I first became aware of the comic stylings of Hasan Minhaj a little over years ago thanks to vids like "Abercrombie Door Greeters" and "Indian Spider-Man." Since then, I've watched the comedian expand his presence through ongoing comedic shorts like "The Truth" (check out his blistering, hilarious takedown of Ashton Kutcher here). Tomorrow night I (and you) get to see him on MTV as host of the new series Failosophy. I had the opportunity to chat with Hasan a few weeks ago about how Failosophy happened, who some of his inspirations are, and his take on the very serious business of being funny. Here's what he had to say:
Maybe we can start at the beginning here or close to the beginning. How did we get to the point where we have Failosophy becoming a show? Walk us through your journey a little bit.
Jim Biederman, who produced The Whitest Kids You Know and Kids in the Hall, along with two other comedians [Evan Mann and Derek Reynolds] -- they produced and sold the idea of the show to MTV. Then MTV brought a pilot they wanted to do for it. They were looking for comedians to do it and just coincidentally -- almost the perfect storm of events -- I auditioned for it, and they had seen some videos and that helped.
It was my videos like "The Truth With Hasan Minhaj" that kind of really raised the awareness of who I was and it just became a perfect fit. I auditioned for it and I booked it and then there was a series of auditions and then testing for it and going out to New York and then eventually they told me I was the guy and they went out to New York and we filmed the whole season this past August.
So the first season is done from your end?
Yeah, it's wrapped and we wrapped and premiered on Valentine's Day, February 14 at 10:30.
How many episodes is the first year?
The Asian-American voice, specifically the Indian-American voice, is something that's fairly underrepresented, especially in the comedy scene. In terms of your approach to comedy, my question is how do you thread the needle between talking about things that are personal to you while also making them appeal to as mainstream an audience as possible?
I feel like comedy specifically the more personal and more specific you can be it almost becomes more universal. What I mean by that is if you peel back the layers and layers of human existence, the feelings and experiences, the things that we feel in our everyday lives growing up it really boils down to the same feelings all humans feel. Fear, love, loyalty, betrayal, all those things that as human beings we all feel as emotions. I feel like if you talk about those specific themes that happen within your specific life or experience no matter how unique that is, everyone that's experienced that fear, love, loss, happiness, joy, an awkward situation and I think people really get behind that and that's where it becomes more of a universal thing.
That's something that my sketch group, we kind of formulated Goat Face, and we just wanted to share our experience and our unique viewpoint on the world through sketch. And what's cool about it is that it's been able to straddle the line between people. Like within our own community really appreciate it and I think people who really dig comedy, love comedy, dig it. I just noticed that through...I'm just a huge fan of comedy and seeing all different comedies, comedies from different walks of life I can totally get behind it. That inspired me to be like, "If I get really specific and share my story or share the things that I've gone through I think people will get behind it."
Who are some of your personal inspirations in the comedy realm?
Oh, man, there's a ton. I would say Chris Rock would probably be my all time favorite. Guys like Rock and Cosby are some of my favorites. Contemporary comedians: Louie...Patrice O'Neal, who passed away recently. A lot of those guys...Patton Oswalt, Daniel Tosh are some of my favorite comedians to watch. To me my favorite comedians to watch are the ones who really, really, really get personal and they have...the jokes come from their life experience. It's not necessarily them writing jokes but there's humor in their pain and their struggles. That's what really strikes a chord with me.
Tell us a little bit about the show. What's the philosophy behind Failosophy?
Basically, the concept that Jim Biederman and Evan Mann and Derek Reynolds came up with was essentially the social media culture that we have is filled with a lot of fails. Whether it's failed text messages, failed prom photos. All that stuff is all captured now and it's all shared through social media. Twenty years ago the notion of failed text messages or a guy having hover hands when he's trying to hug a girl and stuff, all that didn't exist.
There was hard evidence and proof but you'd have to scan it into a computer. Now because of social media it's so viral and these social media fails, we all share them. That's the whole philosophy behind Failosophy. It's a hybrid of status update fails, tweet fails, photo bombs. Anything that falls under that type of stuff but specifically the Web 2.0 social media fail. There's a lot of texture and stuff that's in the show; like people tweeting hash tags that don't make sense. People texting with their mom because they text the wrong person, all that sort of stuff.
Are there any particular highlights you can preview for us?
One of my favorite ones is one where the mom was tweeting her daughter. She tweeted the daughter, "Hey, how's our pregnant little daughter?" And the girl responded back, "Oh my God, mom. How did you know?" And the mom responded, 'No. I meant precious little daughter." It's stuff like that that are some of my favorite moments. To do that with the live studio audience is so great because we've all been there. Maybe we haven't been hiding a pregnancy from our parents but we've all been there where we're like, 'Oh my God, that is not the word that I meant.' It's just really fun to do that with a live studio audience.
The way the show is set up you're the master of ceremonies and then there's a panel?
Yeah. I'm the host of the show and I open it up with a little monologue about trending topics on Twitter. A lot of 'the best of Twitter', just really great trending topics, hash tags. I do a bunch of jokes about that and then we'll get into our different segments. Every episode has different segments that involve web 2.0 fails. Some of them are crazy tattoos, crazy hair styles that people have posted on line, some of them are from status updates that totally show how they're insane.
We play different games with the panel. So we have one called Date Rooming 911 which is basically a game where I pull all these photos from the internet and ask the panel, "Who would you date, who would you room with and who would you call the cops on?" There's a whole segment and then we also have a live studio audience portion where we poll the audience for like, "Where was the craziest place that you did X?" It's really interactive. It's really fun.
You said the season's been filmed. What are you working on in the interim?
Right now I'm working on GoatFace stuff. I have a sketch comedy group called GoatFace and right now we're performing a live show at the SF Sketchfest which is a sketch comedy festival in San Francisco so we're preparing our live show and we're shooting a bunch of videos for that.
Honestly I think it's awesome that MTV is giving a shot to comedians with original programming. They're kind of shifting back into original programming and developing shows around comedic talents and letting them anchor the show. I think that's really awesome.
Big thanks to Hasan for taking the time to discuss his oeuvre For the audio of this interview, give a listen to episode 14 of the MovieFilm Podcast. Check out Failosophy when it premieres on MTV tomorrow night. Also, be sure to catch Hasan's other vids at GoatFaceComedy.com