SmSh: Did you start doing stand up in Shanghai? Was it intimidating to get started in a mostly male dominated space?
Reyhaneh: Yes. I started doing stand up in Shanghai. Actually the woman-factor didn't even occur to me at the start, until friends and other comics kept mentioning it. I don't think it's intimidating as much as it is exhausting. I mean, I want to do comedy but I'd rather not hear about dicks all the time.
SmSh: Growing up in New Jersey, being Persian was cool and exotic…until it wasn’t. I was called a terrorist (in a not-cool-joking way) through college, did you have any similar experiences growing up in California?
Reyhaneh: Definitely. Life post 9/11 was very different. My sister and I would walk down the street and hear people yelling "Go back to your country, you terrorist!" as they drove by. We used to play soccer with my dad every weekend at the park, but we stopped because we got harassed a few times and it felt unsafe. I wore a hijab for most of my life so I was a pretty frequent target. In college, I worked in a coffee shop and had customers who kept threatening to report me to the FBI. It's ok, I spit in their coffee.
SmSh: How do you think these experiences have (and your identity as an Iranian American in general) informed your comedy?
Reyhaneh: One thing I love about comedy is that it's an incredible platform to channel your experiences. If you can make people laugh about it, then you make them think about it. I love sharing stories and experiences through standup because it keeps it lighthearted. The tricky thing is, when you mention your background, often times it's all people want to hear about.
SmSh: Okay just one last one then...do you have any favorite Iranian comics people should look up?
Reyhaneh: Well I love Maz Jobrani who doesn't!?. If you don't know him you have to check him out. He's an Iranian-American comedian based in Los Angeles. There's also this Iranian comic in the UK named Shappi Khorsandi. She's really cool and also struggles with her last name.
SmSh: It’s your last show in Shanghai at Comedy UN on Saturday!! What can people look forward to?
Reyhaneh: This Saturday at Comedy U.N., some of my favorite comics in the scene will be on the show with me. In total we will have 6 comics from 6 different countries on the show so you can definitely look forward to that! Our Saturday shows at Comedy U.N. draw a really diverse crowd and it's fun to see all these people emerge from their micro-communities and enjoy some comedy. That's something I will really miss about Shanghai!
Reyhaneh's final performance will be at Comedy UN on Saturday starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are 50rmb presale, and 70rmb at the door, Wechat: ComedyUN for yours. There'll also be beer and wine for purchase at the show for 30rmb.
Learn more about Comedy UN in this article here.