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.

Mobtreal:

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?

Maz:

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.

Mobtreal:

You started standup in the 90’s, right?

Maz:

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!

Mobtreal:

How was it finding your voice in that climate? Were you always political?

Maz:

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.

Mobtreal:

How do you decide when to deliver a serious message, versus making a punchline?

Maz:

You know, I would love to find a punchline in everything. I think it’s okay to take a moment to say something serious and I did, I took a moment in my Netflix special, Immigrant. I spoke about how Trump needs to take responsibility for his words, and how he never takes responsibility for his words, and how a lot of his supporters excuse his words and say “Oh he’s just saying things, nobody is going take him seriously,” and I go “Well, here is an example where people taking him seriously.”

In 2016, there was a guy in Kansas at a bar who saw these two Indian guys, and he went to his car, got a gun and he came back and shot them. He then escaped, went to another bar and says he just shot some Iranians. One of those guys died. I personally think that Trump’s rhetoric is responsible for a guy having the audaciousness to go – for no reason, these guys didn’t do anything – to go to try to just kill these guys because of their background.

So, I took that moment in my special to actually talk about that, and then I went back into telling jokes. I think sometimes there is no punchline. It’s OK to remind people that we are living in this anti-immigrant climate and that they should be uncomfortable about it, and they should do something about it as well. They should check themselves as well. A lot of time people make excuses for some of the anti-immigrant stuff out there and I don’t accept that, I don’t think that’s acceptable

Mobtreal:

Do you feel a responsibility to educate with the work you’re doing as well?

Maz:

You know, I don’t set out to either educate or be political just to do that. My goal is to be funny. Now, if in being funny I can throw out some sort of joke that also has an educational aspect to it, then that’s great. I mean, I’ll be the first one to admit that I feel undereducated in many aspects of many things. So when I do crowd work in my audience sometimes, if somebody is from a country I don’t know anything about, I’ll probably spout something stupid. If somebody says they’re Columbian, I might say “Oh, Shakira.” I mean, it’s stupid but fun and it gets people to laugh at how little I know how Columbia — besides Shakira, Sofia Vergara, and Pablo Escobar. That’s an American education for you. If there’s some learning aspect to the show, then even better. Again in my special, I went to the audience and we started going around learning how to say the word “balls” in different languages. So, I’m not Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Mobtreal:

Thanks for your time, Maz. What’s in store for you, looking forward?

Maz:

I have a TV show on CBS that just got canceled. I’m currently pitching three or four different shows, so I really hope to be on something pretty soon. Meanwhile, I just keep touring and people can always find my tour dates at mazjobrani.com or follow me on socials @mazjobrani. I’ll let you guys know when I’m back in Montreal again. It’s a great city. Thanks for having me.

Maz Jabroni will be performing next in LA August 19th. Buy your tickets here.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length)

About The Author

mm
Mobster Blogger

Nick Farah is a creative professional based in Montreal. While big on improv, Nick also enjoys making videos and pounding on his typewriter.

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