Sunday, 13 December 2009

Moronic search terms

The Ruh of Brown Folks has a great blog post about some of the moronic searches and searches and keywords that have brought people to their blog.
The problem/beauty of the internet is that any idiotic, moronic question that should never been asked out loud, can easily be typed into a search engine. And something... something... will inevitably show up.
Here are some of the keyword searches bringing people to this blog (and may they bring many more!)...
  • Who is K-Von dating?
  • utube iran comedy - The right place, but very lazy!
  • translate juan to farsi script
  • saudi babes youtube - Good luck
  • nono are you stay
  • lentil kibbeh
  • islamic religion shi'ite jokes
  • is patrick monahan of  puerto rican descent - No
  • bald iranian comedian - Omid Djalili

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Help Michael J. Totten write his book

Maybe you've read Michael J. Totten's blog? Now you can help support him as he writes a book.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Two blogs I've been reading


Group blog about the Middle East and Islam. There's a great blog post about the long-running role of women in Iranian political activism.

Brian's Coffeehouse

An interesting blog that has been dealing with Iran. Bookish in places it also contains this great quote about the election unrest in Iran:

[A comment by Rafsanjani] also contributes to a weakening of the aura surrounding the office of the Supreme Leader, and sends a strong signal that the Green Wave is not over, even if it's path to victory is not yet apparent.

The quote is probably even more relevant re-reading it months after the election. Change is still coming to Iran.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Iran tech support

I am constantly surprised by the technical skill levels of ordinary Iranians. Necessity is the mother of innovation, as they say, but it's always reassuring to find that people want to get online and bypass government filtering.

The Haystack network is a new way for Iranians to enjoy their online activities unhindered. It's the kind of things your friends in Iran can make use of.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Tehran: Another side

Here's the trailer for documentary that aims to show another side of Tehran. This is not the Friday prayers crowd, but young people trying find their way in the world.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Life as a Basiji

Around election time in Iran lots was made of the life, values and motivations of basij members. Some were recent additions to the force who, despite their actions, were unprepared for what unfolded. Others were happy to crack a few skulls:

"The revolution and Islam need me. I will give my life in a heartbeat if the regime asks me," Mr. Moradani said in an interview earlier this year at a shop in central Tehran, where he sells Islamic and revolutionary paraphernalia, including key chains, T-shirts and CDs. "Our society is now at the verge of sin and filled with antirevolutionary people."

The founder of Ansar-e Hezbollah weighed in with his views too.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Tehran - the boring and the mundane in photos

Mightier Than has two galleries of everyday photos from Tehran. They include the boring and the mundane, the usual and the occasional - sights from around a city of more than 7 million people.

Iran was already a misunderstood place before this election captured the world’s attention, and as much as the world has now learned about Iran from witnessing these past few weeks, the experience might still lead to an even greater misunderstanding unless we take the time to look deeper. Lost behind the chants of inspiring crowds, the images of bloodied faces, or the grainy chaotic videos, is an Iran much of the world has likely never made the effort to notice.

Highlights include:

  • a night-time view of Melli tower
  • an aerial view of housing
  • fast food restaurants
  • a bowling alley
  • an ATM
  • snow on a car
  • people on the Metro

A great selection of photos that show there is more to Iran than conflict, demonstrations and protests.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Choga Zanbil - ziggaurat in Iran

Chogha Zanbil (چُغازَنبیل) is an ancient Elamite ziggaurat complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran. I stumbled across this great set of photographs of the fascinating site on Flickr.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Iranians are the world's worst drivers

Iran has the highest mortality rate due to road traffic in the world. As a pedestrian, passenger or driver you are more likely to die if you're involved in a road traffic accident in Iran than anywhere else.

The map below shows Iran being 10 points higher than Iraq and Angola, almost 30 points higher than Niger and almost 60 points higher than the USA.

Chart showing: Mortality caused by Road Traffic Injury by Country

This high mortality rate could be caused by a range of factors:

Some of those are probably contributing factors. But the main cause has to be Iran's driving culture and Iranians' bad driving. Driving in Iran is marked by a selfishness that is rarely seen publicly elsewhere in Iranian culture. Not everyone is a technically bad driver, but even good drivers in Iran have bad habits and are forced into dangerous manouveres by the actions of other road users.

With the evidence above and personal experience, I will say it clearly: Iran has the world's worst drivers. They kill themselves, their families, their friends, their colleagues and they kill pedestrians and other drivers.

Iranians crash into each other and just carry on driving. They don't bother exchanging numbers or getting witness contact information. Nobody gives way to let user drivers into the flow of traffic, so they have to squeeze their cars into tiny gaps. They don't wear seatbelts. They have no lane discipline so on a 3 lane expressway you find cars drifting all over the road. On Vali Asr Avenue in Tehran you find cars five-abreast on a three-lane road as everyone pushes forward an inch at a time, constantly changing lanes and surging forward three metres only to brake sharply behind the car in front or career into the back of them.

Things Iranians can do to reduce their number of road deaths

As many Iranians don't know what it is like to drive in another country, here are some steps Iran could take to reduce the number of road deaths.

  1. WEAR SEATBELTS - This is essential as Iranians refuse to wear them. It should be illegal to drive without wearing one. Taxi drivers are supposed to wear them, but they only pull them across their chests when they see traffic police. All Iranians should encourage their families, friends, colleagues, etc. to wear them. "We only drive slowly" is not an valid excuse.
  2. Stop motorbikes driving down streets the wrong way, on pavements and through the bazaars, stop them weaving through traffic in front of cars.
  3. If you miss the exit on an expressway, do not reverse back along the road (sometimes for 2 or 3kms!) carry on and take the next exit. Do not overtake other cars whilst reversing.
  4. Lane discipline - stay in your lane, don't just drift around the road. Don't keep switching lanes. Don't have more cars across the roads than there are lanes.
  5. Don't drive the wrong way up a one-way street.
  6. Stop talking on mobile phones or sending text messages whilst driving and riding motorcycles.
  7. All motorcyclists should wear helmets. Fleece headbands do not provide sufficient protection.

All simple steps that can help improve Iran's driving culture and, most importantly, save lives on the road.

Photo: Philipp C Jahn on Flickr.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Interview with K-Von from Persianesque Magazine

There's a short interview with Iranian-American comedian K-Von in Persianesque Magazine:
The often-monikered “Bad boy” of Persian comedians, K-von whose name means: “Saturn”, in Persian, is by far one of the smartest and funniest Iranian comedians coming out of the West Coast. While he did grow up in Las Vegas, we assure you, you will not sense even an inkling of teardrop-drought while enjoying his side-splitting and constantly overflowing fountain of stand-up.
However, being able to send you into a roller-coaster of laughter via his hilarious comedy sets is not the witty Persian comedian’s only talent. Kayvon Moezzi (his real full name) is half Scottish, but he can also cook and teach you how to make ”Zereshk-polo with Joojeh Kabob” - thanks to his ammeh (aunt: dad’s sister) – on a budget.
Real, good-looking, fresh, and hilarious are just a few words that come to one’s mind when watching K-von’s authentic and unquestionably rare comedic style...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

"No, no, you must stay." - 30 years on

The NIAC blog has a link to a video which includes a great exchange between US Ambassador Limbert (at the time a hostage in the US embassy in Tehran) and Ayatollah Khamenei. Here's the money quote:
For non-Farsi speakers, the exchange between Limbert and Khamenei here is incredibly interesting. To paraphrase: Limbert politely welcomed Khamenei, who was being treated as a guest since he was visiting the hostages at their “residence” where they were being held. Limbert remarked about the Iranian cultural quirk known as “taarof,” which characterizes the uniquely Iranian version of hospitality, saying: Iranians are too hospitable to guests in their country, when we insist that we must be going, you all tell us “no, no, you must stay.”

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tehran Bureau website moved and relaunched

Tehran Bureau has been a unique and interesting source of news and information from Iran. During the election unrest it carried a lot of insightful coverage from within Iran, much of it translated from Persian. The website has been relaunched with the backing of PBS Frontline in the States.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Iranian comedians - helping you find the right one

From time to time I go through the referrer statistics to find out what people coming to this blog from search engines are looking for. Many people have landed here following searches for Iranian comedians. That's good because this blog has the ultimate list of Iranian comedians.

Looking for 'Persian comedians in Los Angeles'? You'll be wanting Peter 'The Persian' Shahriari.

'Iranian comedian who does accents'? - that's probably Omid Djalili. He does some great accents ranging from his normal London 'geezer' and his wife's most refined English, Nigerian English (particularly a Nigerian parking attendant), Turkish, Indian, through to his career-defining high-pitched Arabic accent. Maz Jobrani, Ali Salimi, Elham Jazab all do accents too.

'British Iranian standup commedienne' (or 'shappi khorsandi hot', I'm sure she'd be happy to know that's what you think), 'comedy Iranian women UK' would all be looking for Shappi Khorsandi. Here's a snippet of Shappi Khorsandi on BBC Persian.

'Tissa Hami on YouTube'? You'd actually do better to search on YouTube, but this is the Internet, so I've done it for you! You want this, this and this.

'Best comediennes list' - might feature Shappi Khorsandi, Tissa Hami, Sheila Vossough, Mona Mahani, Elham Jazab, Negin Farsad who are all 'Iranian standup female comediennes'.

'Iranian comedian at the Laugh Factory'? I thought that was Kinner Shah, but I think I was wrong about that.

'Gay Iranian comedian'? Ali Mafi.

'Iranian comedians in the UK' - Patrick Monahan, Jody Kamali, Omid Djalili, Shappi Khorsandi and her brother Payvand Khorsandi. Matthew Nouriel has a British accent and links too. So add him to that list.

'Iranian comedian on Comedy Central'? Probably Maz Jobrani.

Looking for an 'Jewish Iranian comedian' or 'Iranian Jewish comedian'? That could be Dan Ahdoot, Marvin Karrazi or Matt Kazam.

'Middle Eastern 3 comedians'? Probably the Axis of Evil comedy tour with Ahmed Ahmed, Aron Kader and Maz Jobrani. Other comedy tours in a similar vein include Allah Made Me Funny (with Preacher Moss), Negin Farsad's Bootleg Islam, Co-exist? featuring Tissa Hami.

'List of Arabic comedians'? Not yet.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Real-time Google Translate for Twitter

Following on from my previous post about how to use a Greasemonkey script in Firefox to auto-translate Persian tweets in Twitter here's another way to get Persian tweets into English. The Google System blog has a good overview of how to do this but you're here, and this can be a little clearer.

Go to Google Translate and copy the following string of text (it's searching for tweets with #iranelection in Persian) into the search box...

Twitter's front-end interface doesn't give you the option of searching only Persian/Farsi tweets, but the search does seem to support it by adding lang=fa to the query string.

Sadly the AJAX updater won't tell you if new tweets have come in since you've been looking at the page, but you can just refresh your browser and it should pull out any new ones.

And you can get a Google Translate button for your web browser here. Once you've got the button, just click it whenever you have Persian text on a page and it'll translate it for you.

Translate Persian Twitter messages with Google Translate... automatically!

UPDATE: Cyrus Farivar has refined this quick tutorial. Having trouble with this? Follow his instructions on How to use Google Translate to translate Twitter messages from Persian.

Twitter is being used to provide real-time updates about what's happening in Iran. Following the exciting news about Google Translate now supporting Persian it's now possible to automatically translate Persian tweets into English (or any other Google Translate supported language).

Quick overview

To be able to automatically translate Persian Twitter messages, you will need...

  • The latest version of the Firefox web browser
  • Greasemonkey plugin (a Firefox plugin that allows you to customise web-pages with little bits of Javascript)
  • Google Translate user script for Twitter messages (add Google Translate button to your Twitter page)
  • Make some minor tweaks to the user script (because Twitter switched to HTTPS and the script was written before Google Translate supported Persian)
Step by step guide

1. Download and install the latest version of Firefox. Skip this step if you already run Firefox.

2. Install the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox (you may need to restart Firefox after this step). Visit the page and click Add to Firefox...

3. Install the Google Translate user script. Visit the page and click Install...

4. Update the user script. It was written before Google Translate supported Persian and before Twitter ran on HTTPS. Do this via the form that appears when you install the script, or select Tools > Greasemonkey > Manager User Scripts. Or right-click the little monkey-face icon in the bottom-right corner of Firefox and choose Manage User Scripts.

5. Add in support for HTTPS by selecting Google Translate and then add in* and https://** to the list of Include Pages...

6. Edit the user script by clicking Edit in the bottom-left corner on the bottom right (above). Or you can edit google_translate.user.js. Add a new line at line 88 with fa: 'Persian',

7. Save your changes to your script and close the Manage User Scripts box

8. Check Greasemonkey is switched on (you may need to restart Firefox first) by going to Tools > Greasemonkey > Enabled...

9. Go to your Twitter page and login.

10. Find a tweet in Persian from one of your (new?) Iranian friends. Hover your cursor over the tweet and you'll see the favourite and reply icons appear, along with a new friend a lowercase 't'.

11. Click on the 't' icon and your friend's tweet is automatically translated from Persian into English!


If you don't speak English or want to translate into another language, you can set another language as the default.

This script doesn't just work for Persian/Farsi, it works for all Google Translate supported languages. And it auto-detects them. So, you can add new friends from around the world to your Twitter friends list!

Google Translate's Persian very far from perfect. Bear that in mind when you're using this script!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Google Translate, Facebook and iPhone now support Persian/Farsi

Google Translate adds Persian

I started writing a blog post just before voting began in the Iranian presidential election about the lack of a Persian option in Google Translate. With so much content on the web in Persian, it would have been great to be able to do a quick and rough machine translation into English.

Searching Google brought up no news about any new languages coming up in Google Translate. There are questions on mailing lists asking if it was going to happen, but those asking were always redirected to this FAQ saying large volumes of bi-lingual texts were needed.

But now Google Translate supports Persian (even though it's a very rough alpha version):

We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran. Like YouTube and other services, Google Translate is one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world, and vice versa — increasing everyone's access to information.

Being a machine translation, it's not perfect. It will certainly lose some of the flavour of Persian, the flourishes and idioms (which always lose something in translation), but it's a start. Cyrus Farivar has more on the accuracy, but seems glad it's finally here (as am I!). You can use Google Translate to translate BBC Persian into English, translate Persian tweets into English and now, the entire Persian blogosphere!

YouTube relaxes rules to help Iranians

Google also relaxed its rules on classifying videos on YouTube after graphic videos of violent attacks by Basij members on demonstrators were removed. Google lived up to its "don't be evil" motto (especially after the hurdles Iranians had to clear in order to upload their videos in the first place).

Facebook launches a Persian interface

hanks to the work of 400 Persian-speaking volunteers Facebook now has a Persian interface that automatically detect browser language and displays accordingly. The company says...

Since the Iranian election last week, people around the world have increasingly been sharing news and information on Facebook about the results and its aftermath. Much of the content created and shared has been in Persian—the native language of Iran — but people have had to navigate the site in English or other languages.

Great news and a triumph of collaborative working from those involved.

iPhone 3.0 supports Persian

People in Iran were some of the first to get jailbroken iPhones. With the highly anticipated version 3.0 of the iPhone OS, they've now got a legit Persian interface!

Pic taken from Cyrus Farivar's blog

Twitter switches to HTTPS for added security

Twitter switched over to HTTPS to ensure extra security for its web-based users. It could just be a coincidence, but I suspect its also a response to the popularity of the #iranelection hashtag and coverage the service has been getting. I'll be uploading a user guide to getting Google Translate and Twitter to work together.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Iranian presidential elections - from the blogs

Tomorrow sees the culmination of Iran's presidential campaigns. Millions of Iranians will go to their polling stations and vote. Millions won't. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the diaspora will vote too.

The BBC does have a review of a documentary about Iranian teens and their lives, Mousavi and women's rights, a background to the election, questions about Ahmadinejad and how much support he still has, on the campaign trail (although it describes Ahmadinejad's supporters as salt-of-the-earth types and Mousavi's as internet nerds), the economy and rural communities versus debauched urbanites. New York Times has a video about the election. POMED is doing a good job keeping track of the election news in the Western press (more, more and more).

The opinion from a lot of Iranian English-language blogs has been there people should vote...

If even for one day, for one hour, for one minute over the past four years you have worried about a possible attack on Iran, if you have felt shame about things that have happened in Iran, about the way Iran has been represented to the world, or for words that were said by someone else but whose weight you have carried, consider participating in the elections and showing that you care. (source: From Berkley)

For many, this election is more than a renewal of allegiance. It's something with a real, tangible outcome. Maybe not the end of the Islamic Republic, but certainly an opportunity for a shift in power. And that's why the different factions are competing so fiercely and will stop at nothing to win.

Tehran has painted itself green. Mousavi voters are showing their support. And the support for Ahmadinejad from the trendy young people who've suffered so much (for fashion) under his presidency, boggles the mind.

Mousavi and Karroubi are not the ideal reformist candidates. They may have been able to pass the Guardian Council, but both have history.

Mousavi's political transformation from the President at the time of the 1988 massacres of political prisoners to becoming the hope and aspirations for a more open society is impressive. Azarmehr reminds us who Mousavi's (current) supporters were back then. Even giving Mousavi the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was weak, isolated, unable to interfere... he's still surrounded himself in his campaign with some disreputable thugs.

Blogs seem to be doing a better job than larger media outlets to give some insight into what's happening in Iran and also Iranian opinions on the election.

The daily news updates on the Iranian election campaigns from Iran Tracker have been really useful, especially for giving a flavour to the press coverage inside Iran.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Swedish-Iranian stand-up comedians

It seems that stand-up comedy is popular in Sweden too. With several Swedish-Iranian stand-up comedians. And, even in Swedish, you can tell what the first joke is...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Maz Jobrani explains ta'arof

Looking for a good, quick introduction to the Iranian concept of ta'arof? Starting at 8:10, Maz Jobrani explains ta'arof...

The ultimate list of Iranian stand-up comedians and comics

This list probably isn't definitive, but hopefully it's a start. Following the series of blog posts, for all Wikipedia contributors, lazy newspaper journalists, other bloggers and comedy fans, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... the ultimate list of Iranian stand-up comedians.

This list of 28 comedians, stand-ups, jokers and comics, male and female, is almost entirely people in the Iranian diaspora and includes people who are half Iranian, have maybe never set foot in Iran and maybe don't know a single word of Persian. So some of them are only vaguely Iranian. And some may have only ever done one stand-up gig, but thankfully someone posted it to YouTube. Some have had their own TV shows, other merely bit parts. Some have crossed the globe and others merely become famous in their city's Iranian community.

Disclaimer: If you know of other Iranian or Persian stand-up comedians or other good videos of Iranians doing stand-up comedy then add them to the comments. Most of this information was found using Google and YouTube.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Photos from the Iranian presidential election campaign trail

From The Los Angeles Times

Mousavi and wife

Plus a gallery of photos from the National Geographic looking at Iran's historical sites.

Response on the streets of Tehran after the Mousavi/Ahmadinejad debate

The response on the streets of Tehran after the Mousavi/Ahmadinejad televised debate. A typical Tehran scene... A traffic jam.

More traffic jams...

Full presidential debate timetable

Air time: 1800-1930 GMT on IRTV3

  • 2 June: Karoubi-Rezai
  • 3 June: Ahmadinejad-Mousavi
  • 4 June: Mousavi-Rezai
  • 6 June: Ahmadinejad-Karoubi
  • 7 June: Karoubi-Mousavi
  • 8 June: Ahmadinejad-Rezai

Source: ISNA news agency.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The continuing problem of Guantanamo Bay

The US prison facility at Guatanamo Bay continues to be a thorny problem. Almost two thirds of Americans surveyed recently opposed closing the prison there. That's despite allegations of torture, the facility continuing to provide fuel for jihadi nutcases and suicide bombers and Barak Obama's promise to close the facility.

Those being detained at Guantanamo Bay are not going to be charged with any crime. For many, there's no evidence other than hearsay reports. Others have been tortured and their trials would reveal just to what extent. There's also the small problem that some of those detained and subsequently release have gone on to become involved in terrorism.

People detained for five years, tortured, never charged let alone convicted of a crime, held in solitary confinement, subjected to routine humiliation, unable to see their families, etc. may go home, get a job, keep a low profile. Or they may write a book about what they've been through. Or they may find they actually have a reason to be pissed off with the United States military and a government that allowed (or, if you like, encouraged) it all to happen.

Guantanamo will cease to be a problem for the US when it's closed. If they've not got enough evidence to charge the people there, they should let them go. And expect law suits to follow.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Iranian comedian - Ebrahim Nabavi

Ebrahim Nabavi is an Iranian satirist and researcher. Not really much of a stand-up, but interesting nonetheless.

Short clip in Persian

Short clip in Persian 2

Monday, 1 June 2009

Iran elections news and blog roundup

The upcoming presidential elections in Iran are getting lots of media attention. Add in several terrorist attacks inside Iran, the current US-Israel deadlock and attempts by Barack Obama's administration to take a more productive track with Iran, and the stakes are probably higher than they have been for an Iranian elections any time in the last twenty years.

The Economist takes a look at the campaign and expects the return of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due in part to his support from outside Tehran. Much has been made of his bribes of potatoes for the poor, but I doubt the poor Iranian electorate will forgive a crumbling economy for a few days of food. Ahmadinejad can make better use of the terrorist attacks, defiance in the face of international pressure and his own conservative politics to rally his base. However, a high turnout, particularly from Tehran, could unseat Ahmadinejad. As could a strong showing from Iran's ethnic and religious minorities.

Everyone in Iranian politics is trying to spin current events to their advantage. All candidates have been working hard to convince the different powerful factions that they will not destabilise the Islamic Republic or disrupt the current arrangement.

Mehdi Karrubi has made it clear that despite being one of the left-wing revolutionaries, he's no threat to established power bases in the way that Khatami's 1997 campaign threatened to be.

Mohsen Rezai, making least use of technology, and with the lowest chance of winning the election, has been vocal about cleaning up corruption, criticising reconciliation with the West but making a public stand on discrimination against minorities. (Khatami did himself no favour being caught making jokes about Azeris.)

Photos of some of the children Mr. Mostafaie has defended. (Newsha Tavakolian/Polaris for The Wall Street Journal).

The Wall Street Journal's daily collection of news photos has included a photo essay about human rights, health and education in Iran, along with an article on child executions and how different presidential candidates have reacted and how those responses have been used by supporters of rival candidates.

Bloggers have been promoting their candidates using different campaign colours. As have people on the streets (more).

Mousavi, who has been criticised for being too ordinary and who has Khatami's backing has been using the internet wisely and getting backing from many bloggers. Much has been made of Facebook getting blocked for a few days and SMS text messaging being used as a campaign tool.

Probably for the first time since the founding of the Islamic Republic, presidential candidates' wives have been under scrutiny. Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, has been praised as has the couple's hand holding in public. Pedestrian looks at touching and it's place in Iranian politics and the upcoming election. And Mousavi is apparently a secret Mossadeghist.

The Tehran Bureau blog has a great series five posts looking at different aspects of the upcoming election:

As the campaigns come to a head, different parts of the Iranian state and it's the support bases of the different candidates have clashes. The Iran Expediency Council issued a statement criticising Ahmadinejad's comments about the country's nuclear negotiations with the West.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp have been warned not to get involved in the election and the Basij (who have previously campaigned for Ahmadinejad) have also been warned.

A mosque in Zahedan was bombed and three men have already been hanged for the attack. One of Ahmadinejad's campaign headquarters has been attacked, allegedly by Jundallah (a Sunni insurgent group). The attacks have variously been blamed on Israel, the United States, Pakistani intelligence services, Jundallah and Iran's own security forces trying to rally support for hardline conservatives.

Tony Karon talks about how Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to derail Barack Obama's plans to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East. He also looks at what Netanyahu's faction in Israeli politics is willing to do to provoke Iran and why. The bottom line: Bibi and his friends needMahmoud and Mahmoud and his friends need Bibi and his friends.

Iranian comedians - a wordy introduction

This blog has been running a series of posts about Iranian/Persian standup comedians, but has tended to just let their comedy speak for itself. The New Statesman magazine in the UK ran an article on British Iranian comedians featuring Shappi Khorsandi, Omid Djalili, Patrick Monahan and Jody Kamali. It gives an introduction to the four and a bit of background to their comedy. Worth a read!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Robert Baer on Iran and America, their joint futures

Robert Baer is a respected former CIA case officer turned author. In this video below he gives a frank account of Iran's grip on America's future. Recorded in November 2008, the video shows Baer describing Shia significance and Iranian influence in the Middle East, why Iran is a powerful and necessary player in the region and how the USA can and must engage with Iran.

It's a lucid and realistic analysis.

Iranian comedian - Ali Mafi

Openly gay, Muslim and very funny, Ali Mafi was keeping a blog/vlog of his stand-up performances, but it hasn't been updated since the middle of last year. YouTube has some more recent performances...

Performing at SF Comedy College

SF Comedy College (part 2)

Friday, 29 May 2009

Iranian comedian - K-von

K-Von has an Iranian Muslim father and Scottish-American Presbyterian mother and he's toured with Maz Jobrani on the "Brown and Friendly" comedy tour. He holds a weekly show at the Laugh Factory.

K-von's standup material touches on everything from being raised in a Las Vegas based multi-cultural family to some of his more absurd observations regarding the perils of internet dating.  A comic who is prepared to perform in any venue and often works with children in the audience, K-von makes an extra effort to keep his comedy clean with a little edge to it.

K-Von's website list upcoming shows, video clips and more info. He's also a fitness and swimming coach, and K-Von has a blog!

From Comics Without Borders

Talking about his dad

Persian men


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Has there been a change of course in US-Iran relations?

Two years ago two former high-ranking American policy experts argued that the US had secretly been preparing for war with Iran. That war hasn't happened yet and the Obama administration has been publicly, and no doubt privately, trying to construct a way for meaningful dialogue with the US. The hawkish Republican officials are gone, but does their planning remain?

Iranian comedian - Eslam Anthony Shams

Eslam Anthony Shams is an Iranian-American comedian and successful actor. His comedy routine switches between English and Farsi and he's got some harsh words for those Iranians in America who go to his shows and don't enjoy the 40% of it that's in English. Here's an interview with him.


More of Eslam Anthony Shams

Iranian comedian - Peter Shahriari

Better known as Peter the Persian, Peter Shahriari is one of the most established Iranian comedians in America. Born in Tehran, he's been performing around Los Angeles for over 10 years. He's a regular at the Comedy Store there and is no stranger to improv and just getting onstage to do his thing. He studied political science and law at UCLA and as a self-described comediologist he brings a great deal of insight and intelligence to his onstage act. He was also a part of the Sultans of Satire comic relief project. He's also a practicing attorney!

Taking on stereotypes at USC

An interview with Voice of America

In Persian with some English.

More stand-up

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Iranian comedian - Pardis Parker

Pardis Parker has an Iranian father and a Sri Lankan mother, so he makes it onto the list. He's a quick-witted, sharp stand-up comedian, actor and music video director. He's had nationwide exposure on several all-black comedy jams and will be touring his native Canada in 2009.

His stand-up routine focuses less on his ethnic make-up and culture and more on general observation, the problems with fitting into society caused by his unique personality and you can tell by his big smile in the last video that he's just riffing and enjoying himself onstage.

His handicapped friend

His lack of social skills

Pardis Parker onstage

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Iranain comedian - Ali Sadooqi

Ali Sadooqi is a Persian comedian who does stand-up, comedy songs and more. All videos below are in Persian.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Iranian comedian - Matthew Nouriel

Matthew Nouriel was born in London, England to Iranian parents. In his teenage years he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he lives to this day. Matthew has worked in television, film, and theatre, and more recently, been performing stand-up comedy. His Iranian heritage, along with his British sensibilities and American influences result in a unique point of view in life, and ultimately result in very funny comedy. Matthew Nouriel is on MySpace and has his own YouTube channel.

Live at the Comedy Store

Talking about hair, manicure and machismo

Back at the Comedy Store

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Iranian comedian - Yashar Kafi

Yashar Kafi is an Iranian import to the US, speaks Persian as his first language and studied at Oregon University. Yashar Kafi has his own YouTube channel with all his videos. And he's on MySpace. He's a great stand-up comedian who's just starting out and has already become a regular at places like the Comedy Store. His act focuses on stereotypes, perception and the comedy of politics and necessity. He's particularly sharp when it comes to the clash between political ideology and reality, showing how politics can make for great comedy.

Talking about employment and terrorism

More stand-up from Yashar Kafi

Most recent stand-up video

The loneliest cupcake

Yashar Kafi also stars in this very odd short video...

Tehran bazaar, what's changed?

This photo from LIFE magazine's Flickr archive shows that in the last fifty years, something have changed very little. Stepping into the Bazaar-e Bozorg/Grand Bazaar in Tehran today would be like stepping into this photograph. Some of the vendors would have changed and the products, but the hustle and bustle and influence of the bazaaris on Iranian life would still be the same.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Iranian comedienne - Negin Farsad

Negin Farsad is a critically acclaimed director, writer, actor and producer who helped bring MC Frontalot to the world's attention. She's also a stand-up comedienne and . Her successful comedy tour 'Bootleg Islam' was:

... a comedy about a California-raised Iranian-American girl gallivanting around the streets of Tehran, Iran. She travels to this Middle-Eastern hotbed for a cousin’s wedding and discovers how ridiculous oppression can be, how delicious the third world has become and how hard it is to keep a chador on.

Her website is full of info about all her projects, upcoming events, links so you can follow her on Twitter, etc.

On visiting Iran

Talking about her film Nerdcore Rising

On Ahmadinejad's visit to Colombia University

Here's Negin Farsad interviewing lots of people who can't even pronounce Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's name without having to think about it for 2 minutes. Whether or not Ahmadinejad should have been invited to speak at a prestigious American university the people who want to protest against it could have at least had a clue who he was, his politics, etc. You can't just answer the call from a political action committee, go out there, get interview and sound like a dolt.

Appearing in "Don't call me that!"

Negin Farsad has her own channel on YouTube (currently only 2 videos on there), which includes this short documentary about a bakery helping immigrant women in New York.

Karim Sadjadpour on Iran, politics the nuclear issue

Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, is always lucid and insightful. In this 2006 video he looks at:

  • US-Iranian relations
  • the two "ticking bombs" of the nuclear programme in Iran and regime change
  • changes in US policy
  • internal conflicts in Iran
  • why Ahmadinejad provokes Israel and how it benefits from Israel's response
  • the prospects for a richer democracy in Iran

Friday, 22 May 2009

Iranian comedian - Max Amini

Max Amini was one of the "Iranian guys" in the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. He's also had a bit part as a taxi driver in Heroes. His physical, facial stand-up comedy routine is a laugh a minute and his comedy sketches for TV are also great. His website is up to date with all his upcoming performances, video clips and sketches, stand-up clips and more.

There an interview with Max Amini on from last year where he talks about his upbringing, comedy and career.

From the Axis of Evil tour

Just after Obama's election victory

Talking about clubs in LA

On Maryland

Latinos and Persians

Getting attacked by a dog

Clips from the House of Blues

Bad dancing and Riverside, CA

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Iranian comedian - Reza Peyk

How to describe Canadian Iranian stand-up comedian Reza Peyk? Reza Peyk is badass. He's young, hip, edgy, vulgar and incredibly funny. Born in Tehran in 1982 to a former colonel and housewife, his family emigrated to Canada. He's relatively new to the comedy circuit, but he's working hard to get himself established and is constantly pushing boundaries and breaking taboos with his comedy taking his audience out of their world and into his own. He's recently been on tour with Maz Jobrani and will be out promoting his new DVD a lot in the summer.

He's got his own website and a new DVD out. He's also got lots more videos on his site.

Early stand-up video

Recent video

More Reza Peyk

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Trita Parsi videos on Iran, Israel and their conflicting interests

Nobody interested in Iran could be surprised that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked outrage with his comments at the UN anti-racism summit. Nor would they be surprised that most Iranians find such outbursts embarrassing and out of touch with their own views. What's surprising is that Ahmadinejad keeps doing it. A typical response from Israel is Binyamin Netanyahu's:

Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said that while Israel would be commemorating 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, "in Switzerland the guest of honour is a racist and a Holocaust denier who doesn't conceal his intention to wipe Israel off the face of this Earth".

If Trita Parsi is to be believed, both Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad represent the rejectionist, anti-conciliation wings of their own domestic political scenes. Where both countries were once perilously close to reaching an understanding (based on being pariah states in the Middle East and the need for mutual security) they have since moved much farther apart in the past fifteen years.

There are a few reasons why Ahmadinejad continues to provoke Israel:

  • it plays well on the "Arab street"
  • it gives the Iranians credibility in the Middle East to be seen as a staunch opponent of Israel and defender of the Palestinian cause
  • it shows up those Middle Eastern regimes and leaders that ally themselves with Israel
  • it offers a way for the Iranians to disguise their otherness in a homogenous region (being non-Arab and non-Sunni)

Trita Parsi on Iran-Israel relations

In this video Trita Parsi gives an insight into the relationship and vying for power between Iran and Israel. Essentially both countries have conflicting interests in the Middle East, both want a close relationship with the US in order to avoid being shut out of power in the Middle East, but at the moment: Iran is on the outside, Israel is on the inside. He also covers the Israeli relationship with the Kurds and how that gives Iran's genuine enemies of Israel power within the Iranian domestic political scene.

Trita Parsi and Barbara Slavin

In this video Trita Parsi and Barbara Slavin discuss how the Iran-Israel tensions affect the internal political dynamic in Iran (strengthening radicals and weakening moderates), the suppression of civil society in Iran, how the US policy to Iran could be improved and provide an insight into internal politics in Iran.

Ali Khamanei - his politics and influence in Iran

With the Iranian elections coming up very shorly, it's a good time to look at the role of the Supreme Leader and the politics of the man who currently occupies that role. Ali Khamanei, as Supreme Leader, is the most powerful person in Iran. However, he relies on a complex network of patronage and influence, and is himself constrained by other powerful interests. Little of known of his personal politics outside of Iran and Karim Sadjadpour, in this video, outlines some consistent themes from his speeches and actions.

Khameini, a fairly low-ranking cleric, got the job of Supreme Leader over other more qualified choices. Ayatollah Montazeri was often considered Khomeini's successor, but in the end Khameini was chosen. That much everyone knows. But how did Khameini get there and how has he kept his influence? Sadjadpour gives some insight into that.

Update: Mehdi Khalaji looks at Khameini's history and his role in the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

America's obsession with Iran

Seymour Hersh has an interesting article about America's obsession with Iran. The article covers the possible moves towards peace between Syria and Israel but constantly comes back to Iran. Peace between Syria and Israel is, for both the United States and Israel, a way to either break Syria off from Iran (and reduce the influence of a combined Syrian-Iranian support network for Hizbullah and Hamas) or a way to open a dialogue between Iran and the West. The best quote in the article, for comedy value, must be from the Syrian Vice-President in explaining why minority-governed secular Syria could become allied with religious revolutionary Iran:

Farouk al-Shara, the Vice-President of Syria, was, as Foreign Minister, his nation’s chief negotiator at Shepherdstown. When he was asked whether Syria’s relationship with Iran would change if the Golan Heights issue was resolved, he said, “Do you think a man only goes to bed with a woman he deeply loves?” Shara laughed, and added, “That’s my answer to your question about Iran.”