CNN International’s ‘Inside The Middle East’ meets Maz Jobrani, an Iranian-American comedian who’s made a living by joking about his heritage while also using the stage to convey cultural acceptance within his punchlines.
Key quotes from the interview:
Maz Jobrani on becoming a comedian:
“I started [at] the Laugh Factory in 1979. I was a young kid, and my father told me, the greatest deed you can do for mankind, or the greatest mitzvah you could do for mankind, is bring a smile on people’s face. Comedians are, they are what I call "doctor of the soul."
Jobrani on his American and Iranian identity:
“My upbringing in Northern California was a very eclectic mix between the Iranian family and then just the American culture. The food was all Iranian. The language spoken at the house was always Persian. However, one of my favourite sports became baseball and the TV shows I would watch were all American…. I spent my whole life trying to blend in with all the other American kids. I really grew up influenced from both cultures and the truth is I never felt American enough and I never felt Iranian enough. I was always in between.”
Jobrani on his parents wanting him to pursue a more conventional career:
“My parents were actually against it. When it came time to go to college they said, 'why don't you become a lawyer and then you can just act on the side for fun?' So, I got detoured for a few years to try and go be a lawyer. When I told my mom that I was dropping out of the PhD program she said, "Listen, you did not become a lawyer. You did not become a professor." She goes, "At least become a mechanic." And I asked her, I said, "How'd you go from lawyer to mechanic? Why mechanic?" She said, "Because people need mechanics. Nobody needs an actor." And I said, "You know, it's a good point." And then I realized in analysing it that my mom came from a revolution. My mom's life was set, and her life just flipped as did a lot of people in Iran. There were doctors in Iran, there were generals or whatever they were, and they had to come to a new country where they didn't speak the language and work at a gas station. And so, in my mom's mind, I think she thought you need to learn a skill that if there's ever a revolution in America, you can go to Argentina and fix cars. So, she was thinking practically.”
Jobrani on how comedy allows him to address social issues and global politics:
“Throughout my life and throughout my comedy I've talked about being Iranian, about being an immigrant. In fact, my latest comedy special was called "immigrant." I am very much in support of immigrants in America and there's a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment out there, so I try as much as I can to push [the belief] that immigrants love America [and that] there's a reason we came here, we love it… to just say that we're just like everybody else. So [I’m] just trying to humanize that face of people from the Middle East or Mexico or where ever.”
On whether he believes he has had an impact, Jobrani tells CNN:
“I don't know if my comedy has made a difference. Some of the bigger messages that I try to put out there, whether it's in my comedy or just in talking. One is to do what you love. Two is to experience other people in the world. Open your eyes and open your mind to the world because when you go to places like Egypt or Jordan or Lebanon, or Iran, or wherever you go, you realize, "Oh. People are just trying to live their lives the same way I'm trying to live my life."
Source: Ketchum Raad