Warning: This article contains minor spoilers.
Comedian Hasan Minhaj has learned he has a line.
In his new Netflix special, Minhaj revealed that about three years ago, his daughter was rushed to the hospital after a letter laced with white powder fell onto her cheek while he was opening his mail. The doctor assured him it wasn’t anthrax but it was a wake-up call nonetheless.
As Minhaj found more notoriety with his stand-up, which has often criticized dictators and autocrats, he realized he had put his family in danger, he said.
After years of going after powerful people, Minhaj knew the risks associated with his work. But he learned he might’ve crossed a line when his family felt the consequences.
“For me, the sobering realization that I had coming out of that was, the things that I do can cause pain and damage to the people that I care about the most,” Minhaj, 37, told NBC News. “And that’s not fair to them because they don’t get to vote on it. They don’t get to be an editor to my comedy and my choices. They also didn’t sign up for it. They’re just getting to live through daddy’s decisions.”
In his new special, “Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester,” which comes out Oct. 4, Minhaj talks candidly about the evolution of his life as a father and the realities of his fame.
“It was an analysis of why I do and say what I do. And I think the reason why I wanted to talk about this now is [because] it is a moment where I am entering a new chapter of my life,” he said.
Fatherhood is complex for him. Minhaj, who previously spoke out about his complications with infertility, also opened up further about his experience and eventual surgery.
He said he shared for a few different reasons. “To me, great comedy is the art of confession. It’s the art of actually risking something,” he said. “And I wanted to kind of confess it to the audience.”
A lot of times the fertility issue is framed as a women’s issue, and I thought it was important [because] a lot of guys are going through it.
hasan minhaj comedian
He also said that since his children were older now, he and his wife, Beena, felt comfortable sharing their story. But he said it was more than that.
“A lot of times the fertility issue is framed as a women’s issue, and I thought it was important [because] a lot of guys are going through it. A lot of guys have had to get varicose seal repair the way I did. There are some couples that are going through IVF. There’s a lot of people going through different family planning and their family journey is different. And I think it’s important to talk about it,” he said.
He and his wife moved from their home of nine years in Manhattan to Greenwich, Connecticut, during the pandemic.
“We just wanted to reverse gentrify,” he joked.
He said in reality, they moved because they wanted a space where their kids could play outdoors, have access to great public schools and live in an environment with a lot of greenery.
“My daughter during the pandemic — she was licking elevator buttons and running into the street. She’s wild! She was just really wild,” he joked.
He said he recognizes the experiences he had as a first-generation American and is grateful he has the privilege to move to the suburbs for his children.
“I realize that there’s something about my identity and upbringing. I’m kind of the bridge generation for my family. I speak Hindi and English and I had to vacillate and flip between the two. My kids don’t really have to do that,” he said. “They don’t have to really introduce themselves to the world the way I had to.”
He remembers always having to explain parts of his culture and religion like what Ramadan or Eid were to his peers.
“The ground that they’re going to be breaking will be very different than the ground that our generation is breaking and that’s OK. I think that’s beautiful. I think progress is beautiful,” he said.
Minhaj also had to come to terms with the challenges of balancing family and career.
He explained different controversies during his career that brought him more “clout,” including shading former senior adviser to Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, at the TIME 100 gala; attempting to set up a meeting with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia just days before the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; and depicting hedge fund manager Randall Smith in a negative light on his show “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”
He said the anthrax incident, which he said was likely a result of those controversies, took a toll on his marriage as well and he had to reanalyze his online presence.
That’s not fair to them because they don’t get to vote on it. They don’t get to be an editor to my comedy and my choices... They’re just getting to live through daddy’s decisions.
Hasan minhaj comedian
“That was a turning point for me because the news cycle moves at the flick of a wrist. I want to be with my family forever so I had to make some serious choices,” he said.
He said his first special, “Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King,” was his introduction and a chance to show the world a “new Brown America,” but now, as an established figure in media and father of two, it was time to show people what he believed in rather than just who he was.
“For me, what’s important about the role of the jester in society,” he said, “is that they have an opportunity to show the king the truth. But the jester also must walk a fine line. And for me, it wasn’t about defining that line vis-à-vis what I tell dictators or autocrats, it actually was more of a personal look at what my line is vis-à-vis my family, and what lines I’m willing to draw to keep them safe and to keep my marriage healthy and happy.”