Opening for internationally known Iranian-American comedian, author, and actor Maz Jobrani was Damien Power, an Australian two time Barry Award nominee, which is only a little bit of a career difference.
Power’s act started out relatively flat, he seemed unfortunately nervous and didn’t appear to have his thoughts collected, though he did warm up over the course of his fifteen minute opening set. He shifted from topic to topic in an almost vague way, comparing violent homeless people to Stephen Hawking and then talking about his famous IndyCar driver brother – Will Power.
While I did enjoy the ‘willpower’ jokes, the rest of Power’s set was a bit disparate, and not enormously entertaining. A good effort from a local comic, but definitely overshadowed by the main event.
Jobrani, on the other hand, performed brilliantly, although I’m sure some of his more racial jokes fell flat on the 1.5% of the audience who were not Middle Eastern. Jobrani’s humour is predominantly racial, due in part to his own immigrant upbringing, and in part as an attempt to highlight America’s tendency to assign the ‘evil’ role to any non-white person. Part of comedy’s ‘Axis of Evil’, a supergroup consisting of Middle Eastern comedians, Jobrani is acutely aware of social and cultural racism, and aims to discuss it even during his solo shows.
However, even with this focus, Jobrani still maintains the staples of standup comedy. He opens with a little audience interaction, and remembers the names of his victims throughout the show, speaking directly to them during humorous moments. One of the themes running through the show was multiculturalism in the audience, and there were multiple examples of language differences, which Jobrani took great advantage of – the word for ‘testicles’ is funny in every language.
Aside from specific racial issues (ISIS was a big one, which was not unexpected), Jobrani mulls a lot on his immigrant upbringing, and how it differs from general American culture. With two children of his own, he also gathered audience opinions on modern vs. traditional child rearing (where ‘traditional’ parents still hit their kids) and the ridiculousness of straps attached to baby car seats. Jobrani kept the audience in stitches as he also discussed his childhood compared to those around him – particularly focusing on the ‘tough love’ of an immigrant father – and sex after kids, which appears to be entirely impossible, even if both parties are interested.
Jobrani is a great comic, and uses his background to great effect. He has a vast backlog of stories to tell about his life, though some of them could likely be a little easier to understand for those more familiar with Middle Eastern immigrant culture. Though a few jokes flew past me, Jobrani made an effort to make everyone feel welcome, from his homeland natives to the Hong Kongese girl sitting in the front row, as well as the two Caucasian Australians he claim ‘adopted’ their Iranian housemate.