Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Comedian Maz Jobrani Plays Not My Job

Maz Jobrani
Courtesy Maz Jobrani

Born in Iran and raised in the U.S., Maz Jobrani is one of the founding members of the Axis of Evil group — a stand-up tour featuring Middle-Eastern comics. He's appeared on Better off Ted, Curb Your Enthusiasm and 24. In January, he released a DVD of his stand-up called Maz Jobrani: Brown & Friendly.

We've invited him to play a game called: "Here, let me open that bottle for you ... OW!" Professional baseball players are elite athletes, demonstrating superhuman strength, skill and flexibility. Which makes us ask: Why do they keep injuring themselves in really dumb ways?

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: Brown and Friendly," is out now. Maz Jobrani, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

M: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: How are you?

M: Great.

: So let's cut right to the chase. You're Iranian.

M: Yes, I am.

: You lead with that.

M: Well, you know, it's good for people to know.

: Yeah.

M: Then when I start talking about growing up Iranian, they know why I'm talking about it.

: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: You were born in Iran?

M: I was born in Iran. I was there until I was 6, and then I moved to the Bay Area, grew up in northern California in a city called Tiburon.

: Oh sure, Tiburon is beautiful.

M: Yeah, I had a tough childhood.

: You did?

M: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: Do you remember, I mean, I know you were just 6, and that was a long time ago for all of us. But do you remember making the transition and coming to America for the first time?

M: You know, one of the first memories I have we went to - actually we stopped in New York for a little bit, and I remember going to Macy's with my mom.

: Yeah.

M: And I was a big fan of the color orange, and they had Snoopy orange gloves, hat and scarves. And I bought it, and it was the best thing ever. I loved America right there. That was it.

: Right there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Yeah.

: Because you had Snoopy at Macy's.

M: Should we be sending some of that stuff out - over there to the Middle East, do you think?

M: Make friends.

M: Would that help?

: Now...

M: You could drop some orange Snoopy stuff, you got them.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: So you talk in your act about your parents. They were traditional in many ways. Did they - what did they think about your choice of career?

M: Well, you know, a lot immigrant parents, especially Middle Eastern parents, want you to be a lawyer or a doctor.

: Yeah.

M: So when I told them that I wanted to be a comedian...

: Yeah.

M: My mom said, that sounds like you said lawyer?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Yeah, but then she would encourage me, said, listen, why don't you become a lawyer and you can tell jokes during the trial?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: But I mean, was it tough? I mean, did you feel, like, did you feel - I don't know, guilt? Did you worry if you could make this work? Being a comedian is a tough job, whether or not...

M: Well, you know what - actually, what happened was I actually - when I finally told her I was going to go and be an actor and a comedian, she got so desperate, she would suggest jobs that I should look into, just as a backup.

: Yeah.

M: And she would base it on the last guy who came to our house to fix something.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I swear, I'm not kidding. Like I came home one time, she's like, have you thought about being a washing machine fixer guy?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You know, she's like, you could save me money and make a little money.

M: Your mom sounds like the toughest room you've ever worked, probably.

M: You know what, she was the toughest room. And what's crazy now, she's the biggest fan.

: Really?

M: So now she comes over to the house and she goes, you know, I need some of your T-shirts for my neighbor. I need a couple of DVDs. I'm like, Mom, this stuff costs. She's like, I'm your mother, just give it to me.

: So you're doing, I mean, you're doing ethnic humor here in the United States. Ethnic humor is ethnic humor, but you've actually gone to the Middle East with your act, right?

M: Yeah. You know, in the end of 2007, me and the other guys from the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour - Anmed Anmed and Aron Kader - we all went out to the Middle East, did a tour. We did all these sold-out shows. It was amazing. You know, in Jordan we did a show where the king of Jordan showed up.

: Really?

M: Yeah, that was pretty crazy.

: Wow. What did the king of Jordan think?

M: I think he was laughing. He invited us to the palace and we weren't, you know, thrown in prison or anything.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You know, actually, what was funny about it, in some of the places you do shows, like in Dubai, you actually have to submit your set to the censors.

: Yeah.

M: And a few times it happened, where I was writing out my set - and when you're writing out your set, as a comedian you're like wow, this doesn't read as funny as it plays when I'm doing it, you know, live.

: Yeah.

M: And then I thought, well now, they're going to take this set that's been written out - it's not as funny already - and then they're going to translate it to Arabic so the censors can understand it.

: Right.

M: And they might not approve it just based on, this is not funny, why would...

: Yeah, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: You do stuff about all the different cultures of the Middle East, right, like Egyptians versus Syrians versus Iranians?

M: Yeah, I do. You know, a lot of that stuff works better in the Middle East, where they know about the difference.

: All right, so give me an example. I want you to give me an example of a kind of joke that would absolutely kill, playing on the subtle but important funny differences in the Middle East. And I want you to do it for...

M: Okay.

: All right.

M: Okay, I'm going to try. Like, for example, I was recently in Beirut.

: Yes.

M: And they said that in - because the Lebanese and the Iranians are obsessed with plastic surgery. They love their plastic surgery.

: Right.

M: So in Beirut, in Lebanon, you can actually get a loan from the bank for plastic surgery.

: Okay.

M: So I don't know how that works. I know people are going in, going hi, I was going to remodel my house, but I've decided to remodel my wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: We were going to add a bathroom, but we're adding boobs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Oh, well that...

M: It works out there.

: Yeah, I know, it works here.

M: Yeah, it really works. Yeah.

: We're enjoying it.

M: That's great.

: Now, is that what you do? Like, you're in Syria, you tell Jordanian jokes; you're in Jordan, you tell Egyptian jokes; you're in Egypt, you tell Saudi jokes?

M: Actually, you know what, a lot of times you tell jokes about the country you're in. They love laughing about themselves. Like, people love laughing about how horrible their traffic is.

: Oh, yeah.

M: It's crazy. Like in Egypt, in Egypt, I always say, like, there should be a video game for traffic in the Middle East. And Egypt would be the most advanced level.

: Oh, absolutely. I've been there, I know what you mean. It's insane. Crossing the street is worth your life.

M: And they're so casual about everything. Like I saw - the last time, I saw a little pickup truck with piles of garbage bags piled up. It was like a pyramid.

: Yeah.

M: But they weren't tied down, which made me realize the Egyptians are really good with holding things in places - shaped like pyramids.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: Yeah.

M: But just to show off how cocky they were, there was a guy sitting on top of the pile of garbage, and he was combing his hair.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Hey, you got to look good.

: Wow.

M: You got to look good. And I was like, what, is he expecting to meet somebody up there? Like, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Maybe he found his comb there.

: Yeah. He's been looking for that comb for years, and he found in the top of the pile of garbage. Well, welcome to the show, Maz. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

Here, Let Me Open That Bottle For You. Ugh, Ugh, Ow!

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: That was very moving, actually.

M: I hope that was in the script.

: It was.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: He's just - that's merely the power of his acting.

M: Wow.

: What he's trying to get at is that professional baseball players are elite athletes. They demonstrate strength and skill and flexibility that sometimes seem superhuman. Which raises the question, why do they keep injuring themselves in really dumb ways? We're going to ask you three questions about the odd ways in which baseball players have hurt themselves just in this season alone. And if you get two questions right, you'll win our prize for one our listeners, Carl's voice on their voicemail. Carl, who's comedian Maz Jobrani playing for?

KASELL: Maz is playing for Edward Pape of San Antonio, Texas.

: All right, you ready to play?

M: I'm ready to do this.

: Okay, just a few weeks ago, Geoff Blum of the Houston Astros landed on the 15-day disabled list when he injured himself doing what? A, answering his cell phone; B, putting on his shirt; or C, snoring?

M: Oh, boy. I'm going to go, because I've actually - I've cramped up before, putting on clothes.

: Really?

M: Yeah, this has happened to me. So I'm going with shirt.

: You're right, that's what he did.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

: He was putting it on.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: Felt a pop, ended up missing some games. He was diagnosed with floating bodies in his arm. The next question, left fielder Chris Coghlan of the Florida Marlins is out for six to eight weeks. He hurt his leg trying to do something for another teammate. What was it? A, hit him in the face with a shaving cream pie; B, he was trying to get a female fan's phone number for him from someone in the stands; or C, he put pepper in that other player's underwear?

M: Pepper in the other player's underwear?

: Yeah. He ended up getting hurt.

M: Yeah, I don't know how you'd hurt your feet doing that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Oh, you're not thinking.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I'm going to go with the pie in the face. They seem to do that a lot.

: They do that a lot.

M: Yeah.

: And when he did it, he hurt his leg. That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

: He came up to his teammate.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: Who had just hit the game-winning run, pie in the face, tore his meniscus muscle.

M: Nice.

: Last injury, the most ironic injury this season happened to Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels. He broke his leg, ending his season doing what? A, he was trying to stretch out his leg so that he would not injure it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: B, he was celebrating a game-winning grand slam home run at home plate. Or C, he was trying to prevent a teammate from getting into a fight and thereby hurting himself?

M: Well I got to tell you, on this one I'm going to cheat a little because I happened to be watching ESPN just the other day.

: Yeah.

M: And they were showing the stupid thing that happened there.

: Yeah.

M: It was the grand slam.

: You're right. That's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

: You know what happens, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: A player hits a game-winning home run, he runs around the bases. The tradition is the other players gather to greet him in a pile at home plate. Kendry Morales running in, so happy, he jumps up in the air to land amidst his teammates - and he falls straight down to the ground, and then the other players are going, dude, what's up, dude?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: He's out for the season. Carl, how did Maz Jobrani do on our show?

KASELL: Maz had three correct answers, Peter, so he wins for Edward Pape.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

: Well done.

M: Woo-hoo.

: Congratulations. That was done masterfully. That was well done.

M: Thank you very much. I'm happy I had a chance to do this. And Iran wasn't in the World Cup this year, but we got a victory today.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

: There you go. It makes up for it. Maz Jobrani's DVD, "Maz Jobrani: Brown and Friendly," is out now. He's performing at the Pasadena Ice House August 27th and 28th. Go see him. You can find out more at mazjobrani.com. Maz, thank you so much for being with us.

M: Thanks a lot, guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

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