Source: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), Washington D.C.
World-renowned comedian and actor, Maz Jobrani, explains what it’s like to be an Iranian American in Hollywood in his new book, “I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One on TV.” Following the book release earlier this week, Jobrani set out on a comedy tour explaining how he overcame Hollywood stereotypes and forged a path to stardom in an industry that only saw him as the perfect TV terrorist.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Jobrani and his family immigrated to the United States when he was six years old and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Italian from U.C. Berkeley and enrolling in a Ph.D. program at UCLA, Jobrani decided to quit academia and pursue his childhood dream of becoming an actor and comedian.
In his comical memoir, Jobrani recalls his initial challenges in show business that came along with being an Iranian immigrant in post 9/11 America. Regardless of his assimilation to American culture, casting directors only wanted to audition Jobrani for the role of the “kebab-eating, bomb-toting, extremist psychopath.” Jobrani described his dilemma in aTed Talk he delivered last November.
“As you can see, when I talk, I speak with an American accent, which you would think as an Iranian American actor, I should be able to play any part, good, bad, what have you,” explained Jobrani. “But a lot of times in Hollywood, when casting directors find out you're of Middle Eastern descent, they go, "Oh, you're Iranian. Great. Can you say 'I will kill you in the name of Allah?'" "I could say that, but what if I were to say, 'Hello. I'm your doctor?'" They go, "Great. And then you hijack the hospital."
For years, Jobrani reluctantly played the part of the terrorist in films and TV series such as in the Chuck Norris film, “The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand,” and the hit series “24”. However, Jobrani jumped at the opportunity to shatter the Middle Eastern terrorist stereotype when he joined the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour in 2007. In the hit comedy show - which got its name from George W. Bush’s designation of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the ‘axis of evil’ - the all-Middle Eastern cast joked about their life experiences being Middle Eastern in America and through their humor showed just how exaggerated the stereotypes are.
Jobrani continues to dedicate himself to redefining the Middle Eastern stereotype in the entertainment industry. In his recently released independent comedy, “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero,” Jobrani plays the role of an Iranian American underdog who saves the world.
“I hope that in the coming years, more film and television programs come out of Hollywood presenting us in a positive light,” said Jobrani. “Who knows, maybe one day we’ll even have our own James Bond, right. ‘My name is Bond, Jamal Bond.’”
Click here to view Maz Jobrani’s tour dates.
Click here to see PAAIA’s video profile on Maz Jobrani.
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