If Maz Jobrani is good at one thing, it’s making people laugh. The comedian, actor, and podcaster is a household name in comedy, touring the country and starring in specials like his recent YouTube special The Birds & The Bees. While you may know Jobrani as a funny man, you may not know him as a man grappling with his own mortality and mental health. But that’s about to change.
Jobrani recently appeared on the Men’s Health Instagram Live series Friday Sessions where he discussed his experience with mental health. In conversation with host and psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, Jobrani discussed everything from masculinity to laughter to death. Yes, things got a touch morbid.
Jobrani, who is now 51 years old, says turning 50 encouraged him to reframe his life and mental health, partially due to his growing awareness of his own mortality. The milestone birthday, he said, caused him to confront the inevitability of death. But instead of being overwhelmed by the concept, Jobrani used this new-found awareness as encouragement to be more present in life.
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“Once I hit 50, I thought, ‘Oh my god, I will be passing away.’ We all will pass away. That moment will come,” he told Dr. Ramsey. “I’ve lost my sister to breast cancer and my brother to addiction. And so those moments will come. When I realized that, it helped me reiterate this idea in my head that you have to live your life. You have to live your life for experiences, you have to live your life for memories, and you have to live your life for loved ones.”
Losing loved ones has been an unfortunate reality of Jobrani’s life, and something that he’s tried to cope with in a healthy manner. Aside from attending grief counseling and honoring his feelings, Jobrani says connecting with others who have experienced loss helped him come to terms with death.
“We all have these pains and we carry them and we have to find healthy ways to deal with them,” he said, adding, “I try to remind myself of that.”
But it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. After all, many men are encouraged to suppress their emotions to conform to so-called “masculine standards.” As an Iranian immigrant, Jobrani knows the particular challenges faced by immigrant men when grappling with mental health and masculinity,
“A lot of the Iranian men that I know, or even some other immigrant men, they come from a very macho background,” he said. “These immigrant cultures, I think, put a lot of pressure on men to answer and solve every problem. But the truth is that we can’t because we are mortal beings. We can’t do miracles. Unfortunately in our culture, it’s not encouraged to seek help and talk to others.”
Instead of following these cultural norms, Jobrani said he embraces his natural interest in all things psychology, using it as a way to better understand himself.
“I’m always trying to understand why I am the way I am,” he said. “One thing I discovered about myself recently is that I’m a pleaser. I like to please people. I like to say yes and that puts me in situations that I don’t want to be in. So I’m trying to work on that a bit and I’m trying to work on prioritizing myself, my family, and my responsibilities that I feel are essential to me first before I say yes to other things.”
Overall, Jobrani prides himself on having a good handle on his mental and emotional health—and he partly credits comedy for his healthy outlook.
“Part of being a comedian that helps me is I get to go on stage a lot of times and actually rant about something that was on my mind to a whole audience,” he said. “If I’m on stage talking about something that happened in my life, chances are there’s somebody in that audience who can relate — and we laugh together. And I think that’s a form of its own therapy.”
Watch the whole conversation below:
Katie Dupere is an editor and writer in New York City specializing in identity, internet culture, social good, lifestyle and beauty topics.