Iranian / American comedian, Maz Jobrani will be the host of this year’s 2018 Ethnic Show from July 11th to the 26th. Aside from his five stand up comedy specials he released a book in 2015 titled I’m Not a Terrorist but I’ve Played One on TV. Maz had the role of an aspiring real estate capitalist named Fawz on the sitcom, Superior Donuts with Judd Hirsch. There have been more serious acting roles on Grey’s Anatomy, True Blood and films like The Interpreter. Lately he’s found a whole new audience with his portrayal of Jafar in Disney’s Descendants. Let’s see what Maz has to say about his upcoming duty as the Ethnic Show host.
Ron : Hello Maz, congratulations on hosting this year’s Ethnic show.
Maz : Thank you. I’ve actually hosted the Ethnic show before. I remember back in 2008 being at New Faces. Since then this might be my third or fourth time hosting the Ethnic Show.
Ron : Obviously you are a very successful host. Do you prefer hosting a show or doing a solo gig?
Maz : I prefer doing a solo show but the hosting is fun. Most comedians would rather do their own set and be done as opposed to going back again and then going back up again. The idea of hosting is to get some people in the seats with your fans. It’s nice to be with a bunch of other comedians you respect and we help each other out. Plus I’m not an abrasive host that turns people away so I think that always helps as a host.
Ron : I’ve been watching a lot of your stuff and it’s really great. How did you get started in comedy?
Maz : I was a big fan of Eddie Murphy as a kid and knew I wanted to be a comedian from a young age. Having immigrant Iranian parents they really did not understand what that meant so they pushed me in another direction of being a doctor or a lawyer. I ended up studying political science at UCLA and was going to be a lawyer. Then I was going to be a professor. Eventually I dropped out of all of it and became a comedian and my parents were pretty disappointed.
Ron : Oh Wow! That is very familiar to Francisco Ramos’ story who will also be at the Ethnic show.
Maz : Yeah, I think a lot of people who have immigrant parents have that roundabout way of getting into comedy whereas someone whose parents are already Westernized are more supportive of their kids being a comic or artist of some type.
Ron : So would you say Eddie Murphy was your main inspiration for comedy?
Maz : Yes. I was like ten years old when Eddie Murphy hit it big on the scene. For me it was like “That’s what I want to do.” Then when I got into it there was Richard Pryor who became an even bigger influence. He did a lot of comedy with social and political commentary in it. There was also George Carlin. Those guys became the ones I wanted to emulate more. If you can do a joke and get a point across I think that’s a great thing. Public Enemy has a song called He Got Game. In the song they say “F the game if it ain’t saying nothing.” In other words if you’ve got game and you ain’t saying nothing with it then forget it. If you can say something with your game or your art that’s the kind of stuff I really love.
Ron : That’s what you’re probably trying to get across in your own comedy.
Maz : Absolutely. In this day and age with all the anti immigrant sentiment we have going on, I think it’s so important to get it out there that immigrants love America and come here to do good. This country was made by immigrants and really helped America. I shake my head when I see people telling immigrants to “go back to their country”. It just breaks my heart. I know that Canada has had much more tolerance with immigrants.
Ron : You’ve been to Montreal so many times now what’s your favourite thing about the city?
Maz : I feel like Montreal is Europe in North America. It’s really just a great place. The last time I came up I brought my family and they really enjoyed that festival feeling. There’s all the festivities and street performers. I remember asking my son what he remembered most and he said the human slinky. We even try to find some activities to get away from it all. It’s really a beautiful experience.
Ron : You’ve had a very diverse career. Aside from comedy you’ve done more serious acting like with True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy. Is there a preference for you?
Maz : I love doing stand up comedy because you’re on stage and speaking what’s on your mind and getting feedback and I love doing the acting stuff too. Obviously comedy for me is second nature. After all the time I’ve been doing it I’m pretty comfortable with it. I’m really luck to be doing what I’m doing.
Sometimes I’m seeing other people at jobs and I can see they are not happy doing what they are doing. I’m blessed because I’m doing what I love. If it’s in the movie The Interpreter or a sitcom it’s all fantastic.
Ron : With being so diverse did you enjoy playing Jafar in Disney’s Descendants?
Maz : Yeah, that was a lot fun. We filmed that in Vancouver. It was a Disney original film. I didn’t realize the power of Disney. They put so much into promoting that film that I was now getting recognized by young kids.
There was this time I was hanging out at the pool and all these young kids started swimming towards me and lingering around. I was getting worried about what was going on. Then finally one of them says “Excuse me, are you Jafar?” I was like “Oh yeah!” So being Jafar is cool because I got a whole new age group of fans.
Ron : You mentioned sitcoms just before so I wanted to tell you I really enjoyed the last sitcom you were on, Superior Donuts.
Maz : I appreciate that because we got cancelled.
Ron : I was at the press conference last year with the producers and cast of Superior Donuts and there was one question I asked them and now I obviously need to ask you. What is your favourite donut?
Maz : Let me put it to you this way, at my age I stay away from donuts. When I was a young man I loved the apple fritter which is all oil with a couple of slices of apple so you think you’re doing something healthy. I would always have it with milk then I was ready to go. I’d burn off all the calories the next day.
Ron : What a choice. It’s one of my favourites. Maybe we’ll split a half a fritter at the festival.
Maz : There you go sounds like a plan. Let’s do that.
Ron : Okay Maz it’s time for my 2018 Just For Laughs question of the fest. What is your favourite comedy film of all time?
Maz : Ooh okay. I’m gonna list a few and pick one. Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. All the Peter Sellers films but when you watch them now they don’t quite hold up as much. Let me think… here it comes… my favourite comedy film of all time… I’m going to go with Trading Places just because it has my favourite comedian.
Ron : When I asked this question to Orny Adams he said the same thing. He went with Trading Places.
Maz : There you go. Jews and Muslims coming together over Trading Places.
Ron : Hey Maz my time is up but I really enjoyed this interview.
Maz : Me too. Hey let’s get together and split that apple fritter during the fest.
Ron : I’ll make sure that happens. Thanks so much.
Make sure to catch Maz Jobrani and all the other comics at this year’s Montreal Just For Laughs Ethnic Show starting July 11th until the 26th. More interviews on the way.