by Andrew Wantuck
This week I spoke with an Iranian-American Comic named Maz Jobrani. He has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was a member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.
Andrew: Do you remember the first joke you ever wrote and told on stage?
Maz: The idea was something like why is our genitalia where it is, like in the middle of our body, which is one of the more unmanueverable parts of your body. Why isn’t it on our hands? You could walk around and be having sex all day long if you shake hands. I thought it was hilarious and then I was reading it the next day and I was like I don’t know about that. So, I chickened out and I didn’t perform it.
Andrew: What would you tell a white audience member that says should I go see Maz Jobrani’s show?
Maz: That’s funny. I would tell white people stay away. No. I talk about my experiences of being an Iranian-American in America, but I grew up in America, I obviously have a lot of American experiences. I am aware of what is going on. I know that Michael Jackson just died, so I have jokes about that.
Maz: It is definately for a white audience and I would encourage people to go online and check out some clips. The fact is I think if people are into politics and current events and that kind of stuff I think that they will be into what I am talking about.
Andrew: You are recently a new father. Any new fatherhood stories?
Maz: I was doing a joke about how someone told me that the first time I see my baby breastfeed I am going to be a little jealous. So I was watching him and the poor guy, his head kept slipping off. He wasn’t that good at it, because they aren’t that good at it. They don’t really have necks.
Maz: I went from being ready to feel jealous to feeling sad for the guy. It looked like every part of his face except his mouth was getting the nipple. So really he was shaving his face with my wife’s nipple.
Andrew: [laughs] You have a big television and movie presence all over IMDB. Can you tell me what you prefer. Do you like being on stage doing standup or are you using standup to get tobecome the next big movie star?
Maz: No. I love them all. I mean hopefully if I end up on a show that becomes a big hit or a film that is a big film, I am going to continue to do standup. I love the being able to perform in front of a live audience and getting the feedback right then and there. So, standup is just great. And also what is great about stand up is you get to really express your opinion in a very unedited way. It’s just you. It’s one hundred percent you. That said. Doing some films and stuff, the film or TV program that you are into, like I am on “Better Off Ted” right now, which is an ABC show, I was enjoying the character a lot. I was on “Nights of Prosperity” I enjoyed the character a lot. I always say when people ask me questions like that I just hope to be a part of a quality program. Whatever it is. The worst thing would be, I am sure this has happened to many performers, myself included, is to end up on a thing where you are making a living, but you just aren’t 100% into the project.
Andrew: On your website, you have a line about how in Iran, Ahmadinejad got 75 million votes in a country with 70 million people. Can you touch on that a little bit for me?
Maz: I have been talking about how it seems like there is election fraud like all the time any time there is an election. It’s ongoing, they have trials now for people who were arrested during the protest and you can see that they have gotten these people that were in the protests to admit to having been motivated by the BBC and by the CIA to go out into the streets and do the protest thing. You can see that it is coerced confessions. It’s sad in a way, but hopefully it will progress into something where there is a little more freedom out there.
Andrew: How does the Iranian community inside the United States feel about what's going on in lran?
Maz: I think that mostly people that aren’t in Iran are supporters of reform in Iran. What’s interesting though is you can kind of summarize like in America you have Democrats and Republicans, you have other groups as well obviously, but the majority of people fall into those two categories. Iranian’s are really in this big split - a lot of people outside of Iran agree that there needs to be reform, then when you say ok then what should come after that. That’s when a lot of disputes begin, like there is a group of Shah supporters who feel that the Shaw sunk should go back and we start a monarchy of sorts. There’s groups of communists. There is a communist party who feels that is what needs to be put in there. There’s people who feel we need to democratically and more liberal government and it is not a religious government. You get this wide array and so what happens sometimes is even within people that are, like there was a rally for human rights in Iran recently because of these recent arrests after the protests. Some people that were pro-Shaw wanted to be at the rally holding the old flag that was around when Shaw was around which has a lion on it which was the symbol of the monarchy, I believe, and so these people weren’t allowed to come to that rally and then there was a dispute between these people and the people sponsoring the rally. It gets really complicated. You do have Ahmadinejad supporters as well. This e-mail that I sent out supporting the re-formists, I got some e-mail’s from people in America who were saying I think that what Ahmadinejad is doing is good because he is standing up to the west and not taking crap from them and he is helping the poor more. But that I would say that is probably the minority of people in Iran that would think like that.
Andrew: I know you that you are really interested in world events because you studied Political Science at Cal-Berkley, right? And furthered that education at UCLA for a bit. Can you talk about how you went from that and then transitioned into standup. How did that deciision go down?
Maz: Well, I always wanted to do standup. I was a big fan of Eddie Murphy’s and when I was seventeen I wanted to do that standup thing and I had been doing play’s since I was twelve, so I like being on stage. But, coming from an Iranian family which is more traditional, not like in wearing veils and stuff. Traditional in the way of ...
Andrew: ...conservative. Like go get an education.
Maz: Exactly. Get an education. Go be a lawyer or a doctor. So my parents convinced me I should be a lawyer so I went to college studied political science then three quarters of the way through college I went to Italy to study abroad. There was this professor that I really loved what he was doing so I thought ok I really want to be a professor. Screw the whole lawyer thing. Then I went to grad school at UCLA to get my Ph. D. in Poly Sci and I dropped out that first year and I started doing plays again back at UCLA and realized it was really what I always wanted to do. So really it was just about figuring out a way how to do it again. I was in my mid twenties, I was working at an advertising agency. I had a day job going and I was just doing a play on the side, kind of as a hobby. This older gentleman there, who is was in his sixties, his name was Joe Rind, he was watching me make a dub of the play I was in and he goes ‘’Hey, you have some good comedic timing. Have you thought about doing this?’. And I said “Yeah , I got this game plan. I am going to save up some money and pursue acting and some standup when I am thirty. When I have some money saved up. He goes ‘Listen when I was in my twenties there were some things I wanted to do and now I am in my sixties and I never got around to doing them. If you really want to do it got for it. It was a lightbulb moment and I told my boss right then, listen I am going to start taking some acting classes. I got in some improv classes at the acting theatre here in LA. From there I met this lady named Judy Carter, who teaches standup comedy and I was like well I will take her classes too. So I took her classes and the next thing I knew I was running around doing standup at any diner or coffee shop or church basement or whatever I could find. So, I just started going from there and that was how the decision came about.
Andrew: Can you complete this sentence? I like the South Bay because...
Maz: They have great audiences and they’re right by the beach. It’s very nice.
Andrew: I don’t like the South Bay because...
Maz: I have to get on the 405 to and get into traffic down to Rosecrans and I wish I had a helicopter to make it easier.
Maz Jobrani will headlining The Comedy & Magic Club Thursday, August 27th & Saturday, August 29th 2009. Reservations Required. (310) 372-1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com. ER.