SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Stand-up comic was not exactly the career that Maz Jobrani and his parents imagined for his future, but the UC Berkeley alumnus has become a successful actor and comedian, using his life experiences as an immigrant, a Muslim, and an Iranian-American to help challenge people's stereotypes and find common humanity through humor.
Jobrani is returning to his alma mater to deliver the keynote commencement speech at UC Berkeley Saturday. The Iranian-American immigrant majored in political science at Cal and faced challenges launching his career just a few years before the 9/11 attacks.
Jobrani, has appeared on network television, Comedy Central, NPR's "Wait, wait, don't tell me," and has had four standup specials including "Axis of Evil Comedy Tour" and "I'm not a Terrorist, but I've Played One on TV". He is now a star in the new sitcom "Superior Donuts."
In San Francisco Jobrani performed two shows at Cobb's Comedy Club Friday night, showing the sold-out crowd what an American dream can look like and how to find humor in the current political climate.
"I'll share an Iranian trick, if you're ever singing a song and you're stuck, you can sing...lai, lai" said Jobrani to the crowd, "That's how I'm going to sing the national anthem. And then I'll be deported."
Jobrani grew up in Marin County and graduated from Redwood High School. Some of his former high school teachers attended his comedy show Friday.
"I was a kid six years old when we came from Iran. So I'm a first generation American myself. And my parents a lot of immigrant parents want you to be a lawyer, a doctor or engineer. So my parents wanted me to be a lawyer," said Jobrani.
After studying political science at UC Berkeley and heading to graduate school to become a professor, Jobrani discovered at age 26 that acting and comedy were his passions.
His mother told him to become a mechanic instead.
"She's thinking about my security. She's not thinking about my passions but that's the beauty of America. You can really can follow your passions," said Jobrani.
At a time when stand-up comics and politics have been in the national spotlight and cultural crosshairs, Jobrani says comedians can be important to find the humor and shared humanity in life.
His message to the 5,800 graduates in Cal's Class of 2017, is to travel and see the world, stay true to your passions, and to remember the important power of words and freedom of speech.
"You should be able to able to speak, I should be able to speak and we should be able to just move on without you being thrown in prison and me being thrown in prison. That's what happens in other countries," said Jobrani, "I hope we should keep that in mind and really fight for each other's freedom to speak."