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Interview With Comedian Maz Jobrani

Maz Jobrani
Courtesy Photo

As one of the top Middle-Eastern comedians working today, Maz Jobrani has a lot to be thankful for, especially his decision to drop out of school and pursue a full-time career in comedy 13 years ago. Having appeared in numerous TV shows and films such as 24, Knights of Prosperity and Friday After Next, Jobrani went on to form the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour along with a group of other like-minded Middle-Eastern comics that were dispelling right-wing rhetoric through their unique observations as comedians performing in a post 9/11 world. In 2009 he released his first DVD,Brown and Friendly, to positive reviews. He is currently working on a TV pilot based on his life experiences as an Iranian-born comedian living in America.

When was the first time you did stand-up?

Maz Jobrani: The first time I ever did stand-up, I had just graduated and it was an open mic. But I wasn’t serious about it until later on when I actually dropped out of the Ph.D program and I was working at an advertising agency. So I was 26 when I really went for it seriously.

Were your parents really strict?

They weren’t really strict, I would say traditional in some ways. They’re actually very secular in many ways, so we weren’t like, religious or anything. They were very secular but they were like any immigrant parents. They want you to be lawyers or doctors or engineers.

Did they get upset when you started doing stand-up?

I kind of loosened them up, like when I was a junior in college I went to Italy for a year abroad, and at that time my mom had wanted me to stay, she didn’t want me to go, because my father had just moved back to Iran at the time. So my mom and my aunt were trying to convince me to stay back in the U.S. and not to go to Italy for the year because they thought since I was the oldest son I should stay back and help my mom, if she needs any help with my younger brothers and blah blah blah. I went and I said, “I got to do this.” It was kind of like one of my first steps as a young adult; asserting myself and telling my mom that I was going to do what I needed to do for me. So that kind of loosened her up, and then when I came back from Italy, I decided I wanted to be a professor. To my mom, even being a professor was unacceptable in her mind. It was a thing where I was becoming more and more of an individual and not asking permission for anything and just telling her what I was going to do. When I dropped out of graduate school, I thought I was going to go work in advertising, and I think at that point she thought that I had lost my mind. So I started working in advertising and started auditioning for acting rolls. I was always very mature and I was the oldest son; I was never home on the couch playing video games, I was always hustling, I had a day job. As a matter of fact, the day job I got when I was in advertising, my first day I had on a suit on with a tie, and the advertising world has become a lot more casual these days, it’s no longer like Mad Men. So the first day I was there one guy was like, “Hey nice to meet you. Lose the tie.” But I was thinking to myself, “But the tie makes my mom think I’m doing something legit.” Somebody actually asked me one time, ‘When did you consider yourself successful?” And I said, “When I got my mom off my back." That was when I was successful.

So what year did you officially start?

I officially started in 1998. So thirteen years.

How long would you say it took you to find your voice as a comedian?

It’s funny, I asked an older comic when I first started that exact question and he said, “It’ll probably take you about seven years.” And I thought to myself, “This guy has no idea what he’s talking about, I’m a genius. I’ll find my voice in a year.” But really it was about seven years into it. I remember it takes seven years of getting up on stage 10 times a week or something like that. In L.A., you can get up at the clubs; you can find bars and coffee shops, so you’re getting up sometimes twice a day; just getting up as much as you can. Then as you do it more and more, eventually you start talking about the issues that you want to talk about. And I can have a take on certain issues that are my stamp on these things. Whereas before I felt I needed to have material for every situation. Then you don’t have your voice, then you’re just kind of the court jester and that’s it. I would say seven years was a good estimate.

If you had a choice, which would you prefer doing, acting or stand-up comedy?

It’s a combination of both. I’ll be honest with you. Like right now I have a young family, I got a son and we just had a baby girl.

How old is the baby?

The baby’s like a week and a half old. I think it’s more important right now for me to be home with my son than for my daughter. Because my daughter has no idea what’s going on around her, but my son is at that age where he starts to see me leave and he’s asking, “Why the hell does daddy keep leaving?” My hope is to get a TV part back in L.A. or even a film part where I can stay put, a TV show would be great.

What do you like about stand-up?

The thing about stand-up is I love the performance part of it. I’m not a huge fan of the traveling part of it. When I first started out the traveling seemed exotic, but it’s funny, people think that I’ve seen a lot of places in the world and I say, “Well I’ve actually seen a lot of hotel rooms in a lot of places around the world.”

Any projects you have coming up?

I was pitching a TV show based on my life to all the networks, and we’re at the point now where the USA network wants to see another rendition of it. If they don’t bite I’m going as independent as possible. I think the Independent Film Channel is now doing shows and stuff. I’m ready to get this show on the air anywhere. I’ve also written a movie with a friend of mine called Jimmy Vestvood: American Hero. It’s kind of like a Persian Pink Panther thing.

Does Maz Jobrani have a message for the children?

Pimps up ho’s down.

Maz Jobrani performs one night only at House of Blues in downtown San Diego.