‘Patriot Act’ is engaging but light on the laughs


Courtesy Photo

Hasan Minhaj hosts “Patriot Act.”

Hasan Minhaj and his new Netflix show “The Patriot Act” brings a new voice to the landscape of political satire which is fast paced, intelligent and charming yet can leave the viewer puzzled and unfulfilled.

The show is built around Minhaj’s unique delivery and perspective, which while entertaining and provocative, can at times be so niche and obscure that many of the jokes fly by without much audience laughter and can leave the viewer scratching their head.

The show breaks from the typical “Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” convention of a man in a suit behind a desk. Instead, the former “Daily Show” correspondent stands wearing his own casual, stylish attire.

Minhaj delivers his 20 plus minute monologue on a stage that doubles as a screen and is surrounded by screens, reminiscent of a modern day rock concert. Minaj even jokes in his first episode that he is doing his show “from inside an Apple Watch.”

Courtesy Photo
Hasan Minhaj on set of “Patriot Act.”

Episodes are released on Netflix every Sunday and they typically feature Minhaj focusing on a single topic for the entire 20 to 25-minute show. The first five episodes have covered issues ranging from talked about the evils of Amazon, the hype around the brand Supreme.

Minhaj dives into each topic delivering detailed, researched information and layering it with satire, jokes and pop culture references.

One of the exciting things about the show is it gives a platform to an Indian American who is Muslim and came of age during and after 9/11. It is a voice mainstream America doesn’t get to hear from often.

Minhaj is also really charming and likeable. Whether or not you understand his random and slightly manic pop culture, NBA and air Jordan sneaker related references, he is naturally entertaining.

Where the show falls short is in two places. First, his references are so closely tied to his point of view and life experience that he doesn’t allow much room for those who don’t relate to his generation or experience much room to laugh and learn.

More than that, the show falls short on the amount of comedy he adds to his topics. Most political satire shows bring close to a 50/50 split of news and information and comedy. At times “Patriot Act” seems to be 80 percent news and information and 20 percent comedy.

Minhaj delves almost too deeply into the information hoping to blow your mind and then attempting to make you laugh. His show may be more effective if he simply cleared the bar of informing the viewer and then striving to make them laugh more often.

Frequently, strong jokes barely land with his live audience because they often follow a long thread of information that the audience is still trying to process while he is delivering a punch line.

The show certainly lives in the right venue of Netflix where ratings and broad appeal are not nearly as important as adding content and seeing what creates its own buzz. This may  allow Minhaj time to gain more of an audience and for his unique voice to find a way to inform and delight all types of people whether they understand all of what he is saying or not.

Viewers may not laugh out loud and they may be often confused yet one can bet that they will be waiting excitedly for the next episode to drop.