Friday, March 11, 2011

The Wilbur: Catching Up with Maz Jobrani

Maz Jobrani plays
the Wilbur tonight
It is an extraordinary time in the Middle East, with the political landscape changing sometimes by the minute as people rise up against their governments. That should be fertile ground for a comic like Maz Jobrani, who is at the Wilbur tonight. Jobrani is Persian and was born in Iran, and his cultural background figured heavily into his act on the “Axis of Evil” tour.

But you’ll have to forgive him if he is still processing the daily headlines. “It takes some time to write material about current events and try it out on new audiences,” he told me by e-mail. “I just had a baby daughter a month and a half ago, so I haven't had a chance to get on stage when I'm in LA much, which is when I usually work out new material. So I've had to try my material about all that's going on in the Middle East when I'm on the road. I have a few jokes about Egypt and Ghaddafi. Not sure if they're fine tuned yet.”

Jobrani has always discussed Middle Eastern culture in his act, especially as it applies to his own Persian heritage. You can get a taste of taste of that from his Brown and Friendly special, released in 2009. Jobrani humanizes a region that seems often to be homogenized in the popular imagination. “I do point out that they're different countries and not to be lumped together,” he says. “I think some people do believe that the whole region is just one country controlled by Al Queda.”

Jobrani is also the star of a new film called David, about the obstacles facing an eleven year old Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn. The film is currently making the rounds at festivals, and Jobrani is hoping it gets a wider theatrical release. It’s a more dramatic role for him. “I play David's dad who's a pretty serious guy,” he says. “There are a few moments of comedy in the film, but they're not provided by my character.”

His character is very religious, in contrast to Jobrani’s own upbringing. “My family wasn't religious,” he says. “However, my dad could be pretty serious and strict at times. I'd say that came from being traditional. Having experienced some of those characteristics from my dad did help me play David's dad in the movie.”

Jobrani was originally brought onto the project as an actor, but wound up with a producing credit. “I think the filmmaker Joel Fendelman and the producers Julian Schwartz and Patrick Daly, who was also a writer on the project, felt that I could probably help bring some attention to the film just through my contacts and the fanbase I have created through stand-up, says Jobrani. “So I've been trying to be involved as a producer in that way. I was also involved in suggesting some ideas for my character that the writers were good enough to change so you could say I was involved as a producer in that way too.”

Jobrani is also trying to raise money for his own film project, Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero. “If anyone's got any rich uncles who're looking to finance a film please get in touch,” he says. You can check out the details on the Facebook site and the official site.

Maz Jobrani: 7:30PM. $30-$40. Mehran opens. The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., Boston. 866.448.7849

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