for bringing up such serious topics.

“I love the way he talks about real issues in the country and all the discrimination against Muslims,” Subedi said.

Freshman Kyle Rasmussen shared similar sentiments from the night.

“[He] had a lot of meaning behind his jokes, I thought he was really trying to convey a message,” Rasmussen said.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Georgia Knoles at

Georgia Knoles

Georgia is a sophomore studying journalism, French and Spanish at CU Boulder. She is the Assistant Arts Editor for the CU Independent and hails from the Great Pacific Northwest.

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