REVIEW: Hasan Minhaj: Before the Storm

With two sold out shows in one night and Azhar Usman as an opener for Hasan Minhaj, Before the Storm was the perfect remedy for any anxiety you may have about the current political nature of America.

As an Indian-American Muslim standup comedian from Chicago, Azhar Usman tackled the racial tensions in America, commented on Google, and laid some conspiracy theories out on the stage before making way for Hasan Minhaj.

The event used Yondr, which made it a phone-free show. At the beginning of the show, Hasan justified the use of Yondr, saying he knew it was really hard locking our phones up, but it was necessary to protect the content of his show (and his image) since this Before the Storm tour was a sneak preview into his new Netflix show, Patriot Act.

Since some of the content he performed will be used on the show, I’ll try not to give away any spoilers. However, the basic gist of his new show, Patriot Act, centers around analyzing the political and cultural landscape in our fragmented country. Just as he did as a correspondent on The Daily Show, Hasan will bring his distinct comedic voice to dive into serious topics on his Netflix show, and that’s exactly what he did on his live tour as well.

Hasan Minhaj used news clips, statistics, and nicely-timed graphics to explain heavy topics such as the travel ban and refugee terrorism. His fast-paced delivery that was synchronized with the information he was displaying on the screen behind him was extremely impressive, and it worked. With this kind of multimedia presentation, Hasan is bringing about a new modern type of comedy show where he uses technology and visuals to make us laugh and to emphasize his points as well.

Through all the laughter and applause that filled the Michigan Theater, the best thing about Hasan Minhaj’s show was how important it was — the serious content delivered in a way that uplifted the spirits of many minorities who could relate to the humor and perspective that Hasan’s comedy provided.

Keep an eye out for Patriot Act, which comes out on Netflix on October 28. From the bits Hasan used during Before the Storm, his new show is guaranteed to be as incisive and bright and witty and brilliant as the renowned comedic voice he has established as his own.

PREVIEW: Hasan Minhaj: Before the Storm

Hold onto your seats and save your laughter because a storm is coming. From the Daily Show to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Hasan Minhaj is now making an appearance at the Michigan Theater, bringing his North American Tour “Before the Storm” to Ann Arbor. With his insightful political and cultural commentary, Minhaj is standing up to analyze America. After the release of his first comedy stand-up special and before he is set to host his own Netflix show, this rising comedian is touring the country to tell everyone exactly what is happening in this fragmented country. See his striking comedic talent in person at the Michigan Theater on September 8 at 7pm and 10pm. Yondr is used for his performances, creating a phone-free environment so everyone can fully immerse themselves in Hasan Minhaj’s brilliant new show.

REVIEW: An Evening with David Sedaris

I’ve been told that evenings with David Sedaris are memorable and hilarious, and I’m excited to say that it’s true.

A woman from Michigan Radio introduced him with an anecdote about him calling into the station to make a donation, leaving everyone on the other line starstruck. It seemed that the same starstruck feeling echoed in the almost-full auditorium of Michigan Theater as he walked out in a long dress shirt, untucked and down to his calves, beneath a jacket that had seen some scissors. He modeled for us as a start to the evening before his anecdotal debut: a quick mention of a time when he called into another radio station, who told him that he sounded like Piglet.

His timing there must have been on purpose, because I and several others afterwards discussed not being able to get that out of our minds as he spoke for the next two hours. Nothing that he brought was content that I’ve read before, so it was nice to hear something new to me.

Sedaris brought a couple of short stories to read, sprinkling in small anecdotes and some selections of his latest diary collection, Theft by Finding — along with some from his upcoming second selection of diaries. After reading an essay simultaneously about mysterious dental pain and traveling to Japan, he brought up something that I’ve been wondering since first reading Me Talk Pretty One Day: he never wants to write about just one thing at a time. He has a way of associating seemingly very separate things in order to avoid writing about just one thing. “I wanted to write this essay about my tooth, but I also was thinking about my visit to Japan, and it just had to fit.” And in some magical Sedarisian way, it worked. He seems to have the life experience to associate anything.

Another story that he read was called “Active Shooter,” about him and his sister going to a shooting range because they’d never done it before. His sister was interested in learning how to handle a gun, specifically just in case she was about to be killed and her killer dropped his gun — much of the story hinged on his sister’s oddly particular foresight and thinking of the most specific instances. It followed their journey through a long class about how to handle guns and ended with the sister being praised for her skills, while the teacher consistently called David by the name of Mike. Both siblings left without feeling the need to shoot again.

My favorite diary entry that he read — which made me and several cry laughing — was one about trying to translate the English idiom about the pot calling the kettle black into French (directed toward his French teacher who called him a sadist), which turned out something like “That is like a pan…saying to a dark pan…’you are a pan.'” I instantly thought of all my foreign language experience trying to translate what was in my head directly, and how often it just doesn’t work.

One of the final bits that he read was “And While You’re Up There, Check My Prostate.” This essay explored international methods of dealing with road rage, many sayings translating clunkily but funnily to English from various European languages and dialects. I liked the general theme of translation-based disconnects that evening, and also appreciated their delivery. They were hilarious enough to make anybody laugh no matter their translation experience.

Following the reading and before the signing, he requested to bring the lights up for a Q&A session with the large audience. I loved seeing how appreciated he was to locals here, and figured it made sense with his wit and attention to social culture. The question I best remember was somebody asking him whether he still picked up garbage (mostly as a gesture to preserving the environment) — to which he responded, yes. I couldn’t help but wonder whether he was the only one in the room who did that.

What I love about Sedaris’s writing is that it’s largely about the human condition, but also is so full of rich comedic timing and phrasing. It’s honest and fun, rarely distant, and always makes me wonder how much of it he’s actually experienced. Following the reading, I braved the long line to have him sign my copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames and was delighted to find that he was just as funny and surprising on a conversational whim. I left Michigan Theater feeling ecstatic, especially after getting to meet him.

He’s returning in June to Ann Arbor, and I highly recommend going to see him read and speak! You’ll laugh and learn so much.

PREVIEW: An Evening with David Sedaris

A few years ago in my freshman year, right after I read Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris came to Ann Arbor. The following year, he returned. For various reasons I was unable to attend either event and decided to wait with hope until his next visit to try seeing him — and now that he’ll back in town this week, I can! I’m super excited to see one of my favorite humor writers speak about his work, craft, and hopefully life (about which he writes both satirically and honestly). I feel right to assume that this event will yield plenty of laughter and food for thought, mirroring his writing style. This will be my first time in his presence, which I have heard is entertaining and awesome. There are still some tickets left if you’d like to come celebrate the end of the semester with us!

Date: April 18th, 2018
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Michigan Theater

More info and featured image credit found here.

REVIEW: Once Upon a Pops

As much as I love words, they can only do so much. When I am speechless, when words escape me, I turn to music to express what I cannot put into words. The Michigan Pops Orchestra have combined my two favorite modes of communication, putting on a night full of literature, ranging from childhood favorites to modern classic, all in the form of music.

Disney made a beautiful showing through Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and movie and musical soundtracks had their fair share of representation through powerful, emotional performances of Forrest Gump, Jane Eyre, The Godfather, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Fantastic Beasts, Romeo and Juliet, and The Sound of Music. All of these selections gave the Pops a chance to shine.

The break from literature was found in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concert in D Major. Katie Sesi was the winner of the 2018 MPO Concerto Competition and performed this beautiful masterpiece with breathtaking precision and tackled the incredibly intimidating technical difficulty with poise. I’m excited to see all the talent she has to bring to the music scene at University of Michigan when she attends in the fall, as she already received a standing ovation with her debut performance with the Michigan Pops Orchestra.

The night featured soloists Kevin Starnes, who shook the jungle with his silky baritone rendition of “Bare Necessities,” and Allison Prost and Michael Floriano as they took on the classic love duet, “All I Ask Of You.”

It wouldn’t be a Pops concert without a hilarious video narrative and a trivia game. This time we followed the story of a princess, stand partners, and the inferior Harvard Pops Orchestra as music director Rotem Weinberg read the story of the PrinPop Bride from “Scheherazade” for a sick boy. The battle of the bookworm consisted of naming a classic book based on amusing summaries (my favorite was “teenage boy fights noseless alum”).

Overall, it was a pretty standard Pops concert, which means it was phenomenal, full of the usual amount of laughter and engagement and amazing music you find at a Pops concert. I can’t wait to see what the Michigan Pops Orchestra has to present next year!

PREVIEW: Once Upon a Pops

Once upon a time, a student-run, student-directed orchestra formed on the University of Michigan campus, bringing engaging, exhilarating music to the stage. With special effects to blow your mind, these familiar tunes from all your favorite movies will make you dance internally and sing along as your inner child rejoices.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra’s “Once Upon a Pops” concert will be at the Michigan Theater on April 7 at 7pm. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults, but it’s FREE with a Passport to the Arts voucher! So snatch one up around campus and take a trip down memory lane this weekend!