Maz Jobrani: “I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV” (Showtime)
Jobrani has guest-starred on TV in the likes of True Blood and Shameless, and appeared in the short-lived cult comedy The Knights of Prosperity on ABC in 2007. As a stand-up, he has performed around the world, and each of his specials has arrived with a more accommodating and accessible title. First, "The Axis of Evil" on Comedy Central; then two previous solo specials on Showtime, "Brown and Friendly" and "I Come in Peace," the latter of which Jobrani filmed in Sweden.
For "I'm Not A Terrorist..." Jobrani has come home to Los Angeles and the Wiltern Theater, first filling us in backstage on Persian dance tips before introducing them and himself to the audience onstage. He hopes they laugh, because he doesn't want to face a FOX News headline: "Iranian Bombs Wiltern."
Jobrani plugs his book immediately. A bestselling memoir of his career as an Iranian-American actor, it came out in February, and this special carries synergistically carries bears the same title. Don't get jaded over the plug, though. It feeds into jokes about readers who couldn't get over themselves and their own biases seeing his book title or the photo of him on its cover. Jobrani is more interested in showing us how alike we are than in how white people do things one way and brown people another.
Although he does have fun with his knowledge gleaned from global travels and by paying attention, worrying that Egypt might be staging annual revolutions as if they were Fast and the Furious movie installments -- and how revolutions haven't always worked out well for Iranians. Jobrani also has a joke about America's nuclear negotiations with Iran that sadly rings even truer as those negotiations continue to play out today.
If his dance moves at the top of the hour didn't put you or the live audience at ease and warm you up to him, then he has a routine on World Cup soccer that will unite you, no matter what flag you fly.
Jobrani is a husband and father of two. Although we don't learn their own mixed heritage until an hour into his 75-minute performance, we do discover how Jobrani's parents and their distant parenting skills affected him -- such that now, he'll pay attention to his daughter. When she says "Daddy look!" he notes: "I'm looking now, so 20 years later, other men aren't looking." Instead of blaming the kids these days, he turns the joke on him and his Indian wife and how they've been programmed to go into a song-and-dance routine to prepare their kids for bedtime. Afterward, if he and his wife are lucky, they're able to spend precious minutes "killing Bin Laden." If the phrase picks up any steam among couples nationwide or globally, good for Jobrani!
At 43, he's trying to live a good, clean life, shopping at Whole Foods and buying kale and quinoa and "avoiding weakness" -- but when he arrives at the register, there's chocolate for sale to tempt him. The real problem he and other Americans face, he says, is that we're spoiled by an overabundance of food. He half-jokingly suggests putting anyone who complains onto to a plane bound for a Third World Country. At least the Americans still would tip abroad. Some cultures just don't. "When you travel, you learn," Jobrani says.
Perhaps we'd all be better off expanding our horizons both mentally and physically, then.
Jobrani acknowledges that he profiles just like everyone else does, noting that the Boston Marathon bombing had him praying the bombers weren't Muslim or brown-skinned. Feeling bad for the two men misidentified on the cover of the New York Post. Then annoyed at how dumb people confused Chechnya with the Czech Republic. He's got an app idea for punishing morons when they write moronic Tweets, by the way. Still, he doesn't blame anyone on a plane out of Boston the following day for kicking off two passengers who spoke excitedly to each other in Farsi. "You been watching the news?!?! They're looking for us!!!"
I'm Not a Terrorist, but I've Played One on TV is available now on Showtime Anytime and On Demand.
His memoir of the same title is available via Amazon and other booksellers: