Hasan Minhaj’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner over the weekend was nothing short of epic. The Daily Show Correspondent didn’t pull any punches. He roasted Donald Trump. He gave the business to Fox News. Even Wolf Blitzer and CNN weren’t safe from Minhaj’s ribbings. For 25 minutes and 48 seconds, Hasan gave words to how many of us have been feeling about the chaos that is the Trump administration.
Watching the performance led me to think about a lot of things. From public speaking to political commentary, Hasan’s performance inspired plenty ideas that I’d like to share with you. Here are my three major takeaways from his performance.
1. Remaining Composed Under Pressure:
As a public speaker there are engagements when I have not had the entire audience with me. They’re unresponsive. Some are falling asleep. A few people are scrolling on their phones. Sometimes there’s no way around it, maybe it’s your subject matter that might be in disagreement with their views, maybe it’s the time of the day, or maybe it’s some other reason all together. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you may encounter a luke-warm response from the audience. What I thought Hasan Minhaj did such a great job at was not allowing the mixed reactions from the audience to prevent him from maintaining his energy. He wasn’t frazzled at the pockets of (mainly white) people that looked visibly uncomfortable or unamused at his comedic onslaught of 45. He powered right through it. This is a perfect example of persevering through the rough patches of your talk. Even if it feels like you’re getting off to a bad start or you were unable to successfully hook the audience, if you stick with it by the end you could still potentially win the people over, much like how Hasan did. You’ll notice that for the majority of his performance, the camera was constantly panning the room to reveal some attendees less than pleased at his sense of humor. However, by the tail end of his speech, when he started talking about the first amendment and the constitution, Hasan was able to garner unanimous applause from the room. Moral of the story, stick it out regardless of how the audience is responding.
2. Trump Does All of This Sober
Minhaj brought up a good point that Donald Trump is stone cold sober when he’s tweeting at 3am about Obama or North Korea. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, the reason behind this sobriety is commendable but the fact that he’s this unpredictable, irrational, and unstable while being completely sober adds to our list of concerns. I see a lot of parallels with Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. The corruption. The scandals within the administration. The traditional white guy racism of dog whistle politics to help them get elected (a call for law and order anyone?). It’s all there. However, the difference between the two men was that Nixon was plastered a good portion of his presidency. Trump is doing all of this with a clear mind or at least not under the influence of alcohol (Steve Bannon is another story). It’s one thing when an intoxicated person makes foolish decisions, we can attribute them to not being in the right frame of mind. But when a person makes witless decisions sober, then there’s nothing else to blame but the sheer stupidity of the person.
3. Calling Out Elephants
I think what I enjoyed most about Hasan’s talk was the fact that he was bold enough to say what he said in front of that many white people. We need more people of color willing to resist the tendency of sugar coating how we feel/think/believe because we fear potentially offending the delicate fragility of white people. That doesn’t get us anywhere. We need courage. We need bravery. We need more melanted folks willing to go there despite the potential consequences. This doesn’t mean that you have to go full Khalid Muhammed with the militancy, if that isn’t your vibe no need in attempting. However, we do need you to speak from your heart and if you need to wrap it up in a joke to hopefully make it more palpable then please do so. I find there’s a great power in being as candid as possible when delivering a speech to an audience. When you are able to pierce through the veneer of political correctness and speak candidly, there’s something that happens in the room. All the beating around the bush stops and the entry point for an honest conversation appears. Minhaj was calling out Fox News, CNN, the Huffington Post, and all of the journalist present. You got to be pretty daring to pull something like that off.
What did you think of his performance?
(Also please subscribe to the email list to get all of the updates about the millennial side-hustle, peace).