Finding The Punchline: Maz Jobrani On Comedy In The Trump Era

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Comedian Maz Jobrani talks with us about President Trump, immigration, and finding humor in moments of political polarization.

Making jokes about politics and politicians is a tradition as old as America itself. During the Revolutionary War, cartoonists portrayed King George III as a tyrant and buffoon. More than a century ago, Mark Twain wrote that "fleas can be taught nearly anything that a congressman can." And in the 1960s, the Smothers Brothers used their TV platform to criticize the Vietnam War — much to the chagrin of network censors.

These days, of course, comedians have a new target: President Donald Trump.

Among those finding the humor in this politically polarized time is the Iranian-American comic and actor Maz Jobrani. Jobrani came to the U.S. as a child during the 1979 revolution in Iran, and much of his comedy seeks to humanize Persian culture and make light of our stereotypes on issues like immigration.

Offstage, he's become an increasingly vocal critic of President Trump, and was among those who protested the administration's ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, including Iran. Jobrani says he hears from people who believe comedians have no place in politics, but he disagrees — and not just because he holds a degree in political science. Being able to laugh about politics, Jobrani says, may be the key to overcoming our political divides.

Jobrani is the author of I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One on TV, and is currently starring in the CBS show Superior Donuts.

In this episode, we refer to a conversation we had recently with historian Cristina Maria Garcia. Check it out here!

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, and Renee Klahr. Our intern is Chloe Connelly and our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

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