Comedian Maz Jobrani recently spent some time on Sean Hannity’s website to see what people there were saying about his act, and one remark left him particularly sad. It wasn’t because of any racial slur; rather, he was troubled that someone commented they didn’t know people from the Middle East laughed.
“You rarely see us playing characters who laugh, dance or sing, and this contributes to people thinking that we don’t have a sense of humor,” Jobrani, an Iranian American, recently wrote in a piece for Politico magazine titled "What Makes Muslims Laugh?" As a result, Jobrani has since decided to deemphasize in his act “terrorist parts that help perpetuate this negative stereotype.”
Jobrani's playful on-stage demeanor, subtle in its cultural criticism, returns to his native Bay Area next week for performances at the Improv in San Jose and the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. It’s a busy week for Jobrani, whose new memoir, I’m Not a Terrorist But I’ve Played One on TV, is released on Tuesday.
Now 42, Jobrani first arrived in the U.S. from Tehran at the age of six, settling with his family in Tiburon and graduating from Larkspur’s Redwood High School. He stayed in the Bay Area for his undergrad, where he studied political science and Italian at UC Berkeley.
Jobrani’s personable delivery often serves to skewer the blind discrimination he and others of Middle Eastern descent have been subjected to in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That mission, in fact, was what brought Jobrani together with Ahmed Ahmed, Aron Kader and Dean Obeidallah to form the Axis of Evil comedy tour, since disbanded. The group toured the Middle East, where even Jordan’s King Abdullah II was an audience member.
Maz Jobrani performs Thursday, Feb. 19, at the Improv in San Jose, and Friday, Feb. 20, at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. For more information, visit the comedian's site.