Late-night television holds a unique position in American entertainment, seamlessly blending humor, satire, and current events into infotainment programs that offer laughter, solace, and moments of reflection to a diverse audience. However, the conventional late-night television landscape was disrupted by a significant hiatus during the screenwriters’ strike. Upon their return, “The Daily Show,” known for its political commentary and wit, reentered the late-night lineup later than the “big five” hosts: Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver.
The show’s decision to feature a rotating cast of guest hosts marked a departure from the norm, demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Prior to the hiatus, “The Daily Show” welcomed various guest hosts, including Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, Wanda Sykes, Marlon Wayans, John Leguizamo, and Hasan Minhaj.
The six hosts listed represented people of varying religious backgrounds, gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities, and more importantly: personalities — all of which are prevalent in the Queens College student body.
Inclusivity and diversity have become prominent themes in the entertainment industry, with Minhaj exemplifying this commitment during his tenure as the host of his Netflix program, “The Patriot Act,” addressing issues affecting a wide range of Americans.
A recent New Yorker article by Clare Malone shed light on Minhaj’s embellishments of dramatic events in his life, raising questions about his candidacy to succeed Trevor Noah. This prompts a fundamental question: how far is too far when it comes to comedic exaggeration?
Exaggeration, a staple of comedy, involves amplifying everyday situations for comedic effect, making humor relatable by magnifying everyday experiences. As Whoopi Goldberg, a host on “The View,” stated, “That’s what we [comedians] do; we tell stories and we embellish them.”
In Malone’s article, she recounts a Minhaj anecdote in which he was rejected by a prospective prom date based on his race, a claim later proven false. In a more extreme example from his Netflix special, “The King’s Jester,” Minhaj shares a story about receiving an envelope with a white substance, which led to his daughter’s hospitalization out of concern it might be anthrax. No such hospitalization had occurred. Minhaj explained, “[my] comedy is seventy percent emotional truth — this happened — and then thirty percent hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”
Hasan Minhaj’s case exemplifies the fine line that comedians often navigate. Comedy serves as a platform for social commentary, but when a comedian, especially one with a strong connection to their diverse audience, is accused of stretching or fabricating dramatic events, it raises questions about trust and integrity. Those who look up to these relatable figures may wonder if humor can sometimes compromise truth.
In an era of rapid information dissemination through social media, entertainers and public figures must maintain credibility. Comedy holds the power to be an instrument of change, but when perceived as disingenuous, it erodes trust. Minhaj’s case underscores the need for comedians to be responsible in their storytelling, even when using exaggeration as a comedic device.
Infotainment programs like “The Daily Show” have become essential for college students and young adults seeking to digest information about news, politics, and pop culture through a blend of humor and education. These shows engage viewers and encourage critical thinking.
The decision to introduce a rotating cast of guest hosts on “The Daily Show” is commendable. Inclusivity in late-night television is vital as it reflects the diversity of the audience and amplifies different perspectives. The show’s dedication to featuring a variety of voices reflects the evolving landscape of late-night television.
Late-night television, including shows like The Daily Show, plays a crucial role in helping young people engage with information about the world. Comedians and hosts must use their platforms responsibly, offering humor and an accurate perspective on current events. The late-night infotainment landscape provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations at the intersection of entertainment, politics, and truth, particularly in a world where these discussions resonate with a diverse and impressionable audience.