By: Kinjal Patel
Former Saturday Night Live cast member and current “Scream Queen”, Nasim Pedrad performed stand up comedy on September 30th at the Livingston Student Center for the Knight of Comedy presented by the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA). Her set, although read primarily from note cards, poked fun at her Iranian culture and even shared pictures from her past. Pedrad was born in Tehran, Iran and lived there for three years before moving to the United States. Pedrad is fluent in Farsi and grew up with a sister, Nina Pedrad, who also pursues comedy by writing for Fox’s New Girl. She described her “Cinderella Story” from living in Tehran to the United States as anything but a fairy-tale.
Growing up in the United States, Pedrad struggled with assimilation, like any young immigrant. Pedrad lived in Irvine, California and graduated from UCLA School of Theatre in 2003. Her jet black arm hair and powerful unibrow made her “gender questionable.” She continued to joke that her peers’ parents were often confused how to address a young Nasim due to her looks. And had to tell classmates that she “didn’t ride a camel” around Tehran. Stating her first “acting gig” was playing Dora the Explorer at children’s’ parties.
Pedrad knew she stood out because of her non-traditional name, which Uber drivers are shocked to realize that despite her name, she is a woman. Her childhood shaped her comedy as she jokes about her crazy family. She remembers, her father was so angry that when he tried to swear at the person who upset him, he ended up shouting “Shut the f**k out!” It was hilarious to see the comedienne be able to impersonate her own father. She recounted that she was so embarrassed at her father in that moment that he couldn’t even swear right. But these small embarrassing moments were what made her also love him more. Additionally, one of her more famous SNL characters, Heshy Farahat, the motivational speaker, was based on an aunt of hers that was always spewing motivational bits of comedy gold.
Using her birthplace as inspiration, Pedrad performed in a one-woman show Me, Myself & Iran at the Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. The show gained much traction and landed her an audition for Saturday Night Live. She indulged into a ridiculous conversation she heard on the plane trip to New York that inspired a character that she performed later at her SNL audition. Impersonating SNL producer Lorne Michael, “You know Nasim, we have never had an Iranian cast member,” to which Pedrad responded “I promise I’m not a terrorist!” Nasim is one of four cast members of SNL born outside of the United States.
Pedrad even mentioned how grateful she is to not only impersonate or portray Iranian women but also other nationalities. Her most recognized impression is Kim Kardashian, who is Armenian. Pedrad recounted a story about meeting Kardashian who asked her to do Pedrad’s impression of her for the celeb. According to Pedrad, it was “the most awkward thing ever and incredibly worth it.” Another impression that gains a lot of recognition for Pedrad is Arianna Huffington, who frequently e-mails Nasim. Huffington embraced Nasim’s impression more than Kardashian as Pedrad divulged that the two share stories via email although Huffington’s e-mails sound ”just like my impression.” The e-mails are filled with name drops and life coaching. There is no doubt that Pedrad’s unique background and position as a minority in the US made her the comedienne she is today.
Being proud of her heritage inspired Nasim’s comedy career. As an Iranian-American immigrant, Pedrad was given a unique experience of what it’s like to grow up in America. Her different outlook growing up is what gives her a different look on comedy not seen in many other comedians. There is a certain sweetness a comedienne can feel when two worlds of love and passion combine: heritage and comedy. Pedrad managed to sprinkle humor into each memory she has from growing up and working in the entertainment industry as an Iranian immigrant. Some may find her position as a minority as a setback in her career path; Nasim Pedrad made it strength.