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Is it okay for comedians to lie about their lives as part of their act?

Chris Thompson and Aamir Arshad on "Connections"
Evan Dawson
Chris Thompson and Aamir Arshad on "Connections with Evan Dawson" on Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Comedian Hasan Minhaj is at the center of controversy over parts of his act. Minhaj, who grew up as a practicing Muslim in an Indian family, has drawn on aspects of his life for his performances. His storytelling includes descriptions of racist experiences and commentary about social justice. But in a recent piece for the New Yorker, Minhaj acknowledged that many of the stories he has shared are untrue. He stands by the work, telling journalist Clare Malone, “Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth. My comedy Arnold Palmer is seventy per cent emotional truth—this happened—and then thirty per cent hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

Fellow comedians and fans have mixed feelings about Minhaj’s admission. What do you think? And what does it mean when a public figure embellishes the truth in ways that could defame people who are mentioned in those stories? Our guests discuss it:

Evan Dawson is the host of "Connections with Evan Dawson." He joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.
Megan Mack is the executive producer of "Connections with Evan Dawson" and live/televised engagement programming.