Comedian Negin Farsad on “How to Make White People Laugh”
“It’s not just a funny title,” said Negin Farsad about her first book. “My whole career has been me trying to figure out how to make white people laugh,” she added, partly because they make up a big chunk of her audience as a stand-up comedian and filmmaker.
In one documentary project, a feature called “The Muslims Are Coming,” Farsad and other Muslim-American comedians performed in front of mostly white audiences. They were a hit, for the most part, unlike the earlier show in which protesters claimed her stand-up routine was a ruse, and she was really trying to convert people to Islam — “as if I knew enough about Islam to convert anyone,” she added. (Another film, “3rd Street Blackout,” a romantic comedy set during the New York City blackout after Hurricane Sandy, comes out on digital platforms in early July.)
As the American-born daughter of Iranian parents, Farsad said, “I always have felt like a little bit of a bridge between my parents and the American world.” Going into comedy instead of, say, medicine or academia isn’t always the easiest path with immigrant parents. Still, she said, “I have the most supportive Iranian parents of any Iranian parents I’ve seen.”
“I do see the ‘you’re a dirty Muslim’ kind of stuff, the hate mail, the mean tweets, the death threats over voice mail,” she said, “but by and large, people just want to have a conversation.”
It helps that she inherited the “Iranian cultural etiquette of aggressive politeness,” she said. “It might have seeped into the way I handle the haters. Sometimes people try to get at me on Twitter,’’ she added, but “I do not let them turn me into an ugly yelling monster.”
Farsad will read from “How to Make White People Laugh” this Friday at 7 p.m. at Harvard Book Store.