Mental health is the topic of the hour – at least that’s what Hasan Minhaj says in the opening episode of Patriot Act’s fifth season. For those who don’t know, Patriot Act is Minhaj’s transition from being a correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to having his own show on Netflix. So far, Minhaj has had five seasons, each offering five to six episodes each, and is doing the show rather successfully. He was in the news for talking about the Indian election and Indian Prime Minister, Nardendra Modi, at a time when the world has been silent about some of the atrocities being committed by the Indian government.
He also met up with Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau right before the Canadian election this year, and was applauded for asking tough questions such as Canada’s stance on climate change and the country's arms deal with Saudi Arabia. But the first episode of this season will definitely resonate with more people because we agree; the topic of mental health is having a moment. On the show, Minhaj points out that currently there are 10,000 apps for mental health. Ironically, he jokes that it’s all these apps that are causing mental health problems to begin with.
The format of the episode is a little different from what Minhaj has done before. While the rest of the show seems like a ‘woke TED Talk’ with graphics and statistics flashing on a screen behind Minhaj as he speaks to his audience, there is a small skit performed by Minhaj and it features Anna Kendrick as well. Placed right in the beginning, it shows Minhaj recording a voice over for a meditation app in which he’s reminding the listener to relax and take deep breaths but keeps getting distracted about thoughts of recession and other problems plaguing the world right now.
Jumping into the episode, Minhaj very strategically points out the flaws in the American health care system and how insurance companies do not provide mental health service providers the way they would offer health care experts for other illnesses. The episode is specifically designed to understand the flaws in American health care policies so if you’re not an American resident or not interested in finding out how and why the system is flawed, this episode is probably not for you. You’ll learn a lot of interesting facts (for instance, nearly 43 million Americans have depression, anxiety or other mental health problems) but you’ll find yourself zoning out otherwise.
Regardless, the episode is made entertaining by Minhaj as he breaks out into jokes to make the matter a bit more palatable for his younger target audience. There are a bunch of desi parent jokes in there too (we can all relate to the fact that desi parents don’t think that mental health is even a ‘thing’.) But what really stands out is that Minhaj delivers a very well written script, and it’s important to notice this because it helps in explaining why Patriot Act is a little different from all the other weekly comedy shows. Other than the obvious difference in the way Minhaj delivers his act, it’s also the content.
Not only do you get to see and hear about the corrupt practices that make it difficult for ordinary Americans to get help, Minhaj asks the very important millennial question: what can you do about it? And before you freak out about your participation that is very much required in this global conversation, just hear out what Minhaj has to say: all we need to do is complain.
Minhaj doesn’t just highlight a huge problem, he reminds his audience about what their responsibility is and what they can do to help.
It doesn’t hurt that the episode is only 20 minutes long so it whizzes by in a blink of an eye, thanks to Minhaj’s perfect comic timing, his ability to engage you as a viewer, and hey, he’s fairly easy on the eyes too. The episode is out on Netflix now.