The Persian Primer: How to Understand and Properly Make Fun of Iranian-Americans

Who's making fun of Iranians? Nobody. Except for Iranians themselves. Most likely, this shortcoming stems from a lack of familiarity with the endearing quirks of Iranian culture that would lend themselves to proper parody.
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Everywhere I turn these days, Iranians seem to be in the news. Back in the home country, the women are causing tremors through sheer power of thought and implied hotness under the tents they wear. Both the women and men are causing minor tremors in the US, becoming culturally prominent in ways that I can no longer ignore. And it's not just here in Los Angeles - they're everywhere!

Iranian authors are all over the bookstore: Marjane Satrapi with Persepolis; Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran; Roxana Saberi's just released Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran; Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi. Shirin Ebadi took the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Nasim Pedrad is our very own Saturday Night Live cast member. The founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, is Iranian. So is Firouz Naderi, the head of NASA's Mars Exploration; Omid Kordestani, Senior VP at Google; hundreds of super-genius university professors; and about 12 million doctors and dentists, one of which has made you say 'aaah' in the past week.

Unfortunately, there has not been a commensurate rise in Iranian-American jokes. There are jokes about Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Polish-Americans and Italian-Americans. (To be fair, there are also no German-American jokes, but what is there to make fun of? Punctuality? Good hair? Superior engineering? But I digress.) Heck, there are even jokes making fun of Southeast Asian drivers.

But who's making fun of Iranians? Nobody. Except for Iranians themselves, like Maz Jobrani and his riotous US Census videos. Most likely, this shortcoming stems from a lack of familiarity with the endearing quirks of Iranian culture that would lend themselves to proper parody.

Listen up people: we've been here almost thirty years now - figure it out already! To get you started and rectify this gross injustice, here's a cheat sheet of said quirks:

1. Iranians are overeducated.
According to the last US census, Iranian-Americans possess on average 4.7 doctorates for every man, woman and child. There are two reasons for this. First, every Iranian mom pushes her kid to become a doctor or lawyer (or both) and failing that, a dentist. Second, when a Muslim fundamentalist revolution hits a country (as in 1979), the educated people tend to skip town looking for greener (or at least less murder-prone) pastures.

2. Iranians are hairy beasts.
If you've ever gone to the beach with an Iranian friend, he's probably redefined the term 'Persian carpet' for you. It's cool - we wear our fur (and the concomitant early balding) proud, because we know it comes from an excess of manhood. Heck, when you're at the Red Cross donating red blood cells and plasma, we're donating testosterone. By the gallon. Especially for those poor Abercrombie & Fitch boys who can't even seem to be able to grow any facial hair, let alone any manly chest foliage.

3. Iranians are kind of loaded.
You can't just hop a boat or scale a fence to get from Tehran to Beverly Hills (7587 miles/12,210km distance). The skills and resources required to evade authorities over there, get on a plane, evade authorities over here, and get a pad beyond your means -- these all predispose towards a craftier, more educated crowd making it here. Immigrants tend to be an industrious bunch in any case, and with their education, smarts, and devastating good looks, Iranians tend to do well for themselves.

4. Iranians dig their bling.
What's the point of having the dough if you can't show it off? No self-respecting Iranian will be caught dead without their Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Armani and Rolex. Also, the only acceptable means of transportation is a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus - in any color as long as it's black, please.

5. Iranians are late.
If the invite says a party starts at 8pm, the Iranians will start rolling in at 11.30 - maybe. This isn't quite as bad as Brazilians, who may or may not show up in the same fiscal quarter as they promise, but adjust your expectations accordingly.

6. Iranians feed you to burst capacity.
Ever wonder what it feels like to be one of those force-fed geese that becomes foie gras? Well, if you go to a proper Persian party, you will. Hospitality is one of the cardinal virtues of Iranian culture, and we will not rest until all of our guests are supine and helpless on the floor like anesthetized walruses. The food tends to be mighty yummy, so trust me, there are worse fates than this.

7. Iranians are allergic to authority.
At every opportunity, an Iranian will do his level best to find the shortcut, outsmart the boss, bend the rules and otherwise coax, wheedle, charm and haggle his way out of a situation. Chalk it up to our long history of being overrun by Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Russians, Brits and still coming out on top at the end of it all. Bonus: hire an Iranian lawyer - they were born to do what they do.

8. Every day is Formula 1 Grand Prix day for an Iranian driver.
Iranians can be some of the most pointlessly aggressive drivers on the road. This is because many of them were trained on the demolition derby that is the roads of Tehran -- or at least inherited the genes of their parents who survived those roads (yes, these things can be transmitted genetically, just like the propensity for Prada). And what's the point of driving your black 400-hp BMW M3 if you can't treat the 405 like Nurburgring? Exactly.

9. Iranians party hearty.
You can extrapolate from the foregoing tendencies that Iranians indeed like to have a good time. An Iranian, Sam Nazarian, quite literally owns Los Angeles nightlife and is expanding his empire worldwide. Dancing, singing, cooking, eating, drinking, celebrating the fullness and freedom of life - these are hallmarks of Iranian culture. History shows that all forces attempting to suppress this natural joyousness fail sooner or later. For the sake of our brethren over there, we fervently hope it's sooner rather than later. And for my own sake, you'd better show up to my party sooner rather than later so I have enough time to overfeed you.

Ali Binazir is a consultant & hypnotherapist in Los Angeles who fits only 6 of these 9 stereotypes
Visit his blogs: Awaken Your Genius and Tao of Dating
Got a question? Wanna invite him to your party? Send him a BMW M3? Write to him

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