June 2015, Davis Senior High School, Davis, California, USA
Daily Show correspondent & comedian Hasan Minhaj graduated from Davis in 2003.
I graduated from Davis Senior High School a little over 10 years ago and my senior year of high school, my biggest dream was to play on the varsity basketball team. I mean, I just loved it. I loved the sweatshirts, I loved the shooting shirts, the shoes, the tearaway pants, I wanted to be a part of it so bad, even if I sat the bench I just wanted tearaway pants that I knew I would never actually tear away. I wanted it so bad! In my senior year, I definitely thought it could happen. I hadn’t seen myself in the mirror; I was 5”9, 115 pounds of just raw Indian muscle ladies, just raw.
I remember my favorite basketball player growing up was this guy named Penny Hardaway. I mean he had the speed, he had the flash, he had the hops, and he had the most amazing shoes: the Nike air pennies. And I was like, those shoes are gonna make me make get on the team! So I went up to my mom and I said mom can I get the pennies? And she’s like, “do they sell them at Ross?” And I say “no….” And she says “Okay well we have a dress for less budget so if they don’t sell them at Ross, that’s on you. And I ended up getting a job over at Office Max in South Davis, and the hardest part of the job is that you have to sell printers for people who don’t know any better. So people will come in and they’d be like “I’m looking for a printer!” And I say “that’s great, well the Epson 3640 is available right now for $129.99” and they’re like “Oh that’s very affordable! How much...are ink cartridges?” And I’m like “yeah, they’re about $8972 for the rest of the year.” So I sold printers for a bit and I eventually saved up enough money to get the pennies. And I remember I took them home and I opened them up and I pulled them out and you could just like smell the leather and you’re walking around in them like you’re constipated, but you don’t want to crease the shoes so I was like walking like this, Imma make the team in these shoes.
Soon enough, the first day of tryouts roll around in my senior year, and as soon as I get to the court, I’m like these are wayyy too fresh to wear to tryouts so I run back to my locker and I put my pennies away and I put on my old shoes. And I started my first day of tryouts, and Mr. G, the head basketball coach, had this drill, and it was called fight through the pick, and basically he would take the biggest guy, and you would have to just fight through him, you would have to just get around him. And there was this kid named Tommy Wilson, that’s not his real name, I’m not petty, but his name was Tommy Wilson. And I mean he was huge, he had like thighs like this [gesture], he had like, muscles connected from his ears to like here [point ear to shoulder], and Mr. G would blow the whistle and he would be like FIGHT THROUGH THE PICK! And I would just run, my Indian arms would be flailing and Mr. G’s like what are you DOING Hasan, fight through the pick, fight through the pick like you’re trying to get into UC Berkeley! I’m like, I get that analogy! And I ran as hard as I could, and I hit Tommy like BOOM like a forcefield; I bounced right off of him and I hit the deck HARD, right. But I gave it my all, I gave it my all, and I remember at that first day of tryouts I was drenched in sweat. I looked like an immigrant family at waterworld, just soaked, top to bottom, just like “EFFORT! I DID IT!”
Now we’re all waiting in the parking lot, we’re waiting for our parents to pick us up. And all the guys trying out were huddled around each other and then all of the sudden, Tommy Wilson sees me and I’m wearing the pennies. And he goes “Hey dude! Where’d you get those pennies?” And I’m like ‘Aw man, Tommy Wilson’s talking to me!’ And I tell him “Hey dude, I got them from Nike outlet! they’re on sale right now Tommy!” And he goes “Naw dude, you got them from the urinals dog.” See, during tryouts, he went into the locker room and he pulled out my pennies and he put them in the urinal, and he peed in them and he put them back in my locker. And I look down at my shoes and I realize, my shoes are not sopping wet from sweat, no they’re sopping wet from Tommy Wilson’s pee. And then my dad’s 91 Nissan Stanza pulls up to the front of the group and I sloshed my way over and got into the car, and we just drove home in silence, like we normally did, but this time it was because I had pee in my shoes. We get home, the garage door opens up, dad goes into the house, and I pull off my pennies and I put them straight into the dumpster. And, I never wore Air Pennies ever again. And then, it was the infamous day where they post the results of tryouts. I made sure I got up early, I woke up at like 7, 7:15 I got to class because I knew he was going to post the results. I mean, I wanted to be alone, that way if anything happened, that way no one could see me. And around 7:20, the blinds just sort shift to the side, and then those hands go up and they posted the results, and my name wasn’t on the list. I walked home, and I ran upstairs and I closed the door. It kind of set in at that moment that the dream was over.
That day taught me something. Getting cut from the basketball team was the best thing to ever happen to me in my life because I learned that you can’t fall off the floor. And even when you do fall on the floor, it’s not even that bad. The bell rings, life moves on, I went to Chipotle the next day for lunch, like that was it. They’re like you want some guac on your burrito, I’m like yeah I deserve some guac, a dollar 95; I got that guac money right now. The following year I went to college, and I thought to myself, I want to do something where I slowly lose my dignity night in and night out just like basketball, so I decided to do stand up comedy. I did it every night, and I got my shoes peed on proverbially, night in and night out. I was not very good but I stuck with it. And on October 9th, 2014, my life changed forever. I was the last correspondant to be hired by Jon Stewart to be on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I had been doing stand up for 10 years, one month, and nine days. I was not the funniest, I was not the brightest, I was not the tallest and I’m not the best looking, all those things I’m not. But I never stopped fighting through the pick.
I do this for you guys. I do this for the 99 percent. For those of you guys that are going to Stanford and Harvard, yknow, enjoy investment banking and ruining the economy, you’re going to have a great life. Private jets are great, shout out to your health insurance, you’re going to have a great life. For the rest of us, I do this for you guys. I really do, because your parents, teachers and counselors are going to tell you that it gets better. And I’m here to tell you, it always doesn’t. It doesn’t, the world does not care about your dreams, they do not care one bit. But, I will say this, you gotta keep trying, it’s worth it. And if you give yourself an opportunity to try and survive failure, you will eventually find what you were meant to do. I’m telling you right now from my own personal experience, never stop fighting through the pick. If you can’t get in through the front door, go in through the side. If you can’t get in the side door, go in through the backyard, and if you can’t get in through the backyard, go in through the window. No matter what, never stop wearing your Air Pennies, and never stop fighting through the pick. I promise you, I promise you, you’ll eventually find where you are supposed to be. Now, I know there’s a lot of parents looking at me right now, like this guy is crazy, he’s only 29 years old, why is he pontificating about life? I 100% agree with you, but here’s what I do definitely know. I do know that the Epson 3640 is available right now for $129.99 at OfficeMax. My name is Hasan Minhaj, and thank you so much.