The Philly Grill: Maz Jobrani

The Axis of Evil comic — and Iran native — hits Helium this weekend. Weekender editor VICTOR FIORILLO gets his thoughts on Jihad Jane, whether or not YouTube is killing standup, and America’s next enemy-in-chief

How was your flight from California? Did you get profiled by the TSA?
Strangely enough, it’s the opposite for me. I did a movie called Friday After Next, which did very well in the urban community, so I have a lot of black and Latino fans. And so whenever I go to LAX, there’s always a black or Latino TSA agent who will recognize me. As opposed to being profiled for the wrong reasons, I tend to get VIP treatment. [Puts on his best barrio accent] Are you Moly from Friday After Next? Yeah? C’mon guys, let him through.[SIGNUP]

Did you get a chance yet to work on your Jihad Jane material? Ugly blonde. Swedish cartoonist…
It writes itself, doesn’t it? I was in the airport yesterday when I saw the headline, and I thought oh no… I was in Austin when the guy flew his plane into that building. And a while back I was in Denver landing when they arrested some guy involved with terrorism. Either I’m traveling too much, or maybe I’m involved with some plot myself.

It’s not going to take the FBI long to put the facts together.

Yeah, the problem with the FBI is that all the signs are there, but they’re just going to ignore it until after whatever my act is. I’m involved with something, Victor. That’s all I’m saying.

I was disappointed when I went to see Lisa Lampanelli recently, simply because I felt like I saw her whole routine between cable and Youtube already. How do you combat that?
It used to be that it would take a comedian a year to work on material and put out an album that only the most diehard fans would buy. You could tour with that material, and it would be the first — or maybe just second — time that the people had heard it. But now with YouTube, the challenge is to write a lot more. And I always try to have some stuff that relates to that city at the top of my show. And topical stuff — I know for a fact that I wasn’t talking about Jihad Jane a few weeks ago.

What will you do once the War On Terror is ove
I’ll lie and say I’m from the new enemy.

Which will be?
I’ve been lobbying for Venezuela, since I can pass for Venezuelan. I’m waiting for Chavez to say some more stuff. But I’ve been here for 32 years. I came when I was 6. A year after I arrived, the whole hostage thing happened. These issues have been around for a long time, and so I think they will be around a lot longer.

Are you on Ahmadinejad’s radar?
One time I was in the Middle East, and this guy I knew said he was giving tours at some water park and that some relative of Ahmadinejad’s was there — a nephew or something… “I told the man I was a friend of yours and showed him a picture of the two of us. He got a look on his face like I killed his mother.” I don’t know if his was kidding me or what. But they probably know of me, though I’m certainly not at the top of their list. I’m not that politically involved, though I have hosted some human rights events, joked about politics. I’m sure that if I showed up there, they’d give me a nice, long imprisonment.

For tickets to Maz’s performances at Helium, go here.