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Interview With Iranian-American Comedian Maz Jobrani


Maz Jobrani
Iranian-born Maz Jobrani is a fan favorite in the Middle East best known as the hilarious character in the widely successful the Axis of Evil comedy tours.

We caught up with Jobrani who is staying busy with numerous post-pandemic activities, one of which is his new special Pandemic Warrior available on OSN.  

AM: The general public knows you more as a comedian, so tell us about some of your favorite career highlights
Well, my first favorite career highlight was when I became a regular at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. It’s the place where all of my favorite comedians had performed when I was a kid. To be made a regular there was a dream come true.

After that I have had many other “pinch me” moments. Here’s a few - acting with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman in the Sydney Pollack thriller The Interpreter. Performing in front of the King of Jordan as part of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour in 2007. Performing at the White House and introducing Michelle Obama in 2016. Giving the Commencement speech at my Alma Mater, UC Berkeley in front of 45,000 people in 2017. Filming my Netflix comedy special at the Kennedy Center in 2017. The truth is, though, that I consider myself lucky to be living my passion so everything is a highlight to me.

AM: Growing up, who would you say were some of your favorite comedians?
Eddie Murphy is the reason I got into comedy. I was also a fan of Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Sam Kinison and many more.

AM: How much do you employ your background, heritage and life experiences in your stand-up sketches?
When I first started doing stand up comedy my material revolved a lot around my heritage. As I grew, I had to talk about other stuff so that included my kids, wife and other life stuff. I also have been quite political the past four years, given the climate in the United States. I would say my heritage plays a smaller role in my comedy these days, but most of my material comes from my life experiences.

AM: And how do you adapt your sketches for a Middle Eastern audience?
When I travel the world doing comedy a lot of my kid and family stuff translates pretty well. Parents who are tired of their kids tend to be going through the same thing whether you’re in Los Angeles, Dubai or Sydney. So the family stuff doesn’t have to be adapted much. However, some of the material that’s about American politics or the current social climate in the U.S. does need a little bit more context for it to work. I also try to come up with some local jokes whenever I’m in a new city so that the people in the crowd know I am curious about them and have been studying what’s going on in their world.

AM: What is the recipe for a comedy that is relevant to a global public of different cultures?
I think the more authentic you are about yourself and your experiences the more you’ll see your comedy translating and being relevant globally. It’s amazing how similar our experiences are around the world. It just takes talking about it to see how much others relate. I’ve done similar material in the U.S. as in Sweden, Indonesia, Singapore, the Middle East and more. It seems to work in all of these different places because we, as humans, go through similar experiences no matter where we are in the world.

AM: In a world of “Cancel Culture” how limiting is the space for a comedian becoming?
I don’t think it’s limiting at all. I think the term “Cancel Culture” is something that people on the right have hijacked to complain about not being able to say some things that might be offensive and had been accepted in the past. As comedians, creators and performers, we have a choice to either listen to the new generations and accept that progress is being made, or we can fight it. I believe that in order to be relevant you have to be willing to change with the times. That doesn’t mean you compromise your positions and opinions, but you do need to see that the world is changing and some things that were accepted back in the day, just aren’t anymore. You can still come up with plenty of funny things to talk about without offending people who have been marginalized throughout their lives.

AM: Do you agree that it’s harder to make someone laugh rather than cry?

Well it’s easy to make someone cry. All you’ve got to do is pinch them. So yeah, it’s harder to make someone laugh than to make them cry. But then again, you shouldn’t go around pinching random people, so maybe it’s easier to make them laugh. I’m crying just trying to figure out the answer to this question.
AM: Finally, tell us more about your latest projects? What else is going on in Maz Jobrani’s world?
My new comedy special Pandemic Warrior which was mostly shot in Dubai, came out earlier this year on OSN in the Middle East and Peacock TV in the US. I am recording my weekly podcast, Back to School With Maz Jobrani and people can watch it on or anywhere podcasts are found. I have started touring again with my new tour Things Are Looking Bright. And I have a new dog named Yasu whom I walk a few times a day and she puts a smile on my face.

Photographer: Storm Santos