Diversity has been an area of ongoing progress in show business. The portrayal of stereotypes of various ethnic groups in movies and TV shows are fading and we couldn’t be hap- pier. As more ethnic talent enter the landscape to show that they too can draw a loyal audience, the mentality of studio heads are changing. One such talent is comedian and actor, Max Amini. Here, we learn how he has been carving out his own space in the world of entertainment.
Please share where you are from and what sparked your interest in comedy and acting?
I’m from the East Coast (Washington DC) and ever since I was a kid I always loved to make people laugh and was the life of the party. After high school I moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA theater program.
We are well aware that most Iranian parents do not want their children to go into entertainment. Did you experience that with your parents?
If yes, did that postpone your pursuit of it? My family, unlike many traditional Iranian families were very supportive of my acting and comedy career. They have always believed I could achieve any goal I set my mind to. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and encouragement.
After graduating from the UCLA Acting Program, did you feel better prepared for entering the entertainment business? Did you also find that was a great place to network?
UCLA has an amazing program. They teach you techniques to prepare you for the Industry. It’s your responsibility to take those techniques and apply it to a format that works for you. Anyplace where there are like-minded peers is a great place to network. While attending UCLA, you also began your stand-up comedy career at the LA Improv. What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while there? Allowing myself to crash, burn and to continuously push myself to improve. If everything came easy in your life you would never learn or grow as a person. You would be bored from the lack of challenges. Teachers told me that I was not funny or would never make it as a comedian. I knew deep within me I could be or do anything I put my mind to. I still to this day face those same challenges and I’m grateful of them. I refuse to wait for someone to nudge me forward when I know I’m the only person who can do that for myself.
You entered the NBC Diversity Showcase as well as the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. How many applicants did you beat out to be one of the top finalists in each showcase and what was the whole process like leading up to the showcase?
In every city hundreds of comedians audition and then from there 60 comics get a callback and from the call- backs 12 comics are chosen for the final showcase. But I don’t really look at it as how many people I beat out to be a finalist. You are your own biggest competition. I took each process step by step, stayed focused and always tried to stay true to who I am.
I’m not sure of the ratio of success stories from the showcases but how did you use the showcases to advance your career?
The showcase was a great learning opportunity. There were a few good things that came from the showcase but everyone’s journey is different and for me there were other events that helped my career more.
At what point in your career did you seek out representation and was it difficult for you to gain?
Finding representation is not easy. Every entertainer deals with this and they do their best to find the right fit. You just need to find someone that works well with you and that believes in you as much as you believe in yourself. Or else it won’t work. I believe I found that in my representation.
Many Middle Easterners complain about the lack of opportunity to book roles that are outside of the stereotypical roles. Have you experienced that yourself and how have you dealt with it?
Every ethnic actor deals with this and they would like to break into the mainstream. It comes with time and making the right choices.
Let’s talk about the business side of putting together a stand-up comedy show. What’s all involved?
It’s a production. Just like filming a movie or starting any business. You find a location, hire a crew, find a marketing team, come up with a strategy and make sure you give your customer a product that will make them come back again.
What advice would you like to share with aspiring comedians that live outside of the LA market about the business side of comedy?
Take control of your business and build a strong team that believes in you. If you really want to make it, you need to live it. Work on your business like the in- voluntary breaths you take everyday. Much blessings to you all out there