Hasan Minhaj Opened Up About Why He Corrected Ellen's Pronunciation Of His Name
"I'm trying to live."
Remember that moment when comedian Hasan Minhaj taught Ellen DeGeneres on national television how to pronounce his name? No? Let me jog your memory for a second:
The clip went viral and sparked a conversation about the double standard that people of color with "complicated" names face. Here's the entire segment:
Minhaj is now explaining the variations on his name he's used while performing and why he decided to to teach DeGeneres to say his name properly. (For the record, it's “HA-sun MIN-haj," and you can hear him say it in this clip.) The comedian told the whole story on his Netflix show Patriot Act last week in response to a question from an audience member.
Minhaj said a host at an open mic first told him no one would be able to pronounce his name and encouraged him to change it, citing Jamie Foxx and other performers who use stage names. For two months, Minhaj said he'd go open mic events and present himself as "Sean."
But since then, Minhaj said his perspective has changed.
"You'll have people who are like, 'This is my Chinese name, this is my American name.' But I'm like, 'Dude, fuck that.' Your name's your name," he said.
For The Ellen DeGeneres Show taping earlier this year, he said his parents drove to LA from Sacramento to be in the audience.
"Mom and Dad are sitting there ... And Ellen's just like 'Hey, Ha-SAN!'" Minhaj said, incorrectly emphasizing the second syllable of his first name. "I looked in the audience ... and my mom who gave me that name is just like 'eugh.' And I'm like 'Dude, what am I doing?' I have a show with my fucking name on it and I'm still being like, 'It's with Sean!'"
"And so I was like, 'All right, Ellen, just let's do this right now. ’Cause we can pronounce Timothée Chalamet, so we're gonna do this right now," Minhaj told his audience.
Minhaj then said that his father chided him after the taping, telling him he was wasting on-air time correcting DeGeneres. Minhaj said he understood his father's perspective — but he didn't share it.
"I think that's the big difference between our generation and our parents' generation. They're always trying to survive. And I mean survival is the thing, so just go by whatever she calls you. And that's cool. I think when Dad ... came in '82, he survived for us. But I'm trying to live. I mean, I'm trying to like, 'Yo, Muhammad Ali, say my name. Like, say it,'" he said.
"So I'm gonna go on Ellen, the most American show ever, and make you hit all the syllables."
The clip has been viewed more than 378,000 times on Twitter and shared by various people who identified with Minhaj's story.
Minhaj is one of a number of celebrities who have spoken out publicly in recent years about the importance of getting their names right. Actor Uzo Aduba, whose full name is Uzoamaka, which means "the road is good," told young women at a Glamour event that they should not "erase identifiers that are held" in them, whether it's their tooth gap or their name.
Similarly, actor Kelly Marie Tran found strength in telling the world her Vietnamese name in a response she wrote for the New York Times about the harassment she experienced after her portrayal of Star Wars character Rose Tico.
"You might know me as Kelly. I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a Star Wars movie," she wrote. "I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started."