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Maz Jobrani, Actor/Comedian

Maz Jobrani

At the age of 12, Maz Jobrani knew he wanted to act. His Iranian parents (surprise) persuaded him to pursue law telling him it was just a “different type” of acting but with a more reliable income. Not wanting to disappoint, he went as far as enrolling in a PhD program in political science before dropping out and dedicating all his efforts into acting and comedy. Now 34, Maz hasn’t looked backed. That’s because he’s starred in everything from The West Wing to The Interpreter and several other shows and movies. And if he’s not on a set, he’s keeping his humor sharp with regular performances at comedy clubs and on tour with the Axis of Evil [of Comedy]. Maz’s persistence and positive attitude are making him a regular and rising star in the industry and has definitely secured his spot in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.




Maz Jobrani, 34, Actor and Comedian


Tiburon, California

Current residence

Los Angeles, California


UC Berkeley, BA in Political Science, Minor in Italian (1993). Dropped out of UCLA PhD program in Political Science (1994).

Work experience

Been doing standup and acting professionally for 8 years. Started acting in school when I was 12.



What’s your story?

I started doing plays at the age of 12. I loved it, and was in a great theater program in high school. For college my parents convinced me that I should do something more secure than studying acting. “Be a lawyer,” they said in thick their Persian accents. “Lawyers act. They have to speak in front of a jury, which is like an audience. And they get paid well.” Not mature enough to stand up to that argument I listened to them and studied political science as an undergrad at University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley I took one acting class and realized I still had the bug. Then when I went to the University of California, Los Angeles to get my Ph.D. in political science in hopes of becoming a professor, I snuck over to the theater department and started doing plays again. The acting bug got me and I decided to drop out.

I worked in an ad agency to make some money in the day (just as an assistant) and finally at 26 declared that I would pursue acting and standup full time. I tell people that the day I decided to make that choice is the day I considered myself a success. Anything else that happens in my career is icing on the cake. Since then I have had a chance to play at the biggest comedy clubs in the world. I’m a regular at the Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and Improv in LA along with some of the bigger clubs in New York (The Comedy Cellar). I’ve done many guest stars on TV including on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “The West Wing”, “ER”, “NYPD Blue” and many more. I was a regular on the Fox TV show “Life on a Stick” and am now a regular on the ABC show “Knights of Prosperity.” I had good parts in movies like “The Interpreter”, “Friday After Next” and “13 Going on 30.”

What are your day to day responsibilities?

Now that I’m on a show, my day to day will include being ready to shoot my scenes daily. In the evenings I try to do standup at the local clubs. In between all this I try to send out e-mails about bigger shows (meaning theater shows that seat 1000+ people) and I do other press stuff. Lastly, I hope to find time to exercise so that I don’t outgrow my wardrobe (when you’re on a set sometimes it’s really long days – 5am-8 or 9pm). In between all that you end up at the snack table (craft services) trying to eat something that will keep you going – a lot of times that includes anything with sugar.

Most notable milestones

Educational – of course getting my degree from U.C. Berkeley. A great school, I would recommend it to anyone.

Also I spent my junior year abroad in Italy – the University of Padua. This was one of the best years of my life and I think everyone should go overseas in college.

Professional – Becoming a regular at the Comedy Store (I remember being 14 years old, visiting Los Angeles, and being told that this was the club Eddie Murphy used to perform in. His name was on the wall and now mine is too.)

Being in “The Interpreter” with Sean Penn. He is one of the acting legends of our time and I had a chance to be in a movie and in scenes with him.

Doing a guest star on “The West Wing” and getting a chance to perform with Martin Sheen – again, another legend.

What’s your niche?

I suppose being Iranian born makes me unique. There are only a handful of us in acting and standup. Also, I can do accents so I’ve had a chance to play other Middle Eastern, Latin, and European parts.

Unexpected learnings along the way

Aren’t most learnings unexpected? One thing I learned early on and I’ve repeated often is that we get inspired by greatness and mediocrity. What I mean by that is that when we see someone like LeBron James slamdunk a basketball we want to go on the playground and try to slamdunk. On the other hand when we see someone who’s really bad at what they’re doing we think that we can better do what they do. That was one of the first ways I was inspired to get into standup. I was at UC Berkeley and just happened upon a standup comedy competition. The guys competing were so bad that I felt I could do better than them. I promised myself that the next time I had a chance to enter a competition, I would. So I did and that was my first lesson along this journey.

What’s in store for the future?

I plan to keep working on the new ABC show as long as it’s running (hopefully for a long time.) I also help to shoot “The Axis of Evil Comedy” DVD. That’s the show with me, Aron Kader, Ahmed Ahmed and Dean Obeidallah. It’s the biggest all Middle Eastern/American comedy tour and we hope to change peoples’ minds about Middle Easterners with this show. We hope to get it on TV and in the stores. Lastly, I have written a screenplay with a friend of mine, Amir Ohebsion, called “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero”. It is like an Iranian “Pink Panther” that we hope to shoot and get into movie theaters in the West. Again, our hope is to create a positive Middle Eastern character that can help change minds.

The last 2 projects mentioned also have websites:

Who would you like to be contacted by?

I wish I could meet Ghandi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Peter Sellers.

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Best way to stay ahead

Do what you love. When you do what you love you will be good at it (this is something a great friend of mine pointed out many years ago and it’s very true).

One thing I learned early on and I’ve repeated often is that we get inspired by greatness and mediocrity.

Guiding principle in life

Be good to others. There’s so much difficulty and badness in the world that we don’t need to add to it.

Yardstick of success

Being happy with yourself.

Goal yet to be achieved

I’m just on a ride and get to things that I want as I go. I would like to have “Jimmy Vestvood” made. I would like to continue to write standup comedy that says something (meaning it’s not just fart jokes.) I would love to get to a point where I could produce films and projects where I could cast my friends – like Adam Sandler or Bill Cosby or George Clooney.

Best practical advice

Do what you love. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve met some of the most miserable, yet rich lawyers and some of the happiest, yet poor janitors. If you’re doing what you love to do in life then you won’t be worried about the money and if any comes, then so much the better.

Supportive words from a family member or friend

A gentleman who worked at the ad agency I was at nor friend on your ventureamed Joe Rein once told me if there’s something you want to do in life just do it. Don’t wait. I had told him that I was going to wait until I was 30 before I would pursue acting and standup. He told me to go for it right then because I wasn’t getting any younger. That was the light bulb and at 26 I went for it.

Most memorable business experience

Many. One of them was when me, Ahmed and Aron decided to become producers on “The Axis of Evil Comedy Show”, and took a risk to book our first theater show in a 1400 seat theater in D.C. In the past when we had visited that city we had only done shows at the D.C. Improv in front of 200-300 people at a time. We took a big risk, booked the theater and the night of the show we were back stage celebrating the fact that we sold out the theater and had to turn people away. It was a great feeling to aim high and achieve that goal.



What motivates you for success?

I love what I do, so where some people say, “wow, you work hard and you’re online all the time promoting your shows, out every night doing standup and really busy with acting”, it doesn’t register with me because I really love what I’m doing. I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do so that motivates me.

Like best about what you do

Performing – whether on stage or in front of a camera. Or coming up with a great new bit for standup.

Like least about what you do

Waking up early sometimes – to do radio promotions when you’re doing a big standup show and to go to work when you’re on a TV show or film.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Baseball player or soccer player.

What was your first job?

I delivered newspapers at 12 (although I never got paid for it because we had to collect peoples’ subscription fees from them in order to get paid and I wasn’t good at collecting – I was intimidated by this one old dude who kept yelling at me and telling me he’d already paid.)

Person most interested in meeting and why?

Ghandi. He transcended himself and changed the world through peace.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

I enjoy meeting anyone who’s good at what they do – especially if they’re using their skills to help others. Maybe the guy who started “Doctors Without Borders.”

Three interesting facts about yourself

Married to an Indian lawyer. Love to nap. Math was my favorite subject.

Three characteristics that describe you

Peaceful, happy, diligent.

Three greatest passions

My wife, my family, my comedy.

Favorite books

Old – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. New – Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. Also, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Favorite cause


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Interview by Laily Mesbah
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid

Also this week

Will GrayLinRebecca Cuevas De CaissieArun Iyer

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