Immigrant similarities

Maz Jobran

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou

Concert Series at Ordway Concert Hall welcomed comedian and actor Maz Jobrani, who gave the audience a glimpse into an Iranian-American immigrant household in California during the 1980s.

Sharing heart-wrenching experiences with passion, compassion, loads of humor and a distinctive style that celebrates his mission in life, not merely to survive but to thrive, Jobrani commanded the stage of the Ordway’s Concert Hall Sept. 22. He was there to honor those who paved the way for his prosperous life and to instill a sense of cultural pride in new generations.

While unique in blending his two worlds of ethnic and cultural differences through humor – worlds that are at opposite ends of the spectrum – it was crystal clear the immigrant experience is the same for all new comers. Isolation and culture shock coupled with the humiliating exposure to the negative preconceived notions of valued cultural traditions is the same for all.

The Ordway website describes the Concert Hall as “a 1,100-seat state-of-the-art facility in a ‘shoebox’ style concert hall where there is no separation between the performance platform and the audience.” This atmosphere creates an intimate environment between the audience and performer. Jobrani melded right in with the crowd; interacting, interviewing and involving the audience, making it feel like a gathering of friends sharing highlights of a difficult transition to a new world rather than a one-of-a-kind performance.

With standup comedy specials like “Brown and Friendly,” “I Come In Peace,” and most recently, “I’m Not A Terrorist, But I’ve Played One on TV,” now available on Netflix, Jobrani’s sharp, heartfelt recanting of experiences brought down the house, more than once.

The stories of his family’s limited English skills flooded memories of my own. My Puerto Rican family from the mountains of a tropical garden to the cold, cement sidewalks of New York often embarrassed me with their lack of proper pronunciation of these very important English words. Never looking or acting “right,” I cringed whenever they appeared in my space. As I laughed with the Ordway audience, I realized I cringed because their presence exposed the truth about us, about me. We are immigrants. We are different.

Jobrani brilliantly took me by the hand and made me laugh at myself and my crazy eclectic family. He soothed the memories of those old injuries that can be so easily triggered by the realities of the day. Through humor he helped connected passion, rekindle compassion and to do it all with style.

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