Hasan Minhaj On Religion And How It Shaped His Identity : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Comedian Hasan Minhaj is not afraid of talking about his faith, even when it gets him in trouble. He's a two-time Peabody Award winner and host of the Netflix show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which has just begun its second season. He talks to Sam about being an Indian American Muslim, how he finds joy in family and what his faith means to him today.
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Hasan Minhaj On Faith And Seeking Answers

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Hasan Minhaj On Faith And Seeking Answers

Hasan Minhaj On Faith And Seeking Answers

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SAM SANDERS, HOST:

The thing about 2020 is that just when you think you've adjusted to a new reality, that new reality gets shifted again. If you're like me, you've probably spent the last several months adjusting to coronavirus life. And then for the last several days, you've been glued to your TV and your phone, watching headlines about protests and unrest and pain all over this country. Some of you listening were in those protests yourself. If so, stay safe out there. All of a sudden in just a few days - a different reality to adjust to, new and old questions raised about how we live our lives together day after day. This national moment hurts a lot.

And we're going to talk about it all in detail later this week on the show. But for now, today's episode is all about the new reality that existed before those protests started, when the biggest story across the country and the world was just a global pandemic. Back then, just a few weeks ago, we were looking for bright spots for a moment of relief. I interviewed Hasan Minhaj a few weeks ago. And he had so much calm in the middle of the happy-but-frazzled chaos of home life. I caught him actually in a very tight window of time.

HASAN MINHAJ: You know, what's so funny, Sam, is that, like, I really feel like I have to barrel through this. I already talk fast. But I feel like I have to barrel through this because I have a real-life 2-year-old shot clock that's winding down with - but it's like - it's not a 24-second shot clock. It's just a nap shot clock.

SANDERS: That 2-year-old is his daughter. And while she naps, his wife is caring for their newborn son. This is a reality millions of parents are living through right now, trying to fit work into caring for children all while under quarantine.

MINHAJ: You know how, like, they say with Montessori, the kids get to pick the subjects?

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: With corona, the kids also get to determine the scheduling of the day as well.

SANDERS: Oh, my God.

MINHAJ: Like, we had to switch from zone defense to man to man now that we have two kids. And so I took the 2-year-old.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: And it's like, you know, for me, I - the level of appreciation I have for schools and teachers - and I'm not even talking about good or bad teachers. I'm not even going to apply value here. I'm just talking about having a place to put your children. Like, that...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: ...As a thing is something I took for granted. I realized school isn't a place for education. It's not a place to learn. I think just hundreds of millions of Americans need places to put these hyperenergetic bodies. They just...

SANDERS: (Laughter) These aliens.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: They just have so much energy. And they do not stop. And you just need a confined place to put them.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Today, my conversation with Hasan Minhaj. He is a comedian and host of the Netflix show "Patriot Act," which returned for its sixth season last month. Of course, the world has changed a lot since the last season ended in December.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PATRIOT ACT WITH HASAN MINHAJ")

MINHAJ: This is "Patriot Act: Quarantine Edition." We are now months into the pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. We're all avoiding human contact. We all dress like highway bandits at Trader Joe's. And we have all spent hours facetiming the neck fat of our loved ones. By now...

SANDERS: Like so many talk shows right now, coronavirus means there's no more studio audience and that Hasan films from a makeshift studio at home. I talked to him during Ramadan. So that gave him a chance to reflect on his faith and talk about what being Muslim means to him. But before we got into that, I caught up with Hasan about his new season and how he's thinking about the world differently right now.

Talk our listeners through a day in the life of you working on your show stuff and having the kids because when I read it, I was like, oh, my God. This requires - not going to call it military precision but, I guess, just the patience of Job. Walk us through a day with a 2-year-old and work.

MINHAJ: Right. OK, so we have a 2-year-old and a newborn. And so the newborn is with my wife. And he's still, you know, it's basically the baby and the boob. And they have a very close relationship right now.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: I'm just kind of hanging out and helping in any which way that I can. But with my 2-year-old, she gets up around, like, 6:45 or 7. And so I'll get her going between 7 to, like, 9-ish. That means, you know, get her changed, get breakfast going for her, do some sort of, like, an activity with her. Just, like, play with blocks or puzzles or read a little bit. And then around 9 o'clock, we have the first sort of senior staff check-in meeting. I'll pass her onto my wife while our son - he's already eaten. And then, he's napping. Then, I'll do my first couple rounds of meetings. I'll come back around 11:30, 12, get her lunch, put her down. And then what you're catching right now is the 12 to 2:30, 3 p.m. naptime that she has where...

SANDERS: Oh.

MINHAJ: ...I get to get a lot of work done so I can do what I'm doing right now - interviews. I can do writing. Then when she gets up - again, I'll, like, take her. We'll just do some sort of activity for a couple hours. And then around, you know, dinnertime, we'll do the whole thing - dinner, shower, like, bath, all that sort of stuff. I'll put her down. And then, I'll go into the second half of, like, my day, which is a lot more of the writing and the researching. And so that goes from, like, 7 to, like, midnight-ish (ph).

SANDERS: Oh, my God (laughter). And all of this is dependent on both of your kids keeping a pretty straightforward and reliable nap/sleep schedule...

MINHAJ: Yeah. And when...

SANDERS: ...Because when they get their naps off, it screws up the whole day (laughter).

MINHAJ: Yeah. It's just like, look. A curveball could hit us at any time, and you've just kind of got to deal with it. And this is going to sound weird to say, but I'm - we're so lucky that the newborn isn't mobile. Like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: If - like, if he could somehow walk now, it would just be insanity.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Let's talk about the show.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: My biggest question for you with this show, with your kind of show that is topical and timely and of the week - does everything change post-pandemic? Does it change what you think about news, what's current, what matters?

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: The whole world feels different. How different will your show have to be?

MINHAJ: Yeah. So for us, like, the real thing that just kind of pulled into focus for me was - look. Like, so much of the show even pre-COVID - and we still had a pretty wide aperture at the way we looked at the world and global news. But now post-COVID and the way that it affects all of us, my focus going into this with the writers and the researchers was, hey; we've got to talk about things that are really affecting people's everyday lives, which is why our first episode out the gate was rent and evictions.

And that sort of urgency just informed a lot of the way in which we're talking about stuff on the show and especially this batch of episodes. So that put a lot of these stories that we had been tracking for a long time - it put them in the driver's seat in a very new and interesting way, and I just kind of want to attack...

SANDERS: Got you.

MINHAJ: ...Them that way.

SANDERS: Yeah. Are there some things that have just fallen by the wayside - like, things that you just don't care about anymore post-COVID? Like, I find myself totally reassessing how much I care about celebrity gossip. I used to like to follow it.

MINHAJ: (Laughter) Really?

SANDERS: It used to be interesting. And now I'm like, unless it's a celebrity being smart and helping somebody, I don't care about them anymore. Like, are there things for you where you're just like, I used to care about that - not anymore?

MINHAJ: This is going to sound so weird. It made me look at - you can judge me, but this is the truth. It made me...

SANDERS: Say it.

MINHAJ: ...Look at even stuff like - I'm a sneakerhead. I love sneakers. I've loved collecting them. It's this weird thing that I even look forward to. Like, oh, man.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: These new Jordans are coming out. The Jordan 5 - you know, the white and fire red Air Jordan 5s are coming out.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: And they dropped during COVID. And it made me think about something. It made me think, like, wait. I have, like, 50 pairs of shoes.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: What am I doing?

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

MINHAJ: Who am I going to show them off to? Like, I'm going to put these on and wear them in front of who, you know? Like...

SANDERS: (Laughter). Yeah.

MINHAJ: It put this sort of, like, the consumerism of something that brought me joy - but it put it in perspective. What actually really does matter?

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think a lot about food differently now. Like, I'm a foodie. I like to spend my disposable income going to bougie restaurants and trying new foods. I'm into the rankings and the lists and the reviews.

MINHAJ: OK.

SANDERS: And, like, I still care about food a lot. But now I'm kind of like, that bougie stuff doesn't matter. Like, how are people eating? What is our food supply looking like? How can I cook for myself and cook for others that I love? Like, I still like food, but I've got to think about it differently and less self-importantly than before.

MINHAJ: But...

SANDERS: And I feel like you can still care about consumerism and things that you like and shoes and - but, like, how do you think about it differently?

MINHAJ: Well...

SANDERS: That's the question for me.

MINHAJ: Well, for me, the thing that I thought about - I had to just do some personal reflecting on is just, like, is now the time to buy things and try to flex? Do you know what I mean? This...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...Does not feel like the time to do it.

SANDERS: No space for flexing.

MINHAJ: (Laughter). Yeah.

SANDERS: No space for flexing right now.

MINHAJ: Like, this isn't the...

SANDERS: No flex zone.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: Literally no flex zone.

MINHAJ: Yeah. Look; I know - look. In terms of the flexes you can do, yeah. You know, $150 pair of shoes or whatever isn't the most egregious thing. But still, like, it made me think about - like, come on, dude. You have more than enough. And I think it's something that we even talked about on the show - like, the certain kind of dietary and consumption habits that we have as a country. Like, is fast fashion going to be the same when we come out of this, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

MINHAJ: Tens of millions of people have applied for unemployment, and that number keeps going up. Like, I think the way in which we look at the world and the way we'll want to consume is going to be different. Or it could be the complete opposite.

SANDERS: Totally.

MINHAJ: I don't know. But I feel in this moment right now, we are going to have to look at it in a different way.

SANDERS: All right, time for a break. When we come back, Hasan talks more about his family and also his faith. He says that he likes to keep an open mind.

MINHAJ: I'm kind of like PlayStation 3. Like, you know how it's backwards compatible? I'll play the other games.

SANDERS: BRB.

One of the things I really enjoy about your show and about who you are as just a human being is that you're one of the few celebrities in your work and in your life who's comfortable talking about faith and spirituality. And I'm really interested in how all creatives deal with that issue more post-COVID...

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Because whether we admit it or not, as a country right now per capita, we are praying and believing and hoping to some higher power more than we were before. We just are.

MINHAJ: Yeah. Yeah.

SANDERS: And I wonder if this moment of national crisis has done anything to your relationship with faith, what you talked about before. Like, are you a different kind of Muslim now? Or a different kind of...

MINHAJ: Yeah. So what's...

SANDERS: ...Person with higher power now.

MINHAJ: What's really interesting is that, right now, it's the month of Ramadan. So you know, Muslims around the world were fasting. And this is like a holy month for us. And to me, the toughest thing about Ramadan to me - and I've had to mourn it a little bit - is so much of this is based around community. But, you know, community prayers aren't happening. Mosques aren't open right now.

You know, during Ramadan at night, you go to the mosque and you do night prayers. Or you have people over for iftar, to break fast. And you literally, you know, break bread with neighbors and friends. And it's this month-long thing that is entirely built around community. And I didn't realize that so much of the kind of strength that I get from it comes from that communal aspect of actually touching and being around people.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: My religious identity has never been about, you know, the dogma, per se. And a lot of times - I struggled with growing up - there seemed to be this - a very transactional relationship with a person and God, you know? If I pray this many times, if I do this this many times, I will get X or Y, you know? And every - (laughter) I think every - most of the Abrahamic faiths have this very strange, like, Super Mario Brothers, level-up type of thing of like, if you collect...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

MINHAJ: If you collect this many coins, you get to this part of heaven. And if you do this on this night...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...You get to take the green tunnel into this part of this unique spiritual world. Like...

SANDERS: Exactly

MINHAJ: ...That's never done it for...

SANDERS: And it's not just reward. Like, it's also guilt-based as well. And so it's not just...

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...If you get all the coins. It's, if you don't get the coins...

MINHAJ: (Laughter) Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

SANDERS: ...You really screwed up and embarrassed God and your family.

MINHAJ: Yeah. You're going to go down to where Bowser is. Yeah, yeah. But Bowser, like, lives in a fiery pit. Yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: That never did it for me.

SANDERS: Exactly.

MINHAJ: To me, it was - again, it was always about - when I think about it, it's always about, like, oh, I'm doing iftar with, you know, my nana and nanny or my dada and daddy. And, you know, it's wearing kurta pajama and getting dressed up in a kurta for Eid and getting, like, dressed up with my wife and, oddly enough, like, flexing on Eid. Like, that's the thing. Like, you get dressed up and wear cool clothes. And, like, everybody takes photos.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: And you take over the gram for a day. It's a thing. But there's these just moments - shaking hands, hugging...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...These things that are now gone. And...

SANDERS: Can't do it.

MINHAJ: ...It bums me out.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Does that absence, you think, make your faith stronger or weaker?

MINHAJ: So I'll speak for myself. It's made it tougher for me because being around friends, like, in person, being around people in the community - you know, one of the places that I love in New York is the ICNYU, which is great. Like, it's the mosque, like, on the NYU campus. It's this great mix of all sorts of different types of people. And I think the New York Muslim community is really interesting in the sense that there's so many different mosques that speak to so many different communities.

There's, like - there's a Bengali mosque. And there's, like, one that only the cab drivers go to. And then there's, like, black mosques. And there's all these different communities that all come together in different parts of the city. And depending where you are, you can just kind of pop in and plug into a completely different part of the Muslim world, which is so cool.

That's gone. I don't have that. And so when I - you know, when you have these conversations with people that are in person, they might give you a gem. Or you might hear something in a khutbah - or sermon - that's, like, gives you, like, energy or a new way to look at the world. That's so different than getting it from a YouTube video or even getting it from a Zoom call. And that is a thing that I miss.

SANDERS: Yeah, I imagine. You know, speaking of, like, faith and how we're just reconceptualizing it in the midst of this pandemic, I think a lot about the way that you responded very thoughtfully to the blowback over your episode on Saudi Arabia last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PATRIOT ACT")

MINHAJ: As Muslims, we have to pray towards Mecca. We make pilgrimage to Mecca. We access God through Saudi Arabia, a country that I feel does not represent our values. But Hasan, there are a lot of things people are conflicted about. Look at Amazon. Amazon's messed up. Yeah. I don't pray towards Seattle, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

MINHAJ: Saudi Arabia is only 2% of the entire Muslim population. But whenever Saudi does something wrong, Muslims around the world have to live with the consequences.

We did an episode on our show, "Patriot Act," about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And it was pulled from Netflix in Saudi Arabia. And it kind of became this big, international discussion on global censorship and what you're allowed to say and not say.

SANDERS: One of the things that stuck with me was, you know, wondering why this was the one show that Saudi targeted as being anti-Muslim. And what is the thing that makes us say or makes others say, this makes you a good Muslim and this makes you a bad Muslim? And I think about that a lot because I know so many Muslims in my life...

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Where they live their life. They are secular. They are having sex outside of marriage. They're doing whatever they want to do.

MINHAJ: Right.

SANDERS: But they'll never eat pork.

MINHAJ: (Laughter) Yeah. That's true.

SANDERS: And it's kind of like, OK?

MINHAJ: Yeah. That's the rule. That's the one. That's the one. I don't know why. Like, yeah...

SANDERS: Right?

MINHAJ: ...It'll be like, is there pepperoni on that pizza? Yep. I don't know.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: I've never tried to look at spirituality - anytime I've looked at it in a way or I've tried to work with it in a way where it feels very - anytime it's felt limiting, I've had a natural inclination to kind of back away from it. And I've never sort of defined myself spiritually through, you know, an oppositional or opposites-type framework. I'm - my family - we're Indian American Muslim, right? I've never defined myself by saying, hey; I'm Indian, and by being Indian, that means I'm not Pakistani; or, I'm Muslim; that means I'm not Christian or I'm not Hindu. I've never defined myself that way. That's such a limiting way to look at the world.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: So much of, like, my identity is informed by different cultures and different things that have shaped me in a unique way. Like, just 'cause I'm Muslim - that doesn't mean I can't do yoga, even though that's, like, a Hindu practice, comes from Hinduism. Like, any of these things that have come from, you know, other cultures and religious practices or beliefs - like, if it makes if it vibes with me. I'm with it, you know? I'm kind of like PlayStation 3. Like, you know how it's backwards compatible? I'll play the other games.

SANDERS: Yeah (laughter). Yes. How long - was that always your MO with this, or did you grow into that?

MINHAJ: You know, my wife - she comes from a Hindu family, right?

SANDERS: OK.

MINHAJ: And I remember when we were in college, and we were first, like, you know, talking to each other. And we're having our little, like, Montague versus Capulet. Like, should we do this? Can we do this?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: That sort of thing, right?

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: You know, it's one of those things when you're in your 20s, and you're like, are we going to do this? Are we not going to do this? Will this relationship go the distance or not? And I remember she said, will you not be with me because of something I can't control? - i.e., like, the family that I grew up in and all that sort of stuff.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: And she said it would be really sad if, like, this all ended because of something that, like, I had no control over. And I just remember us both kind of talking about that. I'm like, yeah, that would be horrible. What - also, what a limiting way to look at the world - that, like, these arbitrary lines that were kind of drawn through, you know, history and all of these sort of things - I certainly hoped - and I hope our life shows this - that our love was able to transcend those things. And I don't mean that just in, like, a cheesy Bollywood way. But I mean that, like, in a real way, you know?

SANDERS: All right. Time for one more break. When we come back, the more Hasan Minhaj thinks about faith and belief and the more he learns about that stuff, the more questions he has. He'll explain. BRB.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: You know, thinking about what you were just saying - this idea of, like, the rules to follow, the levels to level up on, getting the points "Mario World" style. I grew up, like, strict Pentecostal. And it was very much a rules-based system. I'm not going to list you all the weird rules. But, like, we couldn't go to school dances or the movies. Women couldn't cut their hair. I mean, a lot.

MINHAJ: Right.

SANDERS: And I had this moment where I just realized, towards adulthood, all the people telling me to follow all those rules - they weren't following all the rules themselves. And I wasn't mad at them for hiding that from me. But I did say to myself, OK, let me just leave a rules-based system because it was lowkey a sham anyway.

MINHAJ: Got it.

SANDERS: The rules are always impossible to adhere to totally, right?

MINHAJ: Yeah, totally.

SANDERS: It's always too many rules.

MINHAJ: Sure (laughter) I mean, yeah. I mean, yeah, like, look. Like, Islam definitely has a lot of rules. And look. Depending on who you talk to - I have, you know, different degrees of Muslim friends. There's just - there's levels to this game. Like, I got best friends that only eat halal meat, right? And then, like, I'm like, look. As long as it's not pork, I'm good. And I think if anything, if COVID's taught us anything, like, the Hindus had it right all along. We all just got to be vegetarian.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: The biggest thing that I wish - I just wish, like, more communities embraced, more people just embraced in general is just because somebody doesn't reflect your world view or your interpretation of the faith back to you, that doesn't mean they're, quote, unquote, "a bad Muslim" or "bad Christian" or bad whatever. And I think a lot of times...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...People find themselves in that position where if you don't reflect that thing back to them, they'll feel like you've let them down or you're doing something wrong. And again, that just feels limiting to me, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah. The only rule is kindness.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: If you can't be kind, it's not worth it.

MINHAJ: It's so wild to me also, right? I grew up in a Muslim household. It's Ramadan. It's the holy month - all these things. You're supposed to be on your best behavior. You're not - not only are you supposed to fast. You know, you're supposed to abstain from food and drink and sex from sunrise to sunset. You're also not supposed to slander or back by all of these things, right? You're supposed to fast to cleanse your soul.

But one of my best friends and one of the most ethical human beings, Prashanth, who's the co-creator and showrunner of our show - he's an atheist, and he is one of the kindest human beings I've ever met in my life. Like, he is more just and fair than any Muslim person I've ever met in my life. Like, how crazy is that? So these, like, strict rules, to me, like, I kind of - the older I got, I kind of threw them out the window 'cause' life is way more complicated than the dogma that's written on paper, you know?

SANDERS: Exactly. And, like, I don't have time or space to let rules and dogma keep me from joy...

MINHAJ: Sure.

SANDERS: ...To keep me from a new experience or a new person that might open up my world even more, you know?

MINHAJ: So...

SANDERS: Don't let rules get in the way.

MINHAJ: So, Sam, do you consider yourself a pure hedonist? Or do you - are you like, no, I'll put some guards up.

SANDERS: I am a hedonist who still believes in Jesus Christ as my lord and savior.

MINHAJ: There we go. OK. OK.

SANDERS: Like, I never stopped believing in God, but I definitely just - I got to a point where, like, I was like, I'm not going to church anymore, and that's fine. Perhaps I end up in a church again one day because, like, I miss black gospel music. That - like, it's just good.

MINHAJ: (Laughter) All right. OK.

SANDERS: I used to play in the church band, so I miss that.

MINHAJ: OK.

SANDERS: But yeah. I haven't been inside of a church in a while.

MINHAJ: Do you miss just the feeling of going to a place and where there's a bunch of people just gathering? Do you miss that feeling?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. I miss that. I miss, like - the folks that I grew up going to church with, like, they were my cousins. They were my family.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: I called them my family, right?

MINHAJ: Yes.

SANDERS: I also miss, like, the thing that happens in a lot of places of worship. You enter a trance-like state. Either the music takes you there or the prayer takes you there or the sermon takes you there, but you kind of get to this moment in the service where you've, like, gone to some higher plane.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: And you just feel it.

MINHAJ: So...

SANDERS: And I think a lot of folks find that at music festivals or in the bar when they're drunk enough.

MINHAJ: Right.

SANDERS: But, like, getting that high in a church setting feels very healthy.

MINHAJ: So what has replaced that now for you - Burning Man?

SANDERS: Netflix.

MINHAJ: Netflix.

SANDERS: (Laughter) When Netflix hits right and you got the ice cream with you...

MINHAJ: Oh, right.

SANDERS: ...And it's like...

MINHAJ: Right, right, right, right, right.

SANDERS: ...And the blanket's really cozy, you've gone to a higher plane.

MINHAJ: Sam, I get it, man. We're all chasing that feeling. We're all chasing that feeling. I get it.

SANDERS: Right?

MINHAJ: I absolutely get it.

SANDERS: We're all chasing it.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: What is it for you now?

MINHAJ: Man, I mean, I'm lucky. Like, I get to do what I love to do. But there are moments like the other night. Like, me and Prashanth were up till, like, 2 o'clock in the morning, like, finessing the script. And there's a moment where you'll hit this creative flow where it almost feels like you're Neo and you can see the Matrix. Everything kind of locks in, and you forget about...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...Time, and you're just really having a lot of fun. It's kind of like that moment when you feel the coffee hit in the morning. Like, if you have that...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

MINHAJ: ...Nine a.m. coffee and then right, like - right around 9:17, you're like, oh, yeah. Here we go. Like, my processor's running smoothly right now. It's that sort of creative flow where you're just having pure joy. It all makes sense, the writing process as an art. That's super-fun. And then there's these moments outside of career stuff that are just beautiful in terms of families. So, like, I'll chase my daughter around, and - she's into hiding now. You know, she's, like, really into the idea.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

MINHAJ: Yeah. The perception of, like, space and being able to hide behind an object and then pop out - like, she understands that now. And so I was doing that with her, like, right before I put her to bed the other night, and she just burst out laughing so hard. And I kind of picked her up.

SANDERS: That's a high.

MINHAJ: And I was holding her. Yeah. And, like - and it was just, like, pure joy.

SANDERS: Aw (ph).

MINHAJ: It was pure, like, unadultered (ph) joy. I forgot...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...About showbusiness. I forgot about, you know, what people thought about the show. I forgot about Twitter. I forgot about the pressure of hosting a show. I...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...Forgot about all those things. And it was this very primal, human moment that just - like, I just want to make you happy, and I just want to be here with you.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: And this is the best feeling in the world. And yeah.

SANDERS: I got to get a kid. I got to get a kid. They sound fun.

MINHAJ: Yeah, man. I mean, or if the Netflix and ice cream is working for you, man - if, like, Netflix and salted caramel...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MINHAJ: ...Is working for you, some Talenti and some Netflix...

SANDERS: Yeah, that's it.

MINHAJ: Dude, it's a lot cheaper. I'll tell you that.

SANDERS: Like, my biggest takeaway in this whole crazy moment when it comes to belief for other things - it's like, either option is messy. Choosing to lean into belief is going to be messy. Choosing not to is going to be messy because life is messy.

MINHAJ: Yeah.

SANDERS: And so, like, don't expect any one thing to fix it all and to make everything pristine. It'll never be pristine.

MINHAJ: That's cool.

SANDERS: And...

MINHAJ: I think one thing that...

SANDERS: Go forth knowing that.

MINHAJ: I think one thing that has definitely happened with me and, you know, the older I've gotten - this is, like, a frustration that I was having. I was talking to my dad about this. And I was like, Dad, like, the more I learn about, like, the world and spirituality and faith and all that stuff, the more questions I have. And my dad said something that - I was like, that's actually pretty profound. He was like - he said, don't worry about the number of questions. Just worry about, as you get older, which questions become more clear and solidified, and focus on that.

And I was thinking about that. What I mean by that is that, like, there's a lot of sort of just, like - you know, there's the small potatoes stuff where you can go deep into the rabbit hole of the Torah and the Talmud and the Quran and the Sunnah and all these things, these very, like, minute things. But what my dad was talking about was like, what are the big things that, like, have really sort of solidified? And it's OK if you go your entire life trying to figure those things out. And I think one of the big things that has been solidified for me, especially because of the pandemic and doing Ramadan during the pandemic, too, is what actually matters. Like...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: What actually matters...

SANDERS: Yeah.

MINHAJ: ...In my day-to-day life? Like, I have this job. I have this career. I do these things. Beena, my wife - she has this job, and she has this career. What are we doing it for? Like, what is - what actually matters? And I think those things have been - we're starting to see them a little bit clearer, and I think that's a good thing. And maybe as, like, I get older, I'll continue to try to figure those things out. But maybe if the questions become a little bit more solidified and I just spend the rest of my life working on those big questions - you know?

SANDERS: Yeah.

Thanks again to Hasan Minhaj for talking with me. The new season of his Netflix show "Patriot Act" is streaming right now on the Netflix. This episode was produced by Andrea Gutierrez. It was edited by Jordana Hochman. Listeners, we're back Friday. Till then, stay safe. Stay healthy. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

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