I'm Not A Terrorist, But I've Played One On TV NPR coverage of I'm Not a Terrorist, but I've Played One on TV: Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man by Maz Jobrani. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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I'm Not A Terrorist, But I've Played One On TV

Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man

by Maz Jobrani

Hardcover, 225 pages, Simon & Schuster, List Price: $24 |


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I'm Not A Terrorist, But I've Played One On TV
Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man
Maz Jobrani

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NPR Summary

A founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour recounts his experiences as an Iranian growing up in America, his efforts to assimilate both cultures and his regular castings as a villain on TV and in movies.

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Excerpt: I'm Not A Terrorist, But I've Played One On TV

I'm Not a Terrorist, but I've Played One on TV


Hello there! Thank you for picking up my book. Maybe you picked it up because you recognize me from a television show. "Isn't that the guy from Better Off Ted and Knights of Prosperity and Life on a Stick? Whatever happened to those shows? What happens to actors when their shows get canceled?"

Well, reader, we write books. That's what happens when our shows get canceled. Maybe you've picked up this book because you saw the word "terrorist" on the cover and thought: I always knew this guy was a terrorist! Always trying to convince the American public that he's a stand-up comedian. What a dirty piece of scum! He was never that funny anyway! Or maybe you're related to me, and you thought: What the hell—Maz wrote a book? I wonder if he mentions me. I better buy a copy and check it out.

Whatever the reason, thank you.

Writing a book isn't easy. I'm a comedian, so I'm used to writing a few lines of comedy each day, but when I was faced with writing two hundred pages I was intimidated. I immediately began to think of ways to cheat. What if I double-spaced everything? Or maybe I could add a hundred pages of pictures. That would really help move this baby along.

However, once I began writing, it started to flow. After all, this is a story about my life. Who's more qualified to write about me than me? I've been studying me for forty-two years. I'm an expert on me. I've got a Ph.D. in me. I wrote the book on me. Literally! And what a life it's been! A classic immigrant story. A kid from the streets of Tehran moving to the streets of Los Angeles. (Which nowadays is packed with so many Iranians that it's basically like living back on the streets of Tehran.) Along the way I've experienced a revolution, a hostage crisis, and male-pattern baldness.

Writing a book is like going through a therapy session. It's amazing how much you forget about your past until you're forced to sit at a desk and put it down on paper. If you want to go through therapy but can't afford the payments, try writing a book. When you've got a busy life filled with work, family, car payments, Twitter feeds, and Facebook photos, you don't have as much time to reflect on your past. But when you have an editor with deadlines, you're forced to dig, and you find that you have stories to tell. Like the one about how I was made to wear a turban on a Chuck Norris movie of the week. Yes, I know, you're jealous. Don't hate—we can't all be friends (or, in my case, enemies) with Chuck.

In imitation of the therapeutic process, I tell my story as I remember it. Some of the dialogue you will read wasn't said word for word but what it actually sounded like when I heard it. My mother, whom you will read a lot about in this book, is a primeexample. Anyone who has reflected on a parental relationship knows that when a mother says one thing, her kid can read a million other things into it. For example, when my mom would say, "Why can't you go to medical school like Mina's son?" I would hear "You're a bum loser, and you're a disgrace to our entire race! I never should have had you in the first place!" In fairness to my mom, she was no Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest. She was always a loving mother who did what she thought was best. Sometimes that included hitting us with clothes hangers when we were young, but I'm sure we had it coming. To this day I have flashbacks when the dry cleaner asks me if I want my shirts folded or on hangers. I love my mom dearly, and thanks to her all my shirts now come home from the dry cleaner's folded.

Since my life as a comedian involves so much traveling, you could call this a travel book as well. You will read about my experiences in bars in Lebanon with Christian Lebanese (yes, there's alcohol in the Middle East, and Christians, too!). You will read about my visit to one of the Wonders of the World, Petra in Jordan, where not only did I see the historical city built thousands of years ago, but I was peddled Indiana Jones merchandise. American capitalism at its best! There's also my trip to the White House, where President Obama groped my wife. You want scandal? I've got scandal! The point is, I've traveled a lot. You know you're flying too much when you consistently hit more than a hundred thousand miles per year. I've gotten to know the shuttle bus drivers at the parking lot, the flight attendants, and even some sure-handed TSA agents. In fact, just the other day a TSA agent fist-bumped me as I went through the metal detector—that's how close we've become. Since I'm of Middle Eastern descent, the first time a TSA agent recognized me I was worried she was profiling me. Turns out she was a fan of my stand-up and just wanted to say hello. As usual, I was the one profiling myself. Much more on that later in this book.

I hope you will enjoy reading about this Middle Eastern–American comedian's life, because I've certainly enjoyed writing it. Once you read my story, I think you will see we have more in common than you anticipated when you picked up the book thinking you were grabbing the memoir of a terrorist. If you do finish the book and are still scared of me and people of my ilk, then I recommend you schedule an appointment with a therapist. Either that, or try writing your own book.