18 Oct Episode 04: Comedian Maz Jobrani – Follow Your Dreams
Full transcript below.
Hear how Maz Jobrani went from being a PhD student to an internationally known stand-up comedian. Maz discusses the importance of following your dreams, practicing your craft, and making opportunities for yourself. Maz Jobrani has been seen on CBS’s SUPERIOR DONUTS and is a founding member of THE AXIS OF EVIL COMEDY TOUR.
Maz Jobrani stared in the CBS sitcom SUPERIOR DONUTS, opposite Jermaine Fowler and Judd Hirsh. You can check out his first original standup special “IMMIGRANT” on Netflix and 3 other solo specials on Showtime. In 2016 he performed at the White House and is a founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, which aired on Comedy Central. He’s given two Ted Talks, authored a best-selling book I’M NOT A TERRORIST BUT I’VE PLAYED ONE ON TV, and is the executive producer of EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE, a documentary about his sister’s battle with breast cancer.
Maz has also started in the award-winning comedy, JIMMY VESTVOOD: AMERICAN HERO. He’s also co-stared in Disney’s The Descendants, Sydney Pollack’s THE INTERPRETER, and Ice Cube’s FRIDAY AFTER NEXT. He’s also been a guest star on GREY’s ANATOMY, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, TRUE BLOOD, and SHAMELESS.
Key Questions answered by Maz Jobrani:
- How Maz built a global brand for himself
- How to ideate thoughts and jokes
- Best advice Maz has received
- Maz’s definition of success
- How has Maz’s religion and ethnicity challenged his career and how has he navigated those obstacles
Maz Jobrani discusses:
- How to balance multiple creative paths and a family
- Developing your voice (not the sound of your voice, but your point of view)
- The value of taking courses focused on your passion
- Women and Comedy
- Importance of practicing your craft
Maz Jobrani’s Memorable Quotes:
- “You live once. Do what you want to do. Don’t listen to your parents.”
- “Keep doing your thing and…people will catch up to it.”
- “Create your own opportunities”
- “If you want to go for it, go for it. If you have a dream, go for it, don’t sit on your ass and wait. It will be too late.”
Links mentioned on this episode
- First Ted Talk
- Second Ted Talk
- Maz’s commencement address at UC Berkeley
- The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselThe Comedy Bible by Judy Carter
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- Book: I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One on TV
- Netflix Special: Immigrant
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Social Media Info
Maz Jobrani Website: MazJobrani.com
Connect on Instagram:
Maz Jobrani – @MazJobrani
FunnyBrownGirl – @funnybrowngirl
Connect on Twitter:
Maz Jobrani – @MazJobrani
FunnyBrownGirl – @funnybrowngirl
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Full transcript of interview with Maz Jobrani:
Maz Jobrani 0:00
I said, Joe, I’m waiting till I’m in my 30s I’m gonna save up some money and go for it. Because let me talk to you. He took me into his office. He goes, look, I’m in my mid 60s. When I was in my 20s there was a lot I wanted to do. I never got around to doing it. Because if you really want to do it, you got to do it. So that was my lightbulb moment, I was 26. I went to my boss at the Ad Agency and said, Hey, I’m going to pursue comedy professionally. And that was it.
Shereen Kassam 0:30
Are you an aspiring creative in entertainment, business, fashion, design or the arts? Do you want to elevate your creative passion project to the next level, then this show is for you. Whether you want a career in television, film, radio, literature, music, or beyond creative breakthrough will show you how to take your dreams and turn them into reality. This show will not only leave you feeling motivated and inspired, but also provide you real life tools to pursue the creative journey you have always wanted. I’m your host, creative coach, and chicken chicken wing lover Shereen Kassam aka the Funny Brown Girl. Yes, I have an unhealthy obsession with chicken wings. Now, get ready to flex your creative muscle.
Maz Jobrani started in the CBS sitcom Superior Doughnuts opposite Jermaine Fowler and Judd Hirsch. You can check out his first original stand up Special Immigrant on Netflix and three other solo specials on Showtime. In 2016, he performed at the White House and is a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, which aired on Comedy Central. He’s given two TED Talks, authored a best selling book, I’m Not a Terrorist, but I’ve played one on TV and is the executive producer of Everything Must Change a documentary about his sister’s battle with breast cancer. Find out how Maz went from being a PhD student to an internationally known stand up comedian.
Welcome to the guest chair Maz. So I want to start from the beginning. First of all, before we start, I want to say thank you for making time out of your busy schedule. We’re actually sitting in a hotel lobby right now doing this. Because you got four shows at the improv two more tonight, right? At the Orlando Improv? How are they going?
Maz Jobrani 2:14
They’re going well. It’s a nice room. I like the room a lot. And I will say the Early Show was a really good show last night, the Late Show, we had a few drunk people. That happens on late shows. And it happens particularly on Friday, late shows, right? And this shows are the hardest shows because people are exhausted from the week.
Shereen Kassam 2:35
Yea they are. Yeah, cuz I’ve been out drinking, like for happy hour waiting for you guys to start, right?
Maz Jobrani 2:41
Just thinking the more they drink, the better it’s going to be and it just ins’t. I’m telling anybody who’s listening right now. If you’re super drunk, don’t go to a comedy club. You’re going to act like a fool. And I’m going to kick you out.
Shereen Kassam 2:53
So I want to so when you come to Florida or come to the south, do you feel like you have to change up your material a little bit? Because of the audience?
Maz Jobrani 3:00
Absolutely. I change everything. No, I don’t. I do me, you know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. And there was there were times when I would say Oh God, I don’t know if the audience is going to go with me on something or rather, especially because I do political stuff. The more you do it, the more you realize No, it’s it’s about you. It’s your voice. So if somebody doesn’t like something I say then they don’t have to come. And and then in terms of just relateability, I feel like a lot of the stuff I talked about, I talked about being a dad, I talked about kids, so people, you know can relate to that stuff. And then I talked about politics is stuff that they know about. So for the most part, I don’t think there’s much to change No,
Shereen Kassam 3:44
no. So you don’t you don’t find people here sometimes aren’t don’t follow you because there’s a are not even here but in the republican states republican cities. Or are those are the people just don’t show up.
Maz Jobrani 3:54
Listen the people that come to my show, kind of know what to expect if there and within our own community within the Iranian community. There’s a lot of Republicans, there’s a lot of people that actually like Trump and voted for Trump, that are immigrants. And they sometimes they’ll get upset at me for making fun of Trump. But again, I just tell them, I go look, this is my this is my show, you should go to a blog, or you can go do your own thing. This is my show. So most people that are my fans get it. And even if you’re a Republican, I think you should, and I think people that are open minded can see that, you know, when Trump does something stupid or wrong, they should be able to admit it, you know, let’s call a spade a spade, right? I would say like, if you were to tell me. If I were to tell you, I liked Obama, or like Obama, and you were say, Well, you know, under Obama, there was more drone attacks, and then under previous administrations, I would have to agree with you. I’d say yeah, you’re right. So let’s agree on some of the facts. Yeah, if you just a crazy Trump, like, whatever he says, I get tweets, somebody tweeted me today that Trump is Christ. And they were serious. They weren’t being ironic and Okay, well, I can’t, I can’t have a conversation. I don’t even think that person understands comedy. If I tried to tell a joke about anything.
Shereen Kassam 5:07
Yeah. So just ignore them.
Maz Jobrani 5:09
Yea ignore it.
Shereen Kassam 5:11
so you mentioned you’ve been doing comedy for 20 years. So walk us through your creative journey, like how did it start? What inspired you? And how have you made it to where you are today?
Maz Jobrani 5:19
I was inspired by Eddie Murphy. When I was a kid.
Shereen Kassam 5:21
Yeah, Raw or Delerious
Maz Jobrani 5:22
Delirious, and before delirious you had Eddie Murphy comedian, which was a tape. Okay, so this was his early, early stuff. So he was becoming very popular, me and my friends would listen to him. I was probably nine or 10 years old, early 80s. And then I wanted to be like him, I started doing plays when I was 12. Yeah, and I love being onstage and the directors would always tell me, Hey, you got potential to do this professionally. And then having immigrant parents, Iranian parents, they would, you know, come to the shows. And I remember the director told my dad, you know, he could really do this. And my dad, Oh, thank you, thank you, then in the car, my dad’s like, That bitch is crazy, don’t even talk to her.
They didn’t mind me being in a play. They knew that it was something I was doing. But they taught me they tried to talk me out of it, you could be a doctor, you’d be a lawyer, as we should do a businessman. So they can miss me. And then I went to UC Berkeley, where I studied political science, with the thought that I’m going to become a lawyer, and with the thought that I would maybe just do comedy or plays on the side. And then I got my policy degree, and then I and then I decided, you know what, I don’t want to be a lawyer. I’ll be a professor. So I got into UCLA to get a PhD in political science. And the first quarter that I was there, I thought, let me go see what’s going on in the theater department. So I went to the theater department. And I started to audition. And I gotten there big play. And I love being on stage. I was I was like, this is where I got to be. So basically, I dropped out of my PhD program. And then I worked in advertising for a few years. And then when I was in my mid 20s, I thought I was going to save up some money. And in my, I thought, when I turned 30, I’m going to really try it. And I was doing this play just for fun. And there was a guy at the ad agency who saw some clips of the play and said, hey, you’re funny. Have you thought about doing this? And his name is Joe Rhine. He was this guy in his 60s. And I said, Joe, I’m waiting till I’m in my 30s I’m gonna save up some money and go for it. He goes, let me talk to you. He took me intohis office. He goes, look, I’m in my mid 60s. It was when I was in my 20s. It was a lot I wanted to do. I never got around to doing it. Because if you really want to do it, you got to do it. So that was my lightbulb moment. I was in my mid 20s. I mean, I was 26. I went to my boss, at the ad agency and I said hey, I’m going to pursue comedy professionally. And that was it. I started taking improv classes, stand-up classes. And that was 20 years ago.
Shereen Kassam 7:48
Wow. And so were you just putting yourself on your savings at that point?
Maz Jobrani 7:51
Girl. I’m Persian we’re rich.
Shereen Kassam 7:54
No, I know you are.
Maz Jobrani 8:02
Actually the way, so I was living my mom lived in LA. And so I was living with my mom. Okay, you know, typical shit. And, and I had my job at the ad agency. So I was making whatever it was like $25,000 a year which back then was enough to live when I didn’t have to pay rent. Yeah. And then I you know, that paid for my car and everything else. And then at the time also, I just gotten out of a relationship. And I would stay at my girlfriend’s house a lot, then I then I ended up in another relationship, that then I end up marrying her. She’s the lawyer. So I basically in terms of like, I didn’t need to rent the place, you know, between my mom and my girlfriend at the time, I had a place to stay. And then I had my income. And that was it. And then and then I would go and do stand up comedy at like, you know, anywhere I could find. you would get 15 bucks and go to a fish restaurant or something in San Diego three hour drive. You know, or once I became a regular at the Comedy Store that actually helped me grow exponentially. And there I would – Mitzi Shore, who recently passed away, she was an amazing lady, and she would put me up really late. So I’d be up with all the dirty comics. And it was just I learned I grew exponentially having to follow guys like Andrew Dice Clay and Eddie Griffin and Paul Mooney and Joe Diaz, Joe Rogan, and all those guys, you really learned to get strong as a comedian. So that’s where I really grew.
Shereen Kassam 9:31
So how did you how did you go about finding your voice? You mentioned it earlier, like your your voice is distinct, and that people either like it or don’t like it? How long did it take you to find your voice? And when was that aha moment?
Maz Jobrani 9:41
I would say listen, when I when I first started, I took a stand up comedy class. There’s a lady named Judy Carter. Yeah, the Comedy Bible. Yeah. So she was in my improv class. And then she goes, Hey, i teach a stand up comedy classes. Okay, so to the stand-up comedy class. And in that class, they said, talk about what makes you unique. And so we went around, and it would say, complete this sentence. It’s hard when it’s crazy when I hate it, when, and then fill in your thing. And so it’s like, it’s hard. Being a guy. Okay, to be more specific. It’s hard being a guy in LA more specific hard being an Iranian man and a more specific, hard growing up Iranian in America. Okay, there you go. Your that’s your voice talk about being Iranian America. So early on, it was talking about that stuff. But being Iranian isn’t the only thing that defines me. Right. I mean, you know, I got a goofy sense of humor. Sometimes, you know, I like fart jokes. You know, I like politics beyond Iran. And I love I got a lot of parenting stuff. So all you just ultimately realized this is the stuff that’s, that’s funny and important to me. That way I could sell it better. Because if I were to try and do a joke about the issue with lesbians, and I don’t know, Tanzania or whatever, that’s what’s her name? You know, Nanette, like, she knows that experience. I don’t know that experience. So I could be, I could be very on the surface about it. But you know, I’m not going to go deep. Yeah. So you just talk about what you love. You talk about what you know. And I would say, somebody told me when I first started to go, this is good, thank you five to 10 years to really find your voice. And that’s, that’s really true five to 10 years, getting on stage five to 10 times a week, and realizing you don’t have to please everybody. You know, I used to have jokes where it was like jokes that were for bars. Like if I’m at a bar, I’m going to have the jokes about women’s breasts, you know, it’s like, and then they’ll be like, Yeah, but you’re pleasing the crowd. Yeah, talking about what’s on your mind, you know?
Shereen Kassam 11:36
So it’s important to be honest and genuine with yourself.
Maz Jobrani 11:40
I think so. And sometimes Listen, there’s comics like the Mitch Hedberg, or a Attell or some others who might not be revealing as much about themselves, but their comedy. They’re the funny writers. And so even they find their voice and go, this is the stuff that’s funny to me. If you’re having fun if you find it funny, people going to come you I saw Dane Cook one time performing in front of like, five people or something, but he was performing like he was in a in an arena. And I go, holy shit, this guy’s like really going for it. I realized he’s selling it. Right. And so they that the audience is going to feel that, you know, and the opposite is true. You could have you know, you know, be honest with what’s going on. So if you’re in a room, and it’s 130 in the morning, and there’s only three people left, I love being you know, that’s you have fun with that moment, you know, Oh, God, we know, what are we doing here? Guys? Why are you here?
Shereen Kassam 12:33
Yeah, crowd work and stuff,
Maz Jobrani 12:37
Hey, guys, you know, I, I have a day job. And I got to be at work tomorrow. I gotta be working like six hours. But, you know, like, be honest. Yeah. And then they feel it. Right. You know?
Shereen Kassam 12:47
So you said you took a class and there’s a lot of like, friction within a comedy community, whether a class is important or not, do you feel like that really helps you
Maz Jobrani 12:54
listen, the comedy community can be judgmental, everyone thinks they’re the shit. nobody is the shit. everyone’s just as nervous everyone and nobody has any one way. You know, this isn’t like law school where you got to go through a, a to get to, you know, b to get to c, there’s many ways to get started. And for me, the reason that a class was what I wanted to do was because I, I do well, when I have assignments, I also felt that a class was somewhere it’s like going to an open mic, but you actually get feedback, right? And it was just the beginning, just to push into it, right. And then one of the first one of the best things I learned from that class was get on stage as much as you can. So me and a few of the other comedians would be like, All right, let’s go, we’re the strip club doing stand up. We’re in the church basement doing stand up, wherever there was a yogurt store doing stand up, you know, whatever it is in the coffee shop. So you can learn a lot. And and, you know, as long as that doesn’t become your only thing, we just staying in classes, you know, I took a couple other classes with a couple of the comedians as well. But for me, it was just like, I’ve always been like that, if I could, if I can get an assingmnet, it helps me
Shereen Kassam 14:00
today spend more time getting on stage and more time writing.
Maz Jobrani 14:04
I do my writing on stage. So and back then I suppose I used kind of Judy, Judy Carter’s technique of, you know, brainstorming and bubbling were, so you take a thought, write it and you put a circle around it, and then you put a line off that circle, see if other thoughts can come off of it, try to build off of that. Talking to your tape recorder. But now if you look at my iPhone, I’ve got pages and pages of ideas and thoughts that I’ll look at sometimes go Yeah, let me elaborate on that. And I’ll go on stage. And I’ll try and talk about it. Or the other thing that happens is, and I tell the young comics I go, you’re going to get to a point where your voice offstage will become very close to your voice on stage. Because a lot of times when people start I’ve seen it to like, you know, seen young comedians who off stage are talking to you like this. And then they go on stage and their voice completely. It’s like they become a different person. Now, what happened to that guy that was so interesting offstage, he’s doing the care. He’s doing Richard Pryor, he’s Richard Pryor. So the longer you do it, the closer it gets. So then what happens is, then in regular conversation, you might say something that’s funny to you. And you go, Oh, I could take that on stage. Right. And so you take that on stage. So you’re almost writing, subconsciously
Shereen Kassam 15:18
I think that’s the hardest thing to get to, is that on stage off stage, being being able to do that.
Maz Jobrani 15:24
It’s just the time you know, it literally, I mean, I have people who think like, I mean, I think we all think, Well, you know, the rule is five to 10 years, five to 10 times a week, but I’m a genius. I’m gonna, I’m gonna get there in a year. And I’m only going to get up once a week. You’ll see it. I mean, if I was if you see somebody who’s funny, your first question is to say how long How long is that guy been doing it. You know, and you can tell a pro like they land they they’re comfortable. I will tell you now, like I I’m very comfortable up there. Even if there’s something that kind of throws me I mean, we all get thrown sometimes. But for the most part, I’m very honest and sincere. Last night the drunk guy I wasn’t bothered by it. I wasn’t like, hey, what the hell, you know, I was I was actually very nice and sincere, I go, Hey, man, he was talking to this girl. They were talking loudly, guys. You guys are obviously drunk. You want to talk as it? Can you guys just go outside? And they looked at me shocked. And I was like, No, no offense, I just want you to go outside the talk and come back. And that was just me handling it in my way. Which is, you know, that’s 20 years of doing stand up and being comfortable stopping the show for a second to talk to the kids in the class and the front. kids go outside and come back. No one’s No, you’re not being punished. Just go and come. Yeah. You know, so it comes with with time time.
Shereen Kassam 16:39
Yeah. So you have you built yourself up like you built yourself a global brand. I mean, you toured the world and people, people follow you on social media, people come out to your show, you sort of have your, your little posse, your little clique of people who support you. How did you build that?
Maz Jobrani 16:55
The way? I think the way I became better known around the world was when we did the axis of evil comedy tour, and that was in 2007. It came out on Comedy Central. That was a tour that Mitzi shore actually put together in the year 2000. So Mitzi was Jewish, and she was watching CNN. And there was the there was an Intifada with the Palestinians and the Israelis. And then she said, I think there’s going to be a need for a positive voice for Muslims in the world. So she wanted to do a show where she would have her Muslim comedians perform like once every six months or something. I was the only Muslim comedian. I’m not even that religious. But I was the only comedian from a Muslim country. And then she had seen Ahmed Ahmed, who’s Egyptian brought him on. I’d seen Aaron cater wants who’s half Palestinian, brought him on. And then we all started touring under the name. And Sam Tripoli was on it who is Armenian. We were touring under the name Arabian Nights. Now, Iranians aren’t Arabs, right. So they would always remind me of that I said, I know. And so a little while later, years later, we changed our name to Axis of Evil. And we got on Comedy Central. And that was around the time YouTube was taking off. This was like 2007. So what happened was people took our clips, and this is before Facebook or any of this other social media. So back, then somebody would send a link to this massive email list that they had. So I kept seeing my link in these email lists that kept coming through my email. So I was somebody on people’s emails. I was like, Oh, my God, people getting to know me. And so eventually, this got to the Middle East. You know that back then this was during the george bush administration war with iraq war with Afghanistan, there was a lot of demonizing of Middle Easterners, unlike now, where people love Middle Easterners and Arabs. No, it was just it was it was a right time. And I feel like it was almost like, there was an audience waiting for us. There was an audience waiting for our voice. And we were the right people at the right time. Because, you know, this is 2007. I started stand up in 98. So I’d been almost nine years in so I was strong enough. So people came and saw me, they’re going to actually enjoy it. It’s not just a guy doing it, just for the novelty of it. Ahmed, Aaron, everybody on our group was was a few years in. So the show was actually a good show. And so then the Middle East actually had us come and we went to the Middle East, and we did five countries. And it was the first time there was a group of American comedians coming to do stand up for people of the Middle East, not for the troops so I think that all helped. And then from there, it just picks up and picks up and then social media. And, you know, I did a TED talk that I didn’t even know what Ted was when I did it. But now it’s got like 8 million hits.
Shereen Kassam 19:42
What made you want to do that?
Maz Jobrani 19:44
The TED Talk came about because the guy who brought us to the Middle East, his name was Jameel, he was the promoter of the of the tour. He was he did a TEDx in Dubai. And the main, one of the main guys at TED was there, saw him talk about bringing comedy to the Middle East. And then he said, Hey, why don’t you come to the main TED talk in Oxford, and bring one of the comedians and you can do your, whatever, eight minutes and then he’ll do his eight minutes of just comedy. So Jameel asked me, so when it did that with him, and Oxford, and that Ted Talk set and I was like, how did the TED talk? He goes, just turn your comedy into talk your stand up. So that one got several million hits. And then they called me and said, Look, we’re gonna go do one in Doha, Qatar. Can you come do it. And I happen to be in the region touring and I said sure so did that one and that’s the ones got 8 million hits. And it’s amazing because nowadays, you just don’t know where someone’s going to know you from I was at an airport in Sacramento or San Jose, and this this, like, African dude, straight up, African came running up to me. Hey, you are the guy from the Ted Talk. That’s awesome. That’s great. So I don’t know where people know me from but it all comes together. And, you know, here we are. Yeah,
Shereen Kassam 20:56
that’s awesome. No, cuz I mean, whenever I’m in Dubai, or any we’re up in that region, your name is everywhere. People anytime someone’s like, oh, you’re a comic. Do you know Maz? You know, Maz, like everybody asks about
Yeah, that’s, you know, I was going back to Dubai quite – once every year, year and a half. I haven’t been back in a few years. I’ve been trying to get a tour together. But yeah, look, I mean, that’s, that’s what that’s what social media has done. Yeah. You know what, when we first went there with Axis to evil, there was no real comedy scene, there was a couple guys doing stand up. And a few of the places like Nasir was doing stand up in Beirut. And there was a couple others, but there was nobody really doing it big. Now there’s comedy scenes all all across the region, Saudi Arabia, I just ran into one of these young guys that I’ve met in Saudi Arabia. And you know, it’s amazing. He was taping a Netflix special. He’s like, Hey, man, I remember you gave me the advice backstage. And I was like, I don’t remember. But I remember you. And it was so nice to see. So, you know, comedy is everywhere. Yeah. And that’s one of the things that I think, unfortunately, if if you don’t, if you just watch Fox, and if you just, you know, listen to Trump, you think that these people are all devils, and they’re all terrorists. But the truth is, like, anywhere in the world, there’s laughter there’s jokes. Yeah. And they all want the same thing that we all everybody wants, which is just, you know, a, you know, good paying job, happy family, you know, there’s, so comedy is one of those things, you know, and that’s again social media, I think is a beautiful thing, or even Netflix. Netflix is doing this thing, adding a call, like the Olympics of comedy or something, and they’re having a bunch of comedians from different parts of the world have specials coming up. Those little messages are good messages to put out there. So even if people that are, even if they get a glimpse of it, they go, Oh, my God, like one of the most important things about our axis of evil special, wasn’t us on stage. It was the audience shots. People, a few people I saw comments people go, I never knew these people laughed.
Maz Jobrani 23:01
Think about it.
Shereen Kassam 23:02
Yeah. Now cuz I think we’re scary, right? Yeah. So why do you think like, when you tour the Middle East or even in America, we really haven’t seen like a prominent Muslim or Middle Eastern woman. I mean, there’s a bunch of Middle Eastern
Maz Jobrani 23:14
Well listen women’s Yeah, they know their place. To stay in the kitchen. No, you know, I think, I think it’s a matter of time, I think comedy for women. Like, just in general, numbers wise, I think if you I don’t know what the number is, but if you were to take number of men versus number of women, I would guess that there’s a lot more men doing comedies then there are women. But I would also guess that that is changing more and more because I think that there’s a lot of women who are in this age are going I don’t need that guy to give me approval. I’m just gonna do my own thing. So you see, like, the Broad City girls or the insecure show or all these people coming up from different places. The Michelle Wolf’s and you go, oh, wow, there’s some really funny women out there. And it’s just that it was it’s this patriarchy that we’ve set up right where I mean Marvelous Mrs. Maazel’s is all about that. It is a great show. I think I show and I see my first stand up I did was with Alex Borstein. I are old friends. And she took me to a place called Gallagher’s in the valley. And that’s the first time I ever did stand up. So I was so excited when she won the Emmy for that. But yeah, I think it’s just a matter of time. You know, it’s a matter of time. It’s like, I think the reason we’re just starting to see more and more Muslim. And I say I say Muslim loosely, because I think a lot of us aren’t even religious, like I don’t want to, I want to say I’m Muslim. And then somebody sees me drinking and they go, you’re not Muslim. I’m not I don’t I don’t pray five times a day, I’m dont fast during Ramadan. But by birth, I would be Muslim, right. But I think we’re just starting to see even the Muslim men coming through, right. And that doesn’t mean that men need to come through before women, it just means I think, whether it’s men or women, I think what it is, is most of us have come the past 30-40 years, our families came so whether you’re Hassan Minaj, with your Indian parents, or, or Aziz Ansari, or myself, or anybody from that part of the world. I don’t know, I don’t I don’t know how long Mindy Kaling’s family’s been here. But when those families come to America, they go and they buy a convenience store. Or if they’re doctors, they start practicing or whatever they are. And then they want their kids to go to college. And they want those kids to go and become doctors and stuff. But I think once that second and third generation starts landing, and they realized, Oh, wait, I could get into entertainment. I want to be funny. Yeah. So that’s so I think that that’s what’s taken us in general, so long. That’s why like, as you know, we haven’t been here hundred years Latinos have, you know, obviously African Americans have, but I think every culture takes a while for them to go oh. I don’t have to follow this. So we’re seeing more and more now women. Go screw this. I’m going to do it. Right. So I know right Now, there’s some funny women, you know, you’re a funny Muslim woman or a woman of color, you know, brown woman. So there’s, look, there’s Dhaya Lakshiminarayanan.
Shereen Kassam 26:15
she’s out of San Francisco, San Francisco.
Maz Jobrani 26:17
She’s opened for me several times. And I, I’ve watched her grow. And she does some really funny stuff. I mean, it’s a matter of time before these people are better known in the mainstream, but they’re there.
Shereen Kassam 26:32
Yeah. So you’ve been on a lot of late night shows too, like you’ve done back in the day when Jay Leno was around, you’ve done Colbert. What advice do you have for comedians who’ve been in the game for 5-10 years? And we want to get to that level? Like, how do you get on those shows?
Maz Jobrani 26:48
Gosh, I just think it takes some time. You get your set together, make sure you have your tight five that you feel strongly about. That says something about you and sets you apart. And then hopefully you have a manager or an agent or there’s a call, you know, they they’re doing audition somewhere. And you could do it even I again, it’s time I tried for so many years. I want to get on get on get on No, no, no. I knew the Booker’s on the Leno show. They were actually very sweet Bob Reed and Mark Ross, I think super sweet guys. And they were like they came and saw me one time. Yeah, you’re just gonna This is this. That’s great. And then I got a letter from them. Like a form letter. Go, I’m sorry, you’re not you’re not accepted. And I called him I go guys, the hell is this? They go, Oh, sorry. We didn’t mean, we’re just you know, you’re not going to fit in this season or whatever. But we would have told you we didn’t mean to send you this form letter we send everybody. All right. So just kept trying, kept trying and the right timing came together. And it was great. And then Colbert another one. I’m a huge fan of Colbert. I wanted to get a Letterman. That was my one regret I never got on Letterman. But I had audition for Letterman and the booker just you know, did book me so maybe I had a bad set? Or maybe I wasn’t the right kind of comedian for Letterman, you still know. So it’s just keep going. Keep working on that set. Matter of fact, I wanted to try and put a set together for Colbert. And I’ve sat on the couch a few times. But I feel like I want to do this set about Trump that I have. I don’t know. It’s just keep going, you know, keep going and find a way to get get it in front of somebody get get a good tape.
Shereen Kassam 28:28
So I want to transition to TV because not only do you do comedy, you also act talk about like, I mean, you were on superior doughnuts for two seasons. You’ve been on a multiple other TV shows and movies and stuff. How do you balance the two? And how did you I know you took acting classes? How did you transition? Or how do you maintain doing both?
Maz Jobrani 28:47
Well, I did acting since I was a kid, I was doing plays. So I loved acting. And I was just comfortable on stage and doing all that. So So yeah, if you’re just a comedian, I would advise you to take a couple acting classes, scene study classes, whatever it is, acting, this is just reacting This is Listen, listen, you know, sometimes comedians are so used to talking, and they don’t listen. So you see that and some comedians who just aren’t the best actors, because they’re nervous up there. So really get to a place where you’re comfortable, and you’re listening. And then I just once I started, I started auditioning, I started getting parts and, and early on, when I would do stand up, you know, they would pay you 15 bucks in LA for a set. But then I would do a TV show or I would do a commercial, and I would pay a lot more. So my acting was paying for my comedy. And now probably with my touring, I make enough money where that’s paying for my acting, meaning I can take parts I want to take and say no to parts I don’t want. If I end up on a TV show, which I did with Superior doughnuts, that means I need to stay in town a lot more. And I have young kids and my family. So I want to stay in town. What I do, you know, I love comedy. That’s my I love doing stand up. Because ultimately when you’re acting, you’re doing the script that they give you, when you do a stand up, you’re talking about whatever you want to talk about. So even when I’m in town in LA, just on a show, what I’ll do is, you know, couple nights a week, definitely Friday, Saturday, sometimes Thursday, but I’ll go and get on stage at the Comedy Store and laugh factory. And so that’ll bang out you know, that’ll be four to six sets in a week. Yeah, 15 minutes at a time. And I will work out new material. And that sets it up so that when I’m ready to go on the road, I can go on the road. So we’re in 2018. So 20 2017 was it I think it was 2017 was when I tapled my immigrant special. And that came off of our taping our taping ended for the for the show, and I hit the road right away. I’ve been I’ve been getting up so I don’t like let it go and go, Oh, I want to go you know now of course if I were writing and all that other stuff, maybe I’d be like up too exhausted. But even then it’s great to get on stage. I love this part of my social life. The kids fall asleep, my wife is tired, I leave I go I go
Shereen Kassam 31:23
to ask you. So how do you balance that with kids and a wife like being gone on tour or even on set,
Maz Jobrani 31:28
I go away as little as possible. So for example, this weekend, I got Friday and Saturday. So I left Thursday, got in here late Thursday did press Thursday morning, Friday morning. I’ve got my shows tonight and I’m on the first flight back 7am flight back to LA I get into la like 10am on a Sunday. Hopefully that gives me enough time to make my son’s soccer game definitely would give me time to make my daughter’s soccer game. And then when I’m around during the week, if I’m you know, I might have meetings here in there, or I’m working on a pilot now for some talk show that once I get into it, that’s going to take me away a little bit. But whenever I’m around, I’m very hands on. So, you know, my wife in the morning takes them to school, but then in the afternoon, I’m like, let me go get them. I’ll get them and this and that. And, you know, I just I like being around them.
Shereen Kassam 32:20
Yeah, I hope so. So I can say that all parents like to be around their kids. So it’s fine. If you don’t I know you talked about this a little bit. But I’d love to know, like, being an Iranian considered Muslim. How do you go about being boxed in sometimes when you’re either auditioning for for film or TV about being the terrorist or being the being the stereotypical
Maz Jobrani 32:43
Well, the terrorist thing was early on in my career, I had a few auditions, and I got a few parts playing terrorists. And I just took it because I thought you had to. And then quickly, I realized I didn’t want to do that. So I told my agents that I said, Guys, no more terrorist plots, then there was parts of like, you know, falafel shop owner, cab driver on so I didn’t mind those parts as much. Because in my mind, I thought Look, when I’m in New York City, or when I’m in LA, or whatever the guys that are my cab drivers are Middle Eastern, you know, that’s who they are. So I can play those parts. Now, I would say with the new generation of the Hassan Minaj, and the Aziz Ansari’s and all these guys, I say new but you know, the younger guys, I think that they’re all really pushing for their voice, voice and I and I understand that. And so I actually am in agreement with them. It’s like I feel I’m at a point now where I’m like, I would I want to do a part, that’s my voice. So I’ve had parts like that where I was no accent, you know, do the movie, the interpreter, I played a secret service agent who was an Arab American, but spoke like this. But I’d like to do more parts like that. At the same time, I still have characters that I do. So I’m a big fan of Peter Sellers from back in the day. So I have a character named Jimmy Westwood Who’s this like this, this Persian immigrant Iranian immigrant who wants to be an American hero. He’s kind of a bumbling idiot, but he saves the day. So we’re actually trying to turn that into an animation right now. And the key to that, for me is he’s the hero. So even if he’s got an accent, or whatever, he saves the day, right? So it’s about turning everything on its head. Even when I did superior donuts, you know, the guy had was an Iraqi immigrants. So he had to have an accent. But the good news was that he wasn’t a terrorist. He was a businessman who owned some buildings in the neighborhood. And I made sure with the writers is that guys, all of his jokes can’t be related to being from Iraq, like some of his jokes got to be just something that anybody could say. And they were in they were, you know, open to that. And I think that’s important, too, is for people of Middle Eastern North African that has the category now they’re trying to get a category for MENA, me na, I think it’s important to have people from those backgrounds in these parts, because then we can bring something to the writers and go guys, like people in my community don’t really, they don’t like, you like the way you have them mutilating, you know, for no reason. So and they listen, writers are listening.
Shereen Kassam 35:08
Yeah, and there’s I mean, this year, I don’t remember the exact stat but they’re saying I think it’s doubled the number of minorities in the writers room this year this season.
Maz Jobrani 35:17
It’s very possible. I mean, Rami Youssef, has a show coming up on Hulu.
Shereen Kassam 35:20
Maz Jobrani 35:23
I think a lot of young people, they’re going look, this is my story. You know, so either take it or not, right. And I think people are starting to really open up and I’ve been, you know, I’ve been I’ve been knocking on that door for 20 years. I mean, I sold two shows to CBS in the past, they were based on my stand up, and it was me talking like this. And they just never went past the script. And it’s just timing. You just got to keep knocking. And now it feels like they’re starting to smarten up a little bit. And like I said, I’ve got the sketch show. Now that’s based on a lot of these things coming from my point of view. So be me talking like this. Yeah. We’ll see. Yeah.
Shereen Kassam 36:03
Well, best of luck. Thank you. So what’s your goal in your creative journey?
Maz Jobrani 36:06
You know, I used to say my goal was to get to a point where I could shine the light on a lot of other people. There’s so many talented people out there. So I would love to I’m a, I’m a fan of comedy. I’d love to be able to call up my friends like Adam Sandler calls all his friends and they go make movies and stuff. I’d love to be able to do that. I did that with Jimmy Westwood with a little bit, you know, I got all my friends in and it was so much fun every day on set was just so I look forward to it. So I hope to be able to do more of that kind of stuff. I hope to be able to make products that have a social commentary. And I hope to be able to keep doing stand up to them at 85 years old, like Don Rickles, you know, those are my career goals.
Shereen Kassam 36:48
What What have been the most memorable moments in your career
Maz Jobrani 36:51
Two the most memorable moments happened just a few years ago, I got to go to the White House for Persian New Year, they had a celebration of us for Navroz you and they had me speak and then introduce Michelle Obama. Oh, nice. And that was like, I was like, my God, I go, this is bigger than anything. Because for me, I mean, it’s like, Who would have thought that this kid came from Iran comes to America, his parents, and dont want him to do this, he ends up doing this. And here I am at the White House at that podium that all the Presidents stuff speak. Saying ladies and gentelman, Michelle Obama. I mean, like that was to me. That was an amazing moment in my life, and then the other one that was an amazing moment in my life was I got to give the commencement speech at UC Berkeley. Wow. And that was in front of 45,000 people in their football stadium. Because I went to Cal. Yeah. And they had me do their winter commencement speech a few years before. And that was a smaller thing. This was like the real deal one. And again, I got to get up there and speak and they listened. And they laughed. And they, I mean, it was it was really cool. Like when you’re asked stuff like that, you don’t believe that you’re like, you couldn’t get Barak Obama know, and the truth is, I couldn’t get him.
Shereen Kassam 38:04
I’m excited for you. That sounds like a really cool opportunity. I mean, 45,000 people leaving a lasting impression on those students before they go out in the real world.
Maz Jobrani 38:13
But you want it to be entertaining, and you want it to be inspiring, right?
Shereen Kassam 38:15
and memorable. Yeah, maybe you want to remember who spoke at your commencement right? Yeah, I can’t. I couldn’t tell you spoke at my actually. No, I can’t tell you spoke at my bachelor’s and my master’s it was Dr. Oz
Maz Jobrani 38:26
dr. oz. Where did you get your Masters?
Shereen Kassam 38:28
At UPenn. Oh, there you go. Yeah,
Maz Jobrani 38:29
Shereen Kassam 38:30
Yeah, we went to the same business school. We haven’t seen a diploma. So who knows? Right?
Maz Jobrani 38:34
Yeah. I one of my you know, the idea was, if you look at it again, if you see Conan, he does. Conan is amazing. He did, he didn’t think he did. Harvard is not on video. It’s written out. It’s brilliant. Then he did to Dartmouth, again, it’s brilliant. He’s so good. And he’s so specific. But you get it even if you’re not from Dartmouth. So I was like, I need to come up with some lines that are specific, but you will get it so like, you know, UC Berkeley has a lot of Asian students. I was like UC Berkeley is this is that and then I go, UC Berkeley is like Lucy Lu is if know, if UC Berkeley, had a line goes like UC Berkeley, where an actress, it would be Lucy Lu smart, beautiful, and mostly Asian, or whatever, whatever. It was good. I think they liked it. Awesome.
Shereen Kassam 39:23
So what have been some of the challenges that you faced in your career?
Maz Jobrani 39:28
I think my biggest challenge was, was the first moment was was convincing my parents and realizing that I don’t need to convince my parents that I just need to do it. That was my biggest challenge really is like, you know, coming from an immigrant background, it took me 26 years to realize you live once, do what you want to do. Don’t listen to your parents. That took me so long, it took me 26 years to get there. Or really, if you start at 12 when I really decided I like doing it. So whatever took 14 years to get to the point where I got to do this. So after that, I mean, how’s it been, like, whatever I audition, I didn’t get it. You know, I had to wait till 1:45 in the morning, you know, you’d be at the Comedy Store. Within 11:30 spot. At the time I’m dating. My wife was my girlfriend then she was she had a she had a job, a real job as a lawyer. She’d be at work all day, she’d come home. We’re hanging out. I had my job at the advertising agency.
Shereen Kassam 40:27
Is your wife Iranian?
Maz Jobrani 40:28
No, she’s Indian
Shereen Kassam 40:29
Indian, okay. And her parents? How did her parents react to her dating a stand up comedian.
Maz Jobrani 40:33
Her parents are very sweet. I think that they were, they didn’t like they didn’t really know or care.
But but they are they they’re super sweet.
But we’d be hanging out. And then I’d be like, Oh, I gotta go. And so that that wasn’t good on the relationship at all. And then I would go, and I said, Look, I’m going to go, I’ll be back. I’d go try and get up at 1130. And then some famous comedian will come in, and I’m going up next. And I wait for an hour, and another guy would come way for an hour. Now it’s 1:45. And there’s like three people left. And you want to leave, but you stay, then you go up on stage, and you do your 15 minutes less challenging in terms of dealing with it in life. But really, because I loved it. And I found what I love doing. It was a no brainer. I had to stay right. And that’s why I tell people to find what you love doing because I did. I tried a few other lines of work. Like business stuff that once I got rejected, I just was like, I’m done. I’m not trying to stay, so I wasn’t into those. But if you into something like if you really end up being a doctor, then the first time you cut open cut open a cadaver. You’re gonna be like, Oh, this is great. You know, if I ever had to even look at a cadaver ? Be like I’m out. Yep, exactly.
Shereen Kassam 41:50
Hey, ever faced any challenges or obstacles just based on who you are being Iranian, Muslim? Brown.
Maz Jobrani 41:57
I mean, those challenges are more the challenges of getting the industry in general to realize that there’s an audience for this. Like I said, for 20 years, I’ve been saying there’s an audience is an audience is an audience. Look, I go to shows. And it’s not just brown people, there’s white people, there’s black people, there’s Asians, they get it, this comedy translates. So that’s the big challenge. It’s almost like it’s almost as if you’ve got a product that you really believe in. And the world just hasn’t caught up to it yet. That’s the biggest challenge. But you just got to keep believing in it and keep pushing that product, as opposed to like coming back and going. All right, screw it. How? How will you accept me? Yeah, it’s not about that. It’s about doing your voice. It’s like the book Fountainhead, which is Ayn Rand. In that book. There’s two architects and one architect is loved in the beginning by everybody and the other guys just doing his thing. And then at the end of the book, people come around to appreciate this other guy for this uniqueness.
Shereen Kassam 42:59
I love that not heard that analogy before. And I love that like waiting for the world to catch up versus talking to them what they want. I think that’s, I think that’s great advice.
Maz Jobrani 43:08
That’s really I mean, it’s like, it’s, you know, you’re doing your thing, you know, your thing really well keep doing your thing. And hopefully people will catch up to it. And maybe they won’t, maybe it’ll be the next generation. It will be like, oh, remember that girl Shereen. She’s do this, you know, and that’s just how it is. But I’d rather do that and try to figure out what people want. Because once you try to figure out what people want now you’re jukebox, you’re taking requests. You know, you don’t want to be a jukebox you want to do you?
Shereen Kassam 43:36
Yeah, exactly. So what other advice do you have a creatives on their journey?
Maz Jobrani 43:40
Just be active, you know, just to be entrepreneurial, to create your own opportunities. I even tell actors I go. Don’t sit in a cafe waiting for somebody. find a book, produce it to a play, get into a scene, study class. If your stand up, you know, find a venue and put on a show once a week or whatever, Hustle, Hustle, Hustle, do podcasts like you’re doing, you know, there’s so many ways now, to get out there. Do it because you never know, what’s that thing that’s going to take you to that next level. And by doing it also, you’re you’re getting more and more prepared. As opposed to sitting and waiting. Yeah. Because you got to be You got it. You got to create your own opportunities. Create your own opportunities.
Shereen Kassam 44:23
Awesome. I love that. So let’s jump into the lightning round. Yes, lightning round. I’m gonna ask you five questions rapid fire, you just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind? What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Maz Jobrani 44:34
best piece of advice. Joe Ryan, he said, if you want to go for it, go for it in life. Don’t wait. Do it. Now. If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t sit on your ass and wait. It’ll be too late.
Shereen Kassam 44:45
Yeah. What is your definition of success?
Maz Jobrani 44:48
definition success is doing what you love doing. It’s not the money part that counts. It’s finding what you love doing and just jumping in the moment I started doing this at 26. And I I still had my day job. But I was so happy. That was it. I became really happy and I was successful. Awesome. Yeah.
Shereen Kassam 45:09
Who inspires you and why?
Maz Jobrani 45:11
Who inspires me? You know, Muhammad Ali was a big inspiration to me because as a kid, and Iran, he was huge. And my dad loved him and I loved him. And then the more I’ve learned about him, the more I’ve loved him and what he stood for, and peace and and being able to transcend boxing and transcend what he did. So that’s if I could ever get even close to him. That would be amazing.
Shereen Kassam 45:35
What’s a habit that’s helped you on your journey?
Maz Jobrani 45:38
a habit, right? my habit right now is I drink really high octane coffee. Not this one. There’s one there’s a place called Kings Road in LA that I love. That helps me wake up.
Shereen Kassam 45:49
Is it like the Nitro coffee?
Maz Jobrani 45:51
No, it’s just this is a really good like, it’s like an espresso coffee. It’s really one of the best coffees that I’ve ever had. I look forward to going I go out of my way to get there called Kings Road cafe. The other real habit I think is probably just, you know, I, I don’t I feel like it was a habit. It’s just like a work ethic. I feel like I don’t give up. You know, I just I don’t want to give up. So whether it’s getting older, and it’s harder to run and exercise, or it’s, you know, having to wait my turn to get on stage. I’ve got this thing that just like goes you got to do it. You gotta wait. You know, that’s that’s probably a habit of some sort of work ethic of some sort. For sure. Yeah.
Shereen Kassam 46:35
So do you want your legacy to be
Maz Jobrani 46:37
legacy to be just like that I help people and that I was good to people.
Shereen Kassam 46:41
People want to find you online. Where could they do that? It’s all at Maz Jobrani on Twitter, Instagram, as well as Facebook. It’s at MAZJOBRANI. And I also have a website MazJobrani.com where they can enter the email address. I send them monthly updates as well as online. My calendars are there.
Awesome. Very cool. Well, thank you so much for spending time with me today. Thank you appreciate it. Yeah.
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