Comedians embellish stories for a punch line — and that’s just the nature of comedy, according to Whoopi Goldberg.
“The View” host came to the defense of “Patriot Act” star Hassan Minhaj on Monday, explaining that sometimes the end justifies the means in comedy.
Minhaj, 37, became the subject of controversy last week for sometimes exaggerating the harrowing experience for laughs, further fueling the controversy that Goldberg was forced to address on the ABC talk show.
The “Ghost” Oscar winner, who got his start in stand-up comedy, explained that comedians have to exaggerate what happens to them in order for the audience to reciprocate.
“(Minhaj) recently had to defend his comedy after a New Yorker writer called him out for making up a story,” Goldberg said. “This is what we do. That’s what we do. We tell stories and then we embellish them.”
“The Color Purple” and “Sister Act” star recalled a time — recently — that a reporter tried to verify whether she had a degree from New York University (she didn’t), following a claim she made on stage in the 1980s. Towards the end is his stand-up character Fontaine (who claims he does).
“Listen: If you’re going to hold a comic where you’re going to examine their stories,” Goldberg said, “you have to realize, a lot of it isn’t exactly what happened, because why do we say what exactly happened? It’s not that interesting.”
The “Teal” star and her co-hosts actually unanimously agreed, explaining that sometimes you have to suspend disbelief to be entertained.
“There is information that we will give you as a comic that will have a grain of truth. But, you know, don’t take it to the bank,” Goldberg said.
Her stance parallels that of Minhaj, who was in the news last week after the New Yorker discovered that parts of her performance were untrue or unverified. The “Daily Show” alum, who often describes her experiences as an Asian American and Muslim American in her performances, is said to be stepping in for former “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.
Minhaj immediately released a statement in his defense — as well as in defense of American comedy, which is rapidly evolving in the wake of #MeToo, cultural sensitivities and technological advances.
“The King’s Jester” star says his stand-up is rhetorical but rooted in “emotional truth.”
“I use the tools of standup comedy — hyperbole, changing names and locations and compressing timelines to tell an entertaining story. That art form is inherent,” he said in a statement to The Times, responding to the article. “You don’t go to a broken house and say, ‘Why are these people lying to me?’ Ride to the point. Stand-up is the same.”
He also said that the punch line is worth the fictional premise.
Minhaj says, “Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — it happened — and then 30% exaggeration, exaggeration, fiction,” he told The New Yorker.
Goldberg doubled down on this at the end of “The View” segment: “This is our job. A ‘seed of truth.’ Sometimes (it’s) true and sometimes (it’s) total BS.”
Times staff writer Emily St. Martin contributed to this story.