Maz Jobrani’s parents didn’t want him to be an actor or a comedian. Jobrani grew up idolizing Eddie Murphy and acting in school plays, but his parents wanted him to take a more traditional path as a lawyer or a doctor. Maz ended up following his own path and the decision paid off. 19 years after his first play, Jobrani is a touring stand-up comedian and one of the stars of the CBS sitcom “Superior Donuts.”
Jobrani chatted with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his career, why “Superior Donuts” is different from other sitcoms he’s worked on and performing at the White House in 2016.
DJ Sixsmith: How did you get your start in comedy and acting?
Maz Jobrani: I got my start 19 years ago. At the age of 12, I first started doing plays in school and I was a big fan of Eddie Murphy back when I was a kid. I wanted to be like Eddie Murphy, but then my parents, who are immigrant parents, wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor. They wanted me to be more like Doogie Howser. Along the way we battled it out and it wasn’t until my mid 20’s when I realized I got to live for myself and not my parents. That’s when I was working as an assistant in an advertising agency. I enrolled back in stand-up classes and comedy classes and that was 19 years ago.
DS: You’ve been on a ton of TV shows. What makes “Superior Donuts” different from the rest?
MJ: “Superior Donuts” is a lot of fun. I’ve been on a few sitcoms, I was on three others that basically got cancelled. “Superior Donuts” is the first time I’ve been on a sitcom that got to season two and hopefully we’ll get into season three. It’s been a fun gig. It’s been the closest thing I’ve had to a full time job. I usually am touring with my stand up, but this actually keeps me home. I have young kids and it’s nice to be able to be home and have a consistent job. We have no divas on set. It’s a group of really nice people. That’s been nice and they have the craft services to feed you all the time. It’s been pretty amazing.
DS: What can viewers expect on tonight’s episode Father, Son and Holy Goats?
MJ: Tonight is an episode that is heavy on my character. My character’s name is Fawz. He’s an Iraqi immigrant, who’s a business man and owns buildings in Chicago. He’s always wanted to buy the donut shop and turn it into a Jamba Juice or something. In tonight’s episode we meet my son, who I try to get a job for at the donut shop. It’s interesting because I just told you about my parents wanting me to be a lawyer or a doctor, it’s a similar story. In this case, I’m the parent and I want my kid to be a businessman, but he has his own dreams. It’s like I get to play my Dad tonight.
DS: What do your parents think now about your career after their initial doubts?
MJ: They are excited. My father actually passed away in 2009, but my mother has always been very excited. I tell young people that if you have a passion just pursue it. I don’t think parents push their kids in different directions because they have any kind of ill will, it’s because they’re just worried about their kids. They want their kids to have jobs that are secure. Being an actor and comedian is just not that. However, if you do what you love and eventually they see that you’re happy, then they come around. That’s happened with my mom and she is obviously very supportive. I’m not even sure if my father quite understood what I was doing. The concept of me being on TV and getting paid for it was foreign to him.
DS: One of your career highlights is performing at the White House in 2016. What was the most memorable part of that experience?
MJ: That was definitely a highlight of my career and my life. The Obama’s were celebrating the Persian New Year at the White House. One thing they did that I thought was really cool was that they opened their doors to all the different communities like the Irani-Americans, Arab-Americans and Greek-Americans. They were doing one for Persian New Year and I was invited to go there and perform for a few minutes. I introduced Michelle Obama, it was amazing and she is so sweet. She came up on stage and said, “Barack and I like to say this is your house, this is the people’s house.” She said go look around and enjoy it, just don’t break anything. It was definitely a highlight of my career.
DS: Finally, what has been the greatest challenge of your career?
MJ: My greatest challenge is an ongoing challenge. Originally, it was not to play villains or terrorists. I don’t mind playing a guy who robs a bank, but not the terrorist thing as an immigrant from the Middle East. It almost felt like early on that a lot of auditions coming through were that. I was able to say no to those. I haven’t had to play those parts. I think my stand-up is also something that definitely helps me be able to say no to some parts. I would say that’s the biggest challenge. I feel like I’m in a good place with this part as this character on this show. He’s not a terrorist, he’s an immigrant and a businessman, so there’s progress.
Watch “Superior Donuts” tonight at 9pm EST/PST on CBS.