Addison — What to do on the 13th anniversary of 9/11? Go see Middle Eastern comedians, of course. A hearty crowd, many of Middle Eastern descent, showed up Thursday for Maz Jobrani and Aaron Aryanpur at Improv in Addison. While the significance of the date missed the opening act and emcee Brad Lacour entirely, featured act Aryanpur opened with strong material that after noting the solemnity of the day took direct aim.
“Good to see you all. Half of us here were afraid to leave the house today. I thought maybe I should do something. Wear black, that’s it, I’ll wear black. Wait, I can’t do that. ISIS wears black. I just can’t win.”
Then onto a tightly constructed classic-hits set of Aryanpur material, with established bits freshened up with new silly asides. While he works the “married with children” vein of humor, Aryanpur pushes it beyond the cliché to extract crystalline moments that illuminate not just family life, but human folly. He even wrung laughs from the Chinese man who jumped from a seventh-floor window after five hours of enforced shopping.
Aryanpur possesses a deft ability to extract laughs from serious, even tragic, news items. How can a parent claim they left their kid in the backseat of the car on a hot day, forgotten because they were so quiet. “Who are these mythical children?” he retorted before animatedly enacting what it’s like driving with his two kids into the car. Musings on white privilege turned to a surgeon who couldn’t seem to tell the names Aryanpur and Ammanpur apart. The punchline on precision in language and hospital diagnoses was so strong it even got a table of tipsy, distracted Puerto Ricans to belly laugh.
It’s always a pleasure to see the likeable and literate headliner, Maz Jobrani, who bounded onto stage to an upbeat John Legend riff and showed off sizzling moves (Persians do love to dance). Jobrani also addressed the anniversary of 9/11 with a heartfelt comment and then on the more positive attributes that mark us as humans, like laughter.
Jobrani works the international realm of cultural idiosyncrasies, and there was no better arena for that than the recent World Cup. Great bit on the wimpiness of the U.S. chant (“I believe that we can win”) compared to the scarily aggressive chant of the Germans. How can America butch up? “I believe you will let us win and take all your natural resources.” True, that. Is the slow build-up of a soccer game like sex? Well, do basketball announcers yell the orgasmic “gooooooal” when points are scored? Nuff said.
A family man as well, Jobrani related a trip to Disneyland with his young kids and how Mickey Mouse is a cute mouse on television, but a scary giant six-foot rat in person. Truth indeed that breathlessly exciting Disneyland ads would be a lot more honest if they showed families standing in endless lines.
Jobrani’s recent foray into acting as the Persian Pink Panther lead in the indie movie Jimmy Vestvood, Amerikan Hero has enlivened his act with even more voices, pantomimes and character breakouts. The always personable comedian remains a master of crowd work, selecting a few folks from the audience and razzing them throughout the set, ultimately showing how their foibles are ultimately his own.
» Jobrani and Aryanpur continue at The Improv through Saturday, with Aryanpur doing a solo show on Sunday. Jimmy Vestvood, Amerikan Hero premieres at the Austin Film Festival & Conference Oct. 23-30, 2014
» Video: Maz Jobrani illustrates the differences between Iranians and Arabs from the Axis of Evil tour in his classic Persian cat bit.