Maz Jobrani is an American Iranian stand-up. He has five stand-up specials under his belt and keeps a very healthy IMDB — most recently starring on CBS’s Superior Donuts. Maz just finished a busy JFL, hosting the Ethnic Show and performing at various shows including the Howie Mandel gala. We had a chance to pick Maz’s brain while he was in town.
Welcome back to Montreal, Maz. You’ve been here a bunch, This isn’t your first time here, how would you describe your relationship with the city?
We used to date each other. I’m told I’ve been here doing the Ethnic Show for five out of the ten years it’s been on. My first time here was 2008. I don’t think I was doing Ethnic Show, maybe New Faces. I honestly don’t remember, it all blends in.
You started standup in the 90’s, right?
Yeah 1998, so this is my 20th year. I was telling my wife the other day — the Bush election was 18 years ago, in 2000 — it feels like yesterday. The Hanging Chad!
How was it finding your voice in that climate? Were you always political?
Yeah, you know what happened was, I started comedy in 98. I took a standup comedy class, and the teacher said: “Talk about what makes you different.” I was the only Iranian American in the class, and I started talking about growing up Iranian in America. A lot of it was jokes that weren’t too political but more social commentary, about what it was like to be different in America.
One of the early jokes I did, and it was a silly joke: “Growing up Iranian in America is hard. Parents won’t let their kids spend the night at our house because they think we’re gonna hold them hostage.” A silly joke, but then suddenly September 11th happened, which the Bush administration used as an excuse to attack Iraq. You’re looking at the TV and you’re like — wait a minute, how did that happen? Like, the attackers were Saudis and Egyptians, and Bin Laden is in Afghanistan, and you’re going to attack Iraq?
So as a comedian I see there are a lot of serious issues I can talk about through comedy and make fun of what’s going on and try to also have a serious message underneath it. So yeah, I think I became political pretty fast.
I will be honest with you too. In 2008 – it just so happened my son was born and Obama went into power. Politically speaking, I just didn’t find a lot of comedy there, but more importantly, as a comedian, I started to do a lot of kid material. Even then, I continued to talk about a lot of the discrimination that was happening against middle easterners, I made fun of the media and their coverage of people from that part of the world. So, I think the political undertone has always existed for me.
You can catch Maz performing in LA August 19th – Click the link for details.