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Hasan Minhaj Responds to Accusations He Bent the Truth for Stories in His Standup, Claims 'Emotional Truth'

The comedian admitted in an interview with 'The New Yorker' that his stories — some of which were featured in his 2022 Netflix standup special, 'The King’s Jester' — were "30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction"

<p>John Nacion/Getty </p> Hasan Minhaj attends the

John Nacion/Getty

Hasan Minhaj attends the 'Death, Let Me Do My Show' opening night at Lucille Lortel Theatre on September 14, 2023

When it comes to his standup comedy material, Hasan Minhaj isn't afraid to bend the truth.

The comedian, 37, who has made a name for himself in pop culture and on stage with comedy routines largely steeped in his experience as an Asian American and Muslim American, admitted to The New Yorker in a profile published on Friday that his standup stories were “30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, Minhaj says: "All my standup stories are based on events that happened to me. Yes, I was rejected from going to prom because of my race. Yes, a letter with powder was sent to my apartment that almost harmed my daughter. Yes, I had an interaction with law enforcement during the war on terror. Yes, I had varicocele repair surgery so we could get pregnant. Yes, I roasted Jared Kushner to his face. I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form. You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’ — The point is the ride. Standup is the same."

The New Yorker independently confirmed that several of Minhaj's stories were exaggerated or partly fabricated, including an anecdote from Minhaj’s 2022 Netflix standup special, The King’s Jester, about an FBI informant who infiltrated his family’s mosque and a meeting the comedian had with the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. to explore the possibility of interviewing Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman just prior to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On the train ride back to New York after his meeting, Minhaj claimed that people sent him concerned texts asking if he okay and whether he was "watching the news," referring to Khashoggi's death.

In truth, Minhaj confessed he'd changed the timelines: his meeting with the Saudi Embassy occurred at least a month before the news of Khashoggi's murder broke. But Minhaj said he made his narrative choice to “make it feel the way it felt.”

<p>Cara Howe/Netflix</p> Hasan Minhaj in his now-canceled Netflix talk show 'Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj'

Cara Howe/Netflix

Hasan Minhaj in his now-canceled Netflix talk show 'Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj'

Related: Hasan Minhaj Reveals He and Wife Had 'Fertility Problems' for Years: It Was 'Really Tough on Us'

“[My] day-to-day life is not very interesting or compelling,” Minhaj explained to The New Yorker. “My comedy storytelling certainly has to be.”

The comedian added that every story “in my style” is built around “a seed of truth."

“My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction,” he added.

<p>Mark Seliger / Netflix</p> Hasan Minhaj strikes a pose to promote his now-canceled Netflix show 'Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.'

Mark Seliger / Netflix

Hasan Minhaj strikes a pose to promote his now-canceled Netflix show 'Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.'

Related: Comedian Hasan Minhaj Explains Why He Corrected Ellen DeGeneres' Pronunciation of His Name

Another example from The King’s Jester was when Minhaj told the story of a letter sent to his home filled with a suspicious white powder that spilled onto his daughter, who was rushed to the hospital (and ultimately deemed fine). Although the comedian explained an envelope was indeed sent to his home, the rest of his tale never happened.

“The emotional truth is first,” he told the outlet, rationalizing his decisions. “The factual truth is secondary.”

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Minhaj is no stranger to addressing backlash. After appearing on Celebrity Jeopardy! in November 2022, the comedian was deemed "annoying" and "painfully unfunny" by social media users. One critic went so far as to call Minhaj the worst contestant in Jeopardy! history.

During a sit-down with Jimmy Fallon on an episode of The Tonight Show following his appearance, Minhaj announced, "This past week I was on Celebrity Jeopardy! and now fans of Jeopardy! hate my guts. I have this unique power to piss off dedicated nerds."

Minhaj insisted that he "was just playing with vigor and passion," and later joked about being called the "most annoying contestant."

"That one hurt because, you know, the show's been on for over 58 years — and they've had 15,000 contestants on the show. And Dr. Oz was a contestant," he quipped. "Maybe my dad was wrong. He said I'd never break records on that show."

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