Nur Ibrahim: Representing Pakistan from ‘The Stream’ to Hassan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’

Nur Ibrahim
Indian-American stand-up comedian Hassan Minhaj’s incisive political satire and commentary has been lighting up social media. But few know about Nur Nasreen Ibrahim, the Pakistani woman behind some of the episodes of the hit show.

Ibrahim, who grew up in Lahore, is a news producer with “Patriot Act”. After graduating from Harvard University, she joined “The Stream”, which aired on Al Jazeera English, as an associate producer. Later, she moved to New York from DC to be a part of Comedy Central’s “The Opposition” with Jordan Klepper. But after a nine-month run, Klepper’s show was cancelled, which is how she ended up as a producer for “Patriot Act”.

One of the recent episodes, Ibrahim produced, was pulled off air by Netflix for criticising Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Other topics the producer has worked on include a show about the American oil industry. The comedian took on the subject by pegging it to one of the worst oil spills in US history. The Taylor Energy Co. had been dumping oil in the Gulf of Mexico for the last 14 years. “Tackling the oil industry and climate change wasn’t an easy task,” Ibrahim says, “because we had to make it funny as well.”

For Ibrahim, “Patriot Act” is very different from her other stints in television. With the weekly series, she has time to research a subject in detail before pulling out all the elements that make it engaging.

But working for a comedy show has its own challenges.

“While my journalism skills helped me pitch interesting stories, but they did not necessarily make me a great comedian. I’ve never considered myself to be a funny person. But I did learn how to find the humorous element to each story, no matter how serious it is.”

As for working with Minhaj: “Hasan takes the viewpoints of everyone on his team very seriously. As the first Indian American host of a comedy news show, he uses that perspective to bring new angles and has gathered a team of people from diverse backgrounds to bring more depth to each story. As a male comedian in a male-dominated space, he also listens carefully to the perspectives of women on the team and works hard to incorporate them.”

When they first met, he asked her a very specific question. If she had all the freedom and money to pick a topic she loved for a show, no matter how small and obscure, what would she choose? Ibrahim says she was taken aback. “I had never been asked that before. Most places tend to think about what is popular and safe to cover. I think this show is trying to accomplish a bit of everything.”

Originally Posted on SuchTv


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