In this edition of Run The Light we interview comedian and actor Maz Jobrani.

Hormoz: I know you studied Political Science and Italian in college. How has this education influenced your comedy?
Maz: I’ve always been interested in politics. I think that if you watch my earlier stuff you will see that I talked about the war with Iraq, the Bush administration, the terrorist attacks, etc. These are things that interest me and so they find their way into my comedy. I also enjoy comedy that touches on social and political issues. Jokes that can be funny and have a message are my favorites. That’s why guys like Richard Pryor and George Carlin are favorites of mine. As well as guys like Lewis Black and Jon Stewart these days.

Hormoz: Do you use any Italian in your act when you perform in Italy or New Jersey?
Maz: LOL. I speak Italian from having studied abroad there, but I have never used it in my act. I have done some material about Italians, but never actually used the language. I’ve only performed once in Italy and that was for a 50th birthday of a guy who had gone there with all of his American friends – so it was in English.

Hormoz: Are there any comedians you still get excited to see perform?
Maz: A lot of the guys I came up with are great to watch. Whenever I’m at the Comedy Store or Laugh Factory in LA and I haven’t seen them for a while I will watch to see what they’re working on. Guys like Sebastian Maniscalco, Al Madrigal, Sam Tripoli, Bret Ernst. Whenever I get a chance to watch JB Smoove live I do. That guy is like a human cartoon!

Hormoz: When do you feel you got your first big break as a comedian?
Maz: Probably when I became a regular at the Comedy Store. It was a place that helped me grow a lot. I still consider it my comedy home. The place is legendary and it’s also a great place to learn.

Hormoz: How has fatherhood changed you as a comedian?
Maz: I certainly do a lot more material about my kids. I also don’t hang out at the clubs as much anymore. I try to get home after a set so that I can be with my wife and wake up in the morning to see the kids off to school. They are the best thing that has happened to me and they certainly provide me with plenty of material. On top of that they genuinely make me laugh (and sometimes cry).

Hormoz: If your son was considering stand-up comedy, what advice would you give him?
Maz: The same advice I give everyone. Get on stage as much as you can and write write write. You need to get up about 5-10 times a week and do that for about 5-10 years before you will really start to form a point of view on stage and see some real results.

Hormoz: Where is your favorite place to perform? Why?
Maz: I have a lot of favorite places to perform. I love the Original Room at the Comedy Store because you really get to try out new material and be loose. The room is set up with lights blinding you and the audience very dark so you don’t get in your head. You just do your thing. On the opposite end of the spectrum I’ve really enjoyed all my shows in DC. I usually do the Warner theater which is very nice and there’s around 1,700 people there. Their energy is great and because you’re in DC they’re a smart audience who gets all of your references. That’s just 2 examples of places I love performing.

Hormoz: How are Persian audiences different from non-Persian audiences?
Maz: My audiences tend to be mixed which is what I love. When it’s a mixed crowd I can do my material and not worry that it might be going over everyone’s heads or might be too esoteric. There’s always going to be some people who are with me and it’s going to be a great night. Whenever I am hired to do events that are Persian heavy with audience it’s a bit different. Those tend to have older Persians present who don’t get everything I’m saying. In those types of events there’s a lot of improvising and trying to stay alive for 30 minutes till your time is up. I don’t worry about that too much anymore because I’ve learned that not everyone is going to get me.

Hormoz: You and the axis of evil tour, obviously inspired a whole generation of middle eastern comedians. Who was your comedic inspiration growing up?
Maz: Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, George Carlin

Hormoz: What was your worst heckler experience? How did you deal with it?
Maz: Around 2006 in New York I was doing a bit where I mentioned that Israel and Lebanon should have peace. They had been at war for a little bit. In the middle of that a young Jewish kid started telling me that the statement was stupid and that I needed to educate myself. This upset me, because he was, in essence, against peace. We went back and forth and it almost led to us fighting. The emcee jumped back on staged and calmed things down. The irony was that I had started talking about peace and ended almost in a fight. It turned into a bit I did on the Axis of Evil Comedy Special.

You Can Find Maz At
I Come In Peace DVD

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is a Stand Up Comedian living in Los Angeles, CA.

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