Seven episodes into their first season, The Knights of Prosperity have yet to rob Mick Jagger. Fortunately, ABC's ensemble comedy has nabbed more than a few laughs. Maz Jobrani, who plays Gourishankar "Don't call me Gary" Subramaniam on the show, is a big part of that. TVGuide.com spoke with the actor and comic about being "knighted," and his part in Comedy Central's upcoming Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.
TVGuide.com: What exactly is Gary's specialty in the Knights of Prosperity crew?
Maz Jobrani: Well, there are a few things. Obviously, he's the driver of the getaway car. He's the womanizer whenever that comes in handy. He also comes up with ideas that are way out there. He thinks outside of the box. And though his ideas are pretty crazy, Eugene (played by Donal Logue) is able to focus and make them more manageable.
TVGuide.com: You recently finished shooting the first season. What has the experience taught you?
Jobrani: Well, I don't know if there's a "special lesson" like at the end of an episode of Diff'rent Strokes, but it's been a great experience. The thing with Knights is that when I first read the pilot, I was laughing out loud, and as an actor, you're dying for scripts like that. But if I learned a lesson, it would be to pace yourself. It was the first time I was a series regular on a single-camera show, so the hours were really hard. Monday mornings were the worst, but it would get better as the week went on. I learned when to nap and how to adjust.... That, I guess, was the lesson learned.
TVGuide.com: Heartwarming. So what do you think Gary will do with the money if the knights eventually succeed in robbing Mick Jagger?
Jobrani: Gary's heroes are people like Donald Trump and P. Diddy, so I think he'd like to have a yacht with a bunch of women in bikinis running around. Maybe he'd get some bling. He'd probably send a little bling back to his family in India to prove to them that he made it.
TVGuide.com: You're playing an Indian guy, but you grew up in Iran, right?
Jobrani: I was born in Iran, and I was there until I was 6 years old. My family left around the time of the revolution, and then I grew up in the Bay Area in Marin County. I went back to Iran about eight or nine years ago and it was really great. I got to see a lot of family. When I walked in to my aunt's house and smelled the cooking, it brought me right back to when I was a little kid.
TVGuide.com: Do you think Americans have a misperception of Iran?
Jobrani: Sure. I think people only see stuff on the news like anti-American protests. Diane Sawyer did this thing called "The Other Side of Iran." I love the fact that she did that, but I've got to laugh a little bit, because I'm like, "The other side of Iran is Iran." Sure, the government censors and has extreme views, but the people all don't fit that profile.
TVGuide.com: Has getting across that message been a motivating factor behind the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour [premiering March 10 at 11 pm/ET]?
Jobrani: Definitely. In Iran, politicians call America, "The Great Satan." Over here in America, they call Iran part of "The Axis of Evil." But if you talk to a regular American or a regular Iranian, the majority of people don't have a problem with each other. Iranians grew up on Steve McQueen and Rocky. They love American culture, but unfortunately I don't think people realize that.
TVGuide.com: Where did the idea for the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour come from?
Jobrani: It started out as something called "The Arabian Knights." In 2000, Mitzy Shore, the owner of the Comedy Store had me as a regular. She'd do these specialty shows like "Latino Night" or "The Women of the Comedy Store" or something like that. She was watching the news and paying attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. She's Jewish, but she said, "I think there's a need for more Middle East voices out there." So she found Ahmed Ahmed and Aron Kader and other people from that part of the world and we did "Arabian Knights" nights. Eventually, Ahmed and Aron and I took it out on the road. It's funny though, because Iranians are not Arabs. So we changed the name to the Bush administration's phrase, "Axis of Evil," which was used to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea, because it was a good way to diffuse that stupid label.
TVGuide.com: On your website, you mention how excited you were with the crowds that came out to see the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour and that you felt "a real movement for peace"....
Jobrani: I honestly feel like the norm is to deal with every problem and difference with a bomb. I hope that in a small way when people come out to our shows, we can counter that paradigm. Muhammad Ali said, "I have no problem with the yellow man," when he was a conscientious objector to Vietnam. In our case, we want people to come out and see that they should have no problem with the Middle Eastern guy. I've seen it happen. When people come to our shows, you have Jews and Muslims and Christians sitting next to each other and laughing. That's the greatest thing to see.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.