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Whoopi Goldberg defends Hasan Minhaj over ‘lying’ controversy

Comedian had admitted to fabricating anecdotes for his stand-up material

Louis Chilton
Tuesday 19 September 2023 07:37 BST
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Trailer

Whoopi Goldberg has issued a defence of Hasan Minhaj after the comedian controversially admitted to fabricating stories for his stand-up comedy.

Minhaj, 37, known for hosting the acclaimed Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, admitted last week that he had exaggerated several anecdotes relayed in his 2022 Netflix special The King’s Jester.

At one point in the special, Minhaj described an incident in which he was sent a white powder in the post, which he claimed to believe was anthrax. This powder was then supposedly spilled over his young daughter.

Speaking to The New Yorker, Minhaj confessed that his daughter was never thought to be exposed to anthrax, although a letter containing powder was delivered to his apartment.

Other segments Minhaj was accused of fabricating or embellishing include an anecdote about being discriminated against on prom night, and a story in which he was attacked by police officers.

“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” he told the publication. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70 per cent emotional truth – this happened – and then 30 per cent hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

In a follow-up statement to Variety, the comedian further addressed the alleged inventions in his stand-up routines.

“All my stand-up 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 stand-up comedy – hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines to tell entertaining stories. That’s inherent to the art form,” he said. “You wouldn’t go to a Haunted House and say ‘Why are these people lying to me?’ The point is the ride. Stand-up is the same.”

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Hasan Minhaj pictured in June 2023

Speaking on the US chat show The View on Monday (18 September), Goldberg weighed in on the controversy.

“That’s what [comedians] do,” the Sister Act star and comedian stated. “That’s what we do. We tell stories, and we embellish them.”

She recalled an instance when a reporter had sought to fact-check part of her stand-up routine, when Goldberg – playing a character – had mentioned having a degree from New York University.

“If you’re gonna hold a comic to the point where you’re gonna check up on their stories,” Goldberg added, “you have to understand, a lot of it is not the exact thing that happened, because why would we tell exactly what happened? It ain’t that interesting.”

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