I also got to interview Maz Jobrani for WE's comedy issue.
Raised on a steady diet of Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, the forefathers of button-pushing comedy, Maz Jobrani felt he had no choice but to follow suit. The Iranian-American comedian irks the politically correct with brashly subversive routines that alternate between mocking and debunking Middle Eastern stereotypes. See his Axis of Evil special on Comedy Central for proof, or better still, see him at the Commodore.
Did you always want to stir the pot with your comedy?
Jobrani: You know, I never thought of it that way. I just wanted to be funny. But Eddie Murphy was my first influence, and the first time I was going to do stand-up — which I chickened out of, by the way — I was 17, and I started writing material that was all sex-based. I was trying to do a bit about why was our genitalia in the middle of our body, in the most inflexible place, as opposed to our palms, which would be great, and then every time you shake hands you’re having sex, or if you high-five somebody. I’d write it and think it was brilliant, and then the next day I’d read it and go, “Ohhh, that’s stupid.”
Do you get criticized by politically correct organizations?
I think a lot of times people take offense to it because they’re not listening to the context. They just hear a red-flag word and go nuts. After September 11, I was doing a joke about the guys who crashed the planes and, I mean, they affected everybody, including me as a Middle Easterner, and now I have to deal with all this backlash and the people, obviously, who died. But the one group nobody is talking about is high-school students, because in the future, history tests are going to suck. When the teacher asks them to name the people who hijacked the planes, the students are going to be like, “Umm, there was Al-Kafee, Al-Kafeek Kafou, Al Kafee Kafoococoapuff.” (Laughs.) And so, I’m making fun of their names and a lady took offense. Or, around the Iraq War, the administration sold the line that if you criticized the Iraq War, you’re criticizing the troops, and I was doing a bit about George Bush and a couple times people were like, “You shouldn’t make fun of the President!” And I’m like, that’s the whole point of this country!
I want to do a little word association with you, if you’re up for it. Give me your initial gut reaction or thoughts on each one: George Bush.
We kind of have it. We kind of don’t.
Leave ’em alone.
Axis of Evil.
There’s only one left, which is Iran, so it’s kind of just a Point of Evil now. It’s so 2004.