Since Friday, the former Patriot Act host has been at the center of controversy after admitting to The New Yorker that various stories told in his stand-up specials are embellishments rooted in "emotional truth." The revelation earned Minhaj plenty of online backlash, which Goldberg believes is undeserved.
"That's what we do," Goldberg said of the role of the comedian during Monday's broadcast of The View. "That's what we do, we tell stories and we embellish them."
She later added, "If you're gonna hold a comic to the point where you're gonna check up on stories, you have to understand, a lot of it is not the exact thing that happened because why would we tell exactly what happened? It ain't that interesting."
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Whoopi Goldberg; Hasan Minhaj
Goldberg went on to recall her own experience with a reporter fact-checking her stand-up, saying that she received a call four years ago from someone inquiring as to whether she had a degree from NYU.
After Goldberg said she never claimed to have a degree from the university, she realized the caller was referring to a story she told while performing as her street-smart recovering junkie alter ego, Fontaine.
In Minhaj's case, there was no alter ego involved. The stories in question are framed as his real-life experiences, often featuring photos, social media posts, and other pieces of multimedia displayed on screens throughout his performance. One such anecdote saw his daughter being rushed to the hospital after being exposed to a white powder that was mailed to his home and briefly believed to be anthrax. Minhaj concedes that his daughter was never really exposed to the powder, though he did receive an envelope addressed to his apartment filled with a powdery substance and joked to his wife, "Holy shit. What if this was anthrax?"
Goldberg defended Minhaj's approach to altering details for the sake of a story arc, adding that she and other comedians have done the same.
"There's information that we will give you as comics that will have grains of truth, but don't take it to the bank," she said, later adding, "That's our job, a seed of truth. Sometimes truth and sometimes total BS."
Minhaj has made it clear that he stands by his work, which he likened to a mixed drink. "My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70 percent emotional truth — this happened — and then 30 percent hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction," he said. He later reaffirmed this stance in a statement to EW.
"All my stand-up stories are based on events that happened to me," Minhaj said. "I use the tools of stand-up comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations, and compressing timelines — to tell entertaining stories. That's inherent to the art form. You wouldn't go to a haunted house and say, 'Why are these people lying to me?' The point is the ride. Stand-up is the same."
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