Hasan Minhaj, one of Trevor Noah’s comedy correspondents on The Daily Show, did not get to mock Donald Trump to his face Saturday night at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. POTUS #45 ditched the annual “Geek Formal” is Washington, which was probably all for the best.
I had the good fortune to meet Minhaj just over a year ago in New York at a gathering of international reporters on the set of The Daily Show. He was just back from a trip to Ottawa and still had a man crush on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Minhaj was already horrified at the prospect of Trump winning the White House, an outcome that seemed blissfully remote to me at the time.
Minhaj aced his moment in the comedy spotlight Saturday night. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “welcome to the series finale of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,”
He addressed the “elephant that’s not in the room” — the missing president.
“I would say it is an honor to be here,” he said, “but that would be an alternative fact. No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant.”
A lot of his barbs were aimed at the press. He dismissed his own network, Comedy Central, as an internship for Netflix — a little gallows humour in a year that saw several top CC execs depart the US cable network. (Minhaj also has his own Netflix comedy special, set to premiere in a few weeks.)
He mocked the mainstream TV press for not seeing Trump’s election victory coming.
“Remember election night? That was your Steve Harvey Miss Universe moment.”
He skewered Bill O’Reilly, pointing out Fox News reportedly gave their former star a $25 million severance package, “making it the only package he wont force a woman to touch.”
The White House dinner is a tough room because you’re basically pulling down about a thousand pairs of pants all at the same time. There’s a lot of gasps and dead air during Minhaj’s routine. You can watch his entire stand-up comedy segment here.
In the recent past, featured comedians have mocked presidents right to their faces, especially Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. Meyers was so brutal on Trump — who was in the room as a possible candidate — he is probably more responsible than anyone else for his absence.
President Barack Obama was able to swing with whatever the comedians could toss, and in the process, he became the featured act. Had Trump attended the dinner, with the right writers, he could have won the room by showing a self effacing si… what am I saying? It would have been ugly. Tremendously ugly. Huge ugly.
Minhaj did a funny bit where he flipped things around on journalists, making all the (mainly white) reporters in the room feel like minorities. He did not, however, just bring a minority edge to the dinner. He also represented a generational change. His frank and fearless approach was just the brazen musings of people his age, young people who speak and act like there’s nothing left to lose. In other words, he was the perfect guy to do this gig this year, with the possible exception of Samantha Bee.