Iranian-American actor and comedian Maz Jobrani has appeared on hit TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, True Blood, and The Tonight Show. He’s also performed standup at venues around the world. Jobrani is one of a growing number of Middle Eastern entertainers who are working to change the distorted image many audiences in the West have of those from Muslim countries.
“I’m seeing more and more people from these backgrounds, whether it’s Iranian, Arabs, or Muslims, or even Asian Americans, there are a lot of people that are getting in behind the scenes,” explained Jobrani. “Once we have people behind the scenes, then I think we can start telling our stories a little bit better.”
Maz Jobrani: Breaking stereotypesMaz Jobrani discusses how he uses humor to change Hollywood and society’s stereotypes of Middle Easterners.
His 2015 memoir, I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One on TV, details life growing up as an Iranian American, and his struggles working in Hollywood. Jobrani says he and his fellow Middle Eastern-American entertainers are often typecast in the stereotypical roles of villains and terrorists.
“The problem with the media and Middle Easterners and Muslims and people from that part of the world is: a high percentage of the time when you see us, it’s just the negative,” Jobrani said.
In his bold new comedy film, Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero, he parodies these stereotypes, and shows that people of Middle Eastern descent can also be leaders, heroes, and more importantly, just normal people like the audiences watching them on screen.
Maz Jobrani joined May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to discuss how he uses humor to change Hollywood and society’s stereotypes of Middle Easterners.