A woman asked Talhak, “Where is the candy shop?” He said, “Inside a lady’s skirt.”
— Obeyd-e Zakani, 14th century Persian poet and satirist
What makes Shadi’s life funny?
That was our literary and theatrical mission when Shadi agreed to perform at the Boulder Cafe’s Sunday’s Open Mic Comedy. Never having performed a public comedy skit or set, Shadi was justifiably a little skittish, cancelling once. But she showed true Talker elan when jumping on stage in an enjoyable evening featuring some of Rochester’s funniest people.
Shadi is a second generation Iranian-American woman. Her parents came to the U.S. before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, whose effects still shape the consciousness of the American-Iranian community. As Shadi explains, humor helped her family deal with the traumatic events back home:
I can hear my parents’ roaring laughter sharing a Molla Nasraddin joke¹ while sitting among friends on the Persian rug of our home during a mehmooni, a Persian social gathering, as an American teenager. This was comedic relief, having grown up hearing the social and political situations in Iran which caused my parents to remain in the United States torn apart from loving family.
Originally, Shadi’s plan was overly ambitious. For This Iranian-American Life, she wanted to weave into a 4 minute sketch some traditional Persian humor (“Where is the candy shop?”), the Iranian revolution, and contemporary Iranian-American comediennes. As well as both slay Iranian stereotypes while giving life to Shadi’s own version of a semi-dominatrix Persian Princess.
She even contacted her favorite Iranian-American comic and actor, Maz Jobrani who has built a wide audience in the United States, who wrote back:
As a comedian my first goal is to be funny and get a laugh. Underneath that I also have a bigger goal of showing Iranians in a fun and positive light. I think we have been depicted negatively in the western media over the past 40 years and comedy can do a good job of changing that.
In preparation, we tried to focus on a few themes, especially that her parents typify “traumatized perfectionism.” From that fulcrum was to spin off (funny) references: beheadings, Jimmy Carter and the hostages, her nitpicking mother trash talking about her ideal doctor boyfriend, and the high maintenance Persian Princess who in bed is the antithesis of the submissive Asian girl.
In our practice runs in the parking lot, I thought Shadi was more over the top, punchier, and playing to the hilt her persona of Persian Sash.
But Shadi got good applause when she played her mother calling 10 minutes before the show (which was true). In Farsi again, Mom warning Shadi not to say anything bad about the family after all they had done. Then Shadi telling us: Sorry, Mom, I am here on stage at the Boulder Cafe in Rochester, New York basically calling you a terrorist.
But Shadi did end that segment with an I Love You Mom.
And the crowd liked it when she told an imaginary lover it was he who would be told to bend over. MC Malcolm Whitfield noted that too was his favorite bit.
All in all, Shadi gets a Talker gold star for her hutzpah as amateur getting on stage with seasoned pros. Hands down, she outdid me in Talk to me baby. Staff takes the Lip Sync Challenge to support AutismUp
Pumped up at her debut, Shadi hopes to further explore and hone This Iranian-American Life.
UPDATE: Shadi recently returned from three weeks of training in California for her new Assistant Principal job. There — apparently — Shadi’s career continued its meteoric ascent.
While training in Burbank, I adventured to Flapper’s Comedy Club to do open mic and accidentally walked on stage for an audition instead. I was then invited back and offered a booking contract to return July 30th and do a 3 minute set before headliner, Bobbie Oliver. I can’t make it but I wish I could.I am currently working on my second comedy sketch. The BIG DREAM is to be asked to open for Iranian comedian Maz Jobrani. I love the way he bridges love and understanding of the most misunderstood, the Middle Eastern community, through laughter. If you’re reading this, call me Maz!
- Molla Nasreddin was an Azerbaijani satirical periodical published from 1906 – 1932 named after Nasreddin, the legendary Sufi wise man-cum-fool of the Middle Ages. In this example — based on a dubious premise that a sheik would have trouble marrying off his beautiful daughter — rulers are shown to be dumber than peasants and entirely self serving:
A sheikh, a Muslim ruler, Molla Nasreddin has a beautiful daughter who should make a desirable wife. But no man will khasegari (the coming of a suitor to meet the potential bride).
Molla also has an olagh (donkey in Persian) used to plow the fields. As the olagh gets very old, Molla decides to sell him at the bazaar to buy a younger olagh. At the bazaar, Molla cannot find a buyer. Another merchant gives Molla an insider tip. To sell his olagh, Molla should say it’s pregnant. The people will respect his word because Molla is a sheikh. Using the ploy, Molla suddenly gets several high bids.
Arriving home, his wife greets Molla with great news: a new khasegar, (suitor), plans to visit their daughter. Mindful of his ploy at the market, Molla advices his wife to tell the suitor their daughter is pregnant!
When the suitor arrives, Molla is gone. His wife entertains the khaseghar with tea and sweets, describing the daughter’s many talents: how well she knows Quran, how well she cooks, sews and cares for children. To ensure the deal doesn’t fall apart like in the past, the wife exclaims: “And above all my daughter is pregnant!”
In shock, the khasegar and his family drop their tea cups and flee. Sure to let the whole town know the daughter is pregnant out of wedlock and should be hung! Upon his return and hearing the news, Molla Nasreddin only worries about his own reputation, running to the city to stop the rumor from spreading.
ALSO ON AND BY SHADI