Comic Max Amini on what to expect at his UAE gig, working with Rob Schneider, and joking about his mom

American-Iranian stand-up comedian Max Amini brings Authentically Absurd, a one-hour special directed by the Hollywood actor Rob Schneider, to Ductac.

Max Amini is performing two back-to-back shows at Ductac in Dubai on Friday. Courtesy Ductac
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The Iranian-American stand-up comic Max Amini says he was the worst student in his comedy class at UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. He later proved his instructor wrong by bringing the house down during a five-minute set at the Los Angeles improv comedy club that marked his final class.

In the years since, this 33-year-old has created a comedy niche with blunt observations on culture, race relations and Islamophobia – as well as quick improv hits with audience members.

Amini became friends with the Saturday Night Live alumnus Rob Schneider while appearing on his show Real Rob, which Schneider produced, wrote and directed and has yet to be broadcast in the United States. That's how Schneider came to direct his upcoming one-hour comedy special, Max Amini: Authentically Absurd. Before Authentically Absurd is released, however, Amini will brave the Dubai heat for two back-to-back shows this Friday at Ductac.

You are back with a new set. Tell us what the UAE audience can expect.

The audience in Dubai is amazing. Authentically Absurd is the title of the one-hour special that I taped in LA, which will be released on DVD this year. I'm going to come to Dubai to perform that set, as well as some other new material I have been working on. One of the biggest challenges that a stand-up comedian has is to have fresh content. When we create stuff we like and it resonates with the audience, we get excited.

How was it working with Rob Schneider for this special show?

Rob has a TV show Real Rob ... I'm one of the main characters in the show, so we bonded and became good friends. When the time came to record my special, I was looking for someone who really understands my comedy and would be able to direct in a style that needed to be done. And it worked out great with Rob because he is a stand-up comedian and understands how to capture the essence of another comedian onstage.

Your comedy revolves around your family and culture. What is the appeal for a mixed audience?

My comedy is very universal. Anyone from any walk of life can relate to the topics I bring up. You don’t have to be a specific race to be able to understand my show. Everybody can relate to observational humour on relationships, social issues, daily life and culture. Dubai is such a mixed bag and there will be something for everyone to laugh about in the show.

Do you remember the first set you performed and the reaction it received?

I remember my first set being really good. It gave me the motivation to continue as a stand-up comedian. I worked really hard to create the five minutes of material that I was going to perform at a comedy club and worked for a month to develop it. It gave me the encouragement to continue and the next two or three sets were great as well. Then I had a few bad shows and realised: “OK, this is not as easy.”

Growing up, what aspect of your culture irked you?

It was mostly growing up with an ethnic background in a different country. The cultural difference makes it difficult for kids to balance their traditions at home and what is happening in the society they are growing up in. It becomes hard for them to adjust and they are more ­confused than other kids trying to figure out what the right lifestyle is. They aren’t always ­mature enough to grasp aspects of ­culture that can be very positive. That is the biggest challenge for ethnic families in a foreign country. For comedians, that comparison with what the norm in society is and what the norm in the family is creates a fantastic platform for comedy.

What was your mother’s ­reaction when she first saw you joke about her on stage?

I talk about my family a lot in my sets. A real comedian talks about real experiences. My mum finds it hilarious and she jokes: “I’m not like that. I’m not that bad.” We laugh about it and I say: “Ma, I’m exaggerating – just a little bit.” I remember once she was in the audience with a lot of her friends and just before I had to head onto stage, she ­insisted on meeting me backstage. I ­panicked, thinking something had happened, but she said: “Please do those jokes about me. Don’t forget.” That memory still cracks me up.

If not comedy and acting, what would be your next career choice?

I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Maybe I would be a superhero, take some martial-arts classes and fight crime. I would be the strongest, skinniest superhero fighting crime.

Max Amini will be at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, on Friday for shows at 7pm and 9.30pm, with opening acts Salman Qureshi and Ray Addison, of Dubai Laughing. Tickets, from Dh250, can be booked at www.ductac.org

aahmed@thenational.ae