Hasan Minhaj in The Patriot Act| Twitter @patriotact
Hasan Minhaj in The Patriot Act| Twitter @patriotact
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The energy that Hasan Minhaj’s news comedy show Patriot Act rides on was missing in its first quarantine edition episode that aired Sunday on Netflix.

Hasan Minhaj usually faces no problem in holding one’s attention. His finicky, frenetically moving hands, the intensity with which he talks about the topic at hand, along with the occasional no holds-barred-jibe makes Minhaj a delight to watch.

But was his screen presence enough to make up for the lost grandeur of the Patriot Act’s usual live-audience and glitzy set as he shot the latest episode from home during the Covid crisis? The answer is an unfortunate, but loud no.

Without multiple screen changes, bright studio lights, and a laughing audience, most of Minhaj’s jokes fell flat. No matter how hard his team tried — although pulling off a show in the midst of the pandemic is undoubtedly commendable — they failed to retain the charm of earlier episodes of the show.


Also read: Hasan Minhaj back on Netflix: Will irreverent comedy work in dark Covid times?


 

Sorely lacking energy

Watching the Patriot Act is usually a refreshing experience. One because Hasan Minhaj isn’t just another old dude discussing depressing and drab happenings from around the world. He conjures up a sense of familiarity — Minhaj talks like us, emotes like us, and doesn’t blink twice before giving the biggest politicians a dose of millennial sass (looking at you Mohammed Bin Salman). Whatever he talks about, no matter how grave the subject matter, he doesn’t leave you with a sad feeling.

On Minhaj’s show, the big screen behind him, along with multiple other screens, move in a choreographed fashion that match the rhythm of every word Minhaj says, keeping the audience engaged and hooked.

In the quarantine edition, the producers did a decent job at replicating this considering that it was shot remotely. But in the absence of elaborate studio features like the glass floor that transformed into a screen, something was clearly lacking

This makes one think, what do we actually tune into a show like this for? The snarky jokes and bubbling studio energy that palpitates through our screens, or entertainment repackaged as deep news analysis?

Minhaj, with his never-ending pop culture references, takes some serious and pertinent issues and serves them to us as binge-worthy content akin to slapstick infotainment as my colleague Pia Krishnankutty called it.

Always in a hurry 

It’s not easy to cram so much research in a 20-25 minute episode, but Patriot Act doesn’t exactly pull it off. Minhaj rushes through segments without taking a breather and moves on to his next argument before his arms are done gesticulating the point he was trying to make earlier. This isn’t exactly a model that allows a viewer a lot of time to retain information.

One episode that I particularly had trouble keeping pace with was, ironically, about Indian electionsa topic I knew most about compared to others featured before. The speed at which Minhaj tried to delve into the vastness of the Indian elections system, while also contextualising things for an American audience, ended up with him neither here, nor there. 

In the first episode of Patriot Act’s quarantine edition, however, Minhaj was calmer, slower and far more comprehensible than usual. His message was far louder and clearer in a quiet and sober set up. 

Hopefully, Patriot Act will come back stronger, better and a bit slower once things go back to ‘normal’.


Also read: Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime is to Delhi what Sacred Games was for Mumbai


 

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. What a bunch of crap. Once you get used to the lack of distractions, it hits you just how brilliant Hasan is. If not, you are missing a brain.

  2. This is totally unwarranted. I dont know what you watched but I can assure you that it isnt as bad as this person described it. Do something more useful instead of shitting on someone else for once. I dont agree with Hasan all the time but I know that this is kind of critique is definitely not warranted.

  3. You’re a jerk. You’re really going to judge the guy and his show after he delivers great content from his home?! He could deliver an hour of darkness and still be more dynamic then your review.

  4. Me too.. It was perfect Minaj: critical topic, well-researched, compassion and humour. Grow up Hollywood Re-poo-pooher.

  5. Y’all still have time to delete this article. The show was still great and the jokes were funny. Absolutely no one agrees with this.

  6. The show was as good as ever even in the quarantine avatar. Hassan’s jokes were actually what kept the momentum going despite a lack of the stage grandeur and studio audience.

  7. I love Patriot Act and think the visual style is a draw of the show, but to suggest it is the only reason the audience watches is starkly wrong. Hasan and everyone involved with the show do a great job of collecting widespread and convoluted information and giving it to their audience in a clear cause and effect manner. (I am really not trying to sound snarky or grumpy here. I am really just trying to reply. It hard to convey the correct emotion simply through text) Good job on writing an article though!!

  8. Speak for yourself. I liked it without the audience as i didn’t see the point of them being there anyway. It is just like John Oliver’s show. There is very little crowd interaction during their monologue. And why is this piece on print anyway? Competing with TOI for trivialities as well?

  9. Since we don’t have a single program in India that stands anywhere close as far as objective reporting goes, it is better indian journalists don’t sit in judgement on some good work being done

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