In 2019, Netflix pulled an episode of Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj after the host criticized Saudi Arabia in the wake of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. “Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American,” Minhaj says at the start of the episode, which was condemned by Saudi Arabia and subsequently taken down.
After the episode aired, Minhaj’s visa was denied and he was unable to make his pilgrimage. “Even after it happened and the episode got taken down and my Hajj visa was denied, I had this idea where, in Islam, if you can’t make your pilgrimage, somebody can make it on your behalf. So God has created this little loophole,” Minhaj explains in his new Netflix special, The King’s Jester. In order to use this loophole to his advantage, Minhaj decided to call the master of elaborate plans and loopholes, Nathan Fielder.
“I said, how can we make a sketch out of this? I feel like this would be kind of the ultimate long con,” Minhaj explained. He decided to call Fielder to try to craft a massive scheme: “So I called Nathan Fielder, and I go, ‘Nate, have you ever considered Islam? I know you love reporting from the field. What if you converted to Islam? You know, Muslims and Jews, we are cousins, we both come from Abraham, let’s just do this. You go down. You make your pilgrimage on my behalf. We come back and, you know, maybe we go on CBS Sunday Morning and let the Saudis know, ‘Hey, no autocratic power can inhibit my connection to God.’”
Fielder was actually on board, though he had concerns for his safety. “I remember Nate said something that was so chilling now that I think about it,” Minhaj recalled. “He goes, ‘Could this get me hurt? Would this get me hurt? Would they kill me?’” Fielder asked. though he called the idea “brilliant,” the prank never came to fruition. Minhaj added, “There is a delta of danger here that a lot of Americans don’t know. Safety is assumed in the States.”
Despite thriving in uncomfortable situations, it’s probably for the best that Fielder didn’t make the pilgrimage. Instead, he created an elaborate fake family in Oregon. It all works out in the end.