The Diversity Chronicles #05 - Maz Jobrani Stand-up Show Review

Welcome to The Diversity Chronicles, an op-ed series that examines diversity and representation, predominantly in Western media.

Maz Jobrani: A "Middle Eastern Funny Man"

My first introduction to Maz Jobrani was his stand-up special on Netflix, "I Come In Peace." Immediately, I was struck by the wealth of knowledge I gained from his material about the differences amongst various countries in the Middle East. There were plenty of jokes made about cultural idiosyncrasies, but never in a reductive or degrading manner that one would be used to seeing when consuming the bulk of mainstream Hollywood content. Born in Iran, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by immigrant parents, Jobrani has cultivated a strong following amongst folks of a wide variety of Middle Eastern backgrounds, and it has allowed him the opportunity to tour all over the world, given the large Middle Eastern diaspora present on a global scale. But Jobrani's comedic style is one that can and does resonate amongst a broader audience. In an increasingly multicultural world, those who grow up straddling the lines between different cultures are ideal candidates for creating a new wave of entertainment content. Between the highly politically charged comedy of Aamer Rahman, and the more carefree observational comedy of Gabriel Iglesias, Jobrani's brand of material sits comfortably in the middle.

"Do We Have Any Asians In The Audience Tonight?"

A tradition Jobrani has in his shows is to ask his audience of their demographic make-up. While this can cause for alarm under other circumstances, Jobrani takes the opportunity to acknowledge the individuality of various cultural backgrounds and celebrate them. Just as it was in his Netflix show, Jobrani indulged in this practice at his live stand-up show in San Jose. There is some hesitation by some to share their particular type of Arab, Persian, or other background. But Jobrani himself pokes fun at the snowball effect that takes place after an audience member(s) of Afghani descent announces themselves, as more and more people chime in to share their background. On top of numerous forms of insidious racial profiling, those of Middle-Eastern descent are used to being lumped into one homogenous group. This is a sensation familiar to those of varying East-Asian countries, African countries, etc.

Being Japanese, I'm often forced to walk the line between proudly proclaiming my heritage and keeping quiet on the topic for fear of encountering someone holding grudges from wars their grandparents fought, or worst of all, white men who have some twisted perception of who I am based off of stereotypes born from white colonialism, pornography, and anime. But Jobrani's energetic delivery and respect for people who don't always receive it is a large part of his appeal, as it quickly puts his audience at ease. So when he asked if there were any Asians in the audience, there was no hesitation to declare myself and my mother's presence. Having butchered Japanese hurled at me is another reason why sometimes I keep my background to myself, but Jobrani pulls it off with charm, and he is quick to admit his own lack of knowledge of the language and culture. Then what does he do? He demonstrates bowing (something done frequently in Japanese culture), and then asks us if he's doing it right. He's not doing it right, we correct him, and he takes the correction with all the grace and manner one would hope to receive when educating another on their cultural background.

So What's The Takeaway?

Hollywood's content is quick to circulate through the world and reach a wide audience. But it is also responsible for some of the most limited, damaging, and offensive material that can cause damage to those struggling to embrace their cultural backgrounds and wear them with pride. Media content is used by many as a means of escapism but if a person made to feel secondary in their day-to-day life also sees themselves being Othered in their so-called entertainment, it can be enormously detrimental to their worth and well-being. It's important for those who are not white, and perhaps did not grow up in the same country as their parents and elder relatives, to know that there is non-harmful content they can enjoy and content-creators who respect them. Maz Jobrani's shows are an accepting and welcoming environment in audience members can truly feel free to embrace their identity without fear of misjudgement. He's also thoroughly hilarious.

Catch Maz Jobrani in San Jose on June 5-6 and check for further tour dates on where you can also order Jobrani's comedic autobiography, "I'm Not A Terrorist But I've Played One On TV."


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