You'll want to be buddies with Maz Jobrani.
You might have already had that feeling if you've caught any of his previous tours, like "Brown and Friendly"; or heard him on National Public Radio's news quiz Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!; or even watched his TED talk about being a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. "Being Iranian-American ... causes a lot of inner conflict," he joked in 2010. "Part of me likes me, part of me hates me. Part of me thinks I should have a nuclear program, the other part thinks I can't be trusted with one. These are dilemmas I have every day."
For me, it was hearing the 40-year-old comedian and actor politely interrupt our phone interview to warn a fellow Angeleno not to park on a certain side of the road, or risk a ticket — "Hey, my man: street cleaning on that side. Street cleaning. Yeah, yeah. You might want to put it on this side." — that sealed the deal.
To hear Jobrani tell it, he's felt compelled to be this way since moving to the United States as a 6-year-old.
"I used to go shopping with my mom, and I'd buy all kinds of sweets," he says. "And I remember I'd go to school with one bag for the sandwich, drink and a snack, and another bag just all sweets. So I'd be handing out sweets; I learned how to bribe my way into friendship."
He laughs, but the same story includes a memory of having a sixth-grader repeatedly calling him "a fucking eye-ranian," as was apparently en vogue among the brutish during the Iranian hostage crisis. "What the guy never took into consideration was that one day I'd grow up and get to perform in front of a bunch of people at one time, and I could tell them, 'Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Juvonen is an asshole.'"
But beyond entertaining the global masses — including last week's Showtime debut of I Come in Peace, a self-produced special performed in Sweden — Jobrani's using his projects, like a film-in-progress called Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero, in a roundabout way to offer a little balance to the country's Islamo-fascist-terrorist narrative.
"When I started comedy, I didn't start it to go, 'Oh, I want to represent Middle Easterners in a positive light,'" he says. "I started because I wanted to be a comedian; I was a big fan of Eddie Murphy's. And so, once I got going, I realized the subjects I was talking about, a lot of them had to do with the Middle East.
"Then I was listening to more and more Richard Pryor, and he talked about social issues, so my comedy started going in that route. So a thing like Jimmy Vestvood, the main thing is just to make a fun and good movie. And the second point, the underlying theme, is just to show a different side of Middle Easterners."