A minute-by-minute analysis of Justin Trudeau’s cringe-worthy appearance on Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
For most Canadians, the long weekend was a chance to relax and bid farewell to summer. For Justin Trudeau, it was, well, something between a cringe-fest and a formidable ass whooping. On Sunday, the PM made an appearance on an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. The Netflix series specializes in pithy political satire geared towards a younger audience, which is presumably why Trudeau’s team (keen to reach millennial voters) okayed the appearance. To be fair, it wasn’t all bad: Minhaj did point out that Trudeau is probably the best bad option for progressive Canadian voters. He even compared Canada’s PM to the Green New Deal, “if the Green New Deal had piercing blue eyes and wanted to read your poetry.” But the friendly moments were few and far between in what is sure to go down as one of Trudeau’s biggest PR missteps. Here’s a time-stamped guide to the episode’s most blistering burns and excruciating exchanges.
0:25 The not-so-fun flashcard game
Things get pretty cringe-y right out of the gate, when Minhaj introduces a game called “Is this a world leader or my friend’s dad?” (It’s pretty self-explanatory: he asks Trudeau to ID photos as one or the other.) He gets the first one (Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani) right, though given his lack of confidence (“I believe that might be a world leader”) and the 50/50 odds, one could hardly call it a win. Things get worse when Trudeau mistakenly puts Ecuadorian prez Lenín Moreno in the “friend’s dad” category.
Burn level: ★
It seems unlikely that the PM of Canada would have facial recall on every single world leader. Though, he did meet with Moreno back in 2017, so forgetting him is a little less forgivable.
10:25 The Quebec question
Minhaj gives his audience the lowdown on Quebec’s so-called “secularism law” (a.k.a. Bill 21), calling the ban on public servants wearing religious symbols “legal discrimination” and “bullshit.” When he flips the mic over to Trudeau, the big guy utters an audible sigh before more or less echoing Minhaj’s assessment: “I disagree with that… I have been very clear that in a free society, you cannot legitimize discrimination.” What follows is a gag where Minhaj (who is Muslim) spins Trudeau’s religious tolerance as a sign that he is open to accepting Islam as the one true faith.
Burn level: ★ ★
This one is relatively mild, given that Trudeau gets a chance to voice his position and Minhaj avoids the glaring issue around Bill 21 (the fact that federal leaders, including Trudeau, are positioning it as a provincial issue to avoid making enemies in Quebec). Points to Trudeau for summoning an almost believable chuckle (11:14). He won’t be laughing for long…
13:50 Weapons of mass diss-truction
Last fall, Trudeau announced that he would review the $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which was signed under the Harper government. This came after the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered last October. Minhaj puts pressure on Trudeau to provide a long overdue update, but not before lulling him into a false sense of security with softballs about Tim Hortons and Kawhi Leonard. It’s possible JT thought the tough stuff was behind him, which would explain his expression of utter gobsmackery (14:27). No—that’s not your screen freezing up, it’s Canada’s Prime Minister silently (and motionlessly) calculating his next move. His jumbled retort is that we, as in Canada, “take our legal responsibilities and the breaking very seriously.”
Burn level: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is easily the interview’s most tense moment: JT freezes up like a moose in oncoming traffic and his eyes go from warm baby blue to White Walker cold. Things get even worse when Minhaj jokes that now would be a good time to announce a cancellation of the arms contract because the Saudis watch his show. Trudeau’s response (“I’m sure they do. I’m sure they’re keeping an eye on you”) is probably intended as gentle old-man-shaking-fist humour, but in the context of Khashoggi’s murder, the comeback comes off as kinda creepy.
19:03: Green gotcha
Of course, Minhaj has questions about Trudeau’s environmental record. “Nobody is doing particularly well on their Paris report card,” he says, but given that Trudeau sold himself as “the guy” who would put a dent in fixing climate change, the hypocrisy is even more glaring. When grilled about the Liberal government’s decision to fund the pipeline, Trudeau frames it as the best, most realistic option (i.e. better than oil by rail or oil by truck), which Minhaj compares to attempting to whiten your teeth by drinking wine at every meal. There is also a really funny joke about the carbon tax and Mick Jagger (21:52).
Burn level: ★ ★ ★ ★
For young voters who see the upcoming election as a referendum on climate change policy, the Liberals’ environmental hypocrisies are a major weak spot, and Minhaj does a good job of holding the PM’s statement socks to the fire. Still, this exchange feels more civil, with Trudeau insisting that it’s possible to grow the economy while protecting the environment, and Minhaj playing nice with a joke about double denim.
Minhaj wraps up by cutting the reds a little slack, describing the Conservative party as “worse on almost every single issue,” and expressing his admiration for Canada as an IRL Wakanda. The segment ends with him describing JT as White Panther. It’s not a jab, but Trudeau seems to take it that way, retorting that he is 1/16th (no wait, 1/32nd) Malaysian and setting Minhaj up for an off-the-cuff zinger about “Elizabeth Warren math.”
Burn level: ★
Now that he knows it’s almost over, Trudeau manages an authentic laugh re: the Warren joke. It’s safe to say that comparisons to last year’s most popular superhero aren’t such a bad thing.