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TEDxSummit

Maz Jobrani: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian walk into a Qatari bar ...

April 22, 2012

Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani takes to the TEDxSummit stage in Doha, Qatar to take on serious issues in the Middle East -- like how many kisses to give when saying “Hi,” and what not to say on an American airplane.

Maz Jobrani - Comedian
A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani is now touring with his second solo comedy show, Browner and Friendlier. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Hello, Doha. Hello. Salaam alaikum.
00:16
I love coming to Doha. It's such an international place.
00:21
This is like -- it feels like the United Nations just here.
00:26
You land at the airport, and you're welcomed by an Indian lady
00:29
who takes you to Al Maha Services, where you meet a Filipino lady
00:32
who hands you off to a South African lady
00:36
who then takes you to a Korean who takes you to
00:38
a Pakistani guy with the luggage
00:41
who takes you to the car with a Sri Lankan.
00:43
You go to the hotel and you check in. There's a Lebanese.
00:45
Yeah? And then a Swedish guy showed me my room.
00:48
I said, "Where are the Qataris?" (Laughter)
00:51
(Applause)
00:55
They said, "No, no, it's too hot. They come out later. They're smart."
00:58
(Laughter) "They know."
01:00
And of course it's growing so fast, sometimes there's growing pains.
01:04
You know, like sometimes you run into people that you think
01:08
know the city well, but they don't know it that well.
01:10
My Indian cab driver showed up at the W,
01:13
and I asked him to take me to the Sheraton,
01:15
and he said, "No problem, sir."
01:18
And then we sat there for two minutes.
01:21
I said, "What's wrong?"He said, "One problem, sir."
01:23
I said, "What?" He goes, "Where is it?"
01:26
(Laughter)
01:28
I go, "You're the driver, you should know."He goes, "No, I just arrived, sir."
01:31
I go, "You just arrived at the W?""No, I just arrived in Doha, sir.
01:35
I was on my way home from the airport. I got a job.
01:39
I'm working already."
01:42
He goes, "Sir, why don't you drive?"
01:45
I go, "I don't know where we're going."
01:48
"Neither do I. It will be an adventure, sir."
01:49
It is an adventure. The Middle East has been an adventure the past couple years.
01:55
The Middle East is going crazy with the Arab Spring
01:58
and revolution and all this. Are there any Lebanese here tonight?
02:00
Any Lebanese by applause? (Applause) Lebanese.
02:02
Yeah. The Middle East is going crazy.
02:05
You know the Middle East is going crazy
02:07
when Lebanon is the most peaceful place in the region.
02:09
(Laughter) (Applause)
02:12
Who would have thought? Oh my gosh.
02:14
No. There's serious issues in the region.
02:20
Some people don't want to talk about them. I'm here to talk about them tonight.
02:22
Ladies and gentlemen of the Middle East,
02:25
here's a serious issue. When we see each other,
02:27
when we say hello, how many kisses are we going to do?
02:29
Every country is different and it's confusing, okay?
02:34
In Lebanon, they do three. In Egypt, they do two.
02:37
I was in Lebanon, I got used to three.
02:40
I went to Egypt. I went to say hello to this one Egyptian guy,
02:42
I went, one, two. I went for three. He wasn't into it.
02:46
(Laughter)
02:49
I told him, I said, "No, no, no, I was just in Lebanon."
02:54
He goes, "I don't care where you were. You just stay where you are, please. Just stay where you are."
02:56
I went to Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, they go one, two,
03:03
and then they stay on the same side -- three, four, five, six,
03:07
seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
03:09
(Laughter)
03:14
Next time you see a Saudi, look closely. They're just a little bit tilted.
03:17
"Abdul, are you okay?""Yeah, I was saying hello for half an hour.
03:22
I'm going to be all right."
03:24
Qataris, you guys do the nose to nose.
03:28
Why is that? Are you too tired to go all the way around?
03:31
"Habibi, it's so hot. Just come here for a second. Say hello.
03:35
Hello, Habibi. Just don't move. Just stay there please.
03:38
I need to rest."
03:41
Every country — Iranians, sometimes we do two, sometimes we do three.
03:44
A friend of mine explained to me, before the '79 revolution,
03:48
it was two. After the revolution, three.
03:51
So with Iranians, you can tell whose side the person is on
03:55
based on the number of kisses they give you.
03:57
Yeah, if you go one, two, three -- "I can't believe you support this regime
03:59
with your three kisses."
04:03
But no, guys, really, it is exciting to be here,
04:08
and like I said, you guys are doing a lot culturally,
04:11
you know, and it's amazing, and it helps change the image
04:14
of the Middle East in the West. Like a lot of Americans
04:17
don't know a lot about us, about the Middle East.
04:19
I'm Iranian and American. I'm there. I know, I've traveled here.
04:22
There's so much, we laugh, right?
04:26
People don't know we laugh. When I did the Axis of Evil comedy tour,
04:27
it came out on Comedy Central, I went online
04:30
to see what people were saying about it. I ended up on a conservative website.
04:32
One guy wrote another guy. He said, "I never knew these people laughed."
04:36
Think about it. You never see us laughing in American film or television, right?
04:40
Maybe like an evil -- like, "Wuhahaha, wuhahaha. (Laughter)
04:43
I will kill you in the name of Allah, wuhahahahaha."
04:48
But never like, "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."
04:51
We like to laugh. We like to celebrate life.
04:55
And I wish more Americans would travel here. I always encourage my friends:
04:58
Travel, see the Middle East, there's so much to see, so many good people.
05:01
And it's vice versa, and it helps stop problems
05:04
of misunderstanding and stereotypes from happening.
05:07
For example, I don't know if you heard about this,
05:11
a little while ago in the U.S. there was a Muslim family
05:12
walking down the aisle of an airplane
05:15
talking about the safest place to sit on the plane.
05:17
Some passengers overheard them, somehow misconstrued
05:20
that as terrorist talk, got them kicked off the plane.
05:22
It was a family, a mother, father, child, walking down the aisle,
05:27
talking about the seating. Now as a Middle Eastern male,
05:29
I know there's certain things I'm not supposed to say
05:31
on an airplane in the U.S., right?
05:34
I'm not supposed to be, like, walking down the aisle,
05:36
and be like, "Hi, Jack." You know, that's not cool.
05:38
Even if I'm there with my friend named Jack, I say,
05:42
"Greetings, Jack. Salutations, Jack."
05:44
Never "Hi, Jack."
05:46
(Laughter)
05:48
But now apparently we can't even talk about
05:51
the safest place to sit on an airplane.
05:53
So my advice to all my Middle Eastern friends and Muslim friends
05:56
and anyone who looks Middle Eastern or Muslim,
05:58
so to, you know, Indians, and Latinos, everyone,
06:00
if you're brown --
06:03
here's my advice to my brown friends.
06:06
The next time you're on an airplane in the U.S.,
06:10
just speak your mother tongue.
06:12
That way no one knows what you're saying. Life goes on.
06:14
Granted, some mother tongues might sound
06:17
a little threatening to the average American, right?
06:19
If you're walking down the aisle speaking Arabic,
06:21
you might freak them out, if you're walking, "[Arabic],"
06:23
they might say, "What's he talking about?"
06:27
So the key, to my Arab brothers and sisters,
06:29
you gotta throw in random good words to put people at ease
06:32
as you're walking down the aisle.
06:34
Just as you're walking down: "[Imitating Arabic] --
06:36
strawberry!"
06:38
(Laughter)
06:40
"[Imitating Arabic] -- rainbow!"
06:47
"[Imitating Arabic] -- Tutti Frutti!"
06:52
"I think he's going to hijack the plane with some ice cream."
06:55
Thank you very much. Have a good night.
06:58
Thank you, TED. (Cheers) (Applause)
07:00
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Maz Jobrani - Comedian
A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani is now touring with his second solo comedy show, Browner and Friendlier.

Why you should listen

Maz Jobrani is an actor and comedian who starred on the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour, a groundbreaking tour of the US and Middle Eastern countries, where it sold out 27 shows in Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, Kuwait and Amman. The Axis of Evil Comedy Central Special premiered in 2007 as, arguably, the first show on American TV with an all-Middle Eastern/American cast. In 2009 Jobrani performed in his first solo world tour, called Maz Jobrani: Brown and Friendly, and is currently following up this tour with a second, titled Browner and Friendlier.

Jobrani's comedy pulls from his background as an Iran-born kid raised in Northern California. He pokes fun at cultural stereotypes of all kinds -- starting with the stereotype that Middle Eastern actors can only play a few kinds of roles in Hollywood. He's been working to develop rich characters in a variety of TV shows and films. His next project: Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero, described as a cross between a Middle Eastern Pink Panther and Bend It Like Beckham.

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