Maz Jobrani is one comedian with plenty to laugh about this year.
His first book, “I’m Not a Terrorist But I’ve Played One on TV,” hit the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. His long-gestating dream project — the feature film “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero” — had successful showings at comedy festivals nationwide en route to an impending release.
But when the ISIS terror attacks hit Paris Nov. 13, Jobrani found himself thrust back into the same awkward position he’s faced since 9/11.
Jobrani became the face of Middle Eastern comics in 2007 when he headlined the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. He just finished walking that tightrope earlier this month at the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, Calif. He took some time last week to discuss his precariously comical life on the podcast “Kozversations” on the Radio Titans podcast network.
“Paris is front and center on everyone’s minds,” says Jobrani. “When I am making fun of a serious subject in the news, I’m making fun of the coverage the media gives it because it’s obviously a tragedy, and the reactions that some politicians have that are ridiculous. Sometimes they don’t differentiate those who did the crime from those who are innocent and just happen to be from that same background. Hoping we don’t go down that rabbit hole [again].”
Jobrani steers clear of talking about the victims in terror attacks, but finds humor where he can in average Americans’ inability to distinguish between the terrorists and their victims. Lately, he’s been sharing an awkward incident he experienced while supervising a group of his kids’ friends.
“I was talking to a young kid who I was with because I took my kids and their friends to a movie,” says Jobrani. “An Indian Sikh walked in with a turban, and the kid started freaking out that he thought the guy was ISIS, and I had to calm him down and tell him no. There’s a real fear in this country and if it’s misguided it can really lead to the wrong path and hate crimes against Indian Sikhs where people thought they were attacking Muslims. So you attack the stupidity, not the situation itself.”
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Jobrani sees comedy as not just a fun way to make a living, but a mission. He’s happy that online comedy sources not only keeps classic performances alive but spread his message and those of other Middle Eastern comics far and wide.
“I appreciate this country and think we have a lot to offer,” he says. “Comedy is a great way to deal with serious topics, but do it in a way that’s palatable. The nightly shows that are on deal with current affairs. Comedy is a great way to expose hypocrisy and get a point across. D.L. Hughley said comedy is like giving people their medicine, but in orange juice so they don’t notice it.”
Carl Kozlowski is founder and Chief Creative Officer at Radio Titans (www.radiotitans.com), and host/cohost of its shows “Grown-Ass Men,” “Pajama Party,” “The Koz Effect” and “Kozversations,” plus Chief Guest Booker Winner of the world-famous Laugh Factory’s “America’s Funniest Reporter” contest.