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In an interview on SiriusXM’s Dean Obeidallah Show a little over a year after he got hired on The Daily Show, Minhaj explains that it was somewhat inspired by the Affleck-Maher exchange that impressed then-host Jon Stewart.
Minhaj explained that he got a chance to audition for the show after Michael Che left to co-host “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live. He got through the first round of auditioning, in which he sent in a tape featuring a segment he’d like to do on the show, and was asked to come in and do a screen test — with another original piece. But Minhaj was afraid he didn’t have another good idea.
“I’m not a Larry David,” he says. “I don’t have a Curb Your Enthusiasm and a Seinfeld in me.”
But the weekend before his screen test, Real Time With Bill Maher gave him the inspiration for another bit.
That Friday night, Maher and guest Affleck got into an on-air tiff when Affleck took issue with how the host and fellow guest Sam Harris were characterizing those who practice Islam.
“It’s gross, it’s racist,” Affleck said about Maher and Harris’ remarks. “It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew.’ “
Minhaj saw the video that weekend.
“I just remember like giving it a standing O in my living room,” he explains. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, we made it. We have our first A-list celebrity. Ben Affleck has backed the Muslim community. He may not be the hero we want but he’s the hero the Muslim world needs.’ “
Minhaj adds: “I was so happy, I forgave him for Gigli. I forgot about that movie. Daredevil never happened. I wrote this piece and I was like, ‘Oh, this is the angle.’ “
The exchange inspired a piece Minhaj called “Batman vs. Bill Maher.”
After he presented it to Stewart, the host said “Good job, young man.” But as Minhaj was leaving, Stewart offered him a job.
“He goes, ‘Hey, man, I’ll see you Monday, right?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he was like, ‘I’ll see you Monday because you work here.’ It was surreal,” Minhaj recalls.
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