By Fred Parvaneh
American-born Nazanin Nour is an actor, comedian and writer who has appeared on prime time U.S. TV shows like ‘Madam Secretary’, ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Political Minds.’ Nazanin (under the Instagram username @freclednaz) is also the creative mind behind the “Persian Mom,” a popular series of short videos on the Internet.
Kayhan Life had an opportunity to talk to Nazanin Nour about her viral videos and her career.
You have gained a large number of followers on social media because of your funny Instagram and YouTube short videos. When and why did you start posting these videos, and are you surprised by the results?
I started creating and posting these videos once I came back to the East Coast for a little break from LA. I wanted to create sketches that I found amusing, with some political satire mixed in, to keep myself in that creative mode while outside of Hollywood. I also love having creative control, and being behind the camera, which is why I wanted to start creating content for my own YouTube channel.
It’s always a nice feeling to know that something I’ve created has made other people laugh. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised that people have connected with the material, because I feel that Iranians all over the world are generally supportive of fellow Iranians who pursue [a career in] the arts. I’ve also found that other ethnic groups find commonalities in the things, for example, our mothers do, and their mothers do, so it’s easier to connect to the comedy.
Your videos target Iranians and in particular the Iranian diaspora. Are the characters you play autobiographical? What is the reaction of your family and friends?
The characters I play are definitely an amalgamation of all of the lovely and hilarious Iranians, and Iranian-Americans, I’ve crossed paths with. Anytime I post a video as Persian Mom, I get a lot of unwanted feedback from the Persian moms in my life. They mostly think the videos are funny, and tell me that they see some of themselves in the character. Some also take offense and think I’m making fun of them. I really do these characters and videos out of love and humor; it’s never meant to be malicious.
Some of your Instagram posts are personal, and in a comical way, deal with your own trials and tribulations. Do you find addressing them in a public post therapeutic?
I’ve never been a fan of posting about very personal or private issues, but if I have a day where I’m feeling down, or maybe that I won’t be as successful as I’m striving to be, I do find peace and solace in poetry, meditation, and comedy. So for me, making light of certain negative feelings keeps things in perspective that the feeling will pass, and reminds me that I’m on the right path, because I’m doing what I love.
I also want people who follow me to know that I’m not impervious to insecurities, and if I can show them that they’re not alone, and make them laugh while I do it, I’m happy.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently, both personally and professionally?
I’m currently writing a film that I’ll also be starring in. My director and collaborator, Shahrzad Davani, is hosting myself and my co-star, Mitra Jouhari, at her home. It’s been one big slumber party all week, combined with writing, shooting the crowd funding campaign video, trading on set stories, and good old female bonding. It’s been a week of laughter and film, and it’s been amazing.
Another funny thing professionally has been all of the negative comments I’ve gotten on my YouTube channel. It’s actually pretty comical how much time people devote to saying nasty things about another human being, but some of the hateful comments really do make me laugh. I suggest you read the comments section of some of my videos. It’ll probably make you feel better about yourself.
Getting marriage proposals through Instagram is always a joy. Someone asked me if I would marry him for a green card, too. Shockingly, I turned him down.
Another professional situation that always makes me laugh is when a casting office is looking for an Iranian American actor, and then tells my agent that I don’t look Iranian enough. They usually end up casting a non-Iranian actor. Go figure.
Can you give us more details about your upcoming film?
I’m in the process of finishing a script that we plan on shooting by the Summer of this year. It’s about two young women (Naz and Mitra) in California. Mitra is here on an F1 visa from Iran, and Naz is an Iranian American actor who has fallen on some hard times and is currently unemployed and couch surfing after a bad breakup.
When Mitra’s F1 status gets abruptly revoked, Naz (the daughter of an old family friend) is tasked with babysitting Mitra for the weekend before her flight back to Iran. Unable to tell her parents about her current status, Naz has to find a way to keep her and Mitra housed and happy for the weekend, while also showing her a good time before she leaves and will be unable to enjoy certain freedoms any longer.
Which social media platform do you favor and why? Outside of social media, how do you remain connected to your community and fans?
I love YouTube because of its subscription feature. I love Instagram as a daily tool to put out random things that I find funny, and give people a glimpse into my personality. I love both because of the interaction I have with my followers.
As far as staying connected to the Iranian community, I keep myself well read on what’s going on current affairs, be it related to politics, sports, or entertainment. I also attend various functions and events with my family and friends that keep me engaged.
What is your family background? Where were you born, raised and educated? Are there other members in your family that share your comedic talents?
Both of my parents are Iranian. I was born in Arlington, Virginia, and raised in Northern Virginia. I graduated from George Mason University with a B.A. in Government & International Politics, with a double major in Communications, and a minor in Media Criticism.
I credit my father for my love of political satire, puns, and wit. Both of my parents are funny in their own way, but my dad definitely has a goofy side. My sister, Niloofar, makes me laugh on a daily basis, and we try and one-up each other with jokes and puns, so she keeps me on my toes. She’s also my gauge for what’s funny versus corny.
I grew up with my uncles and aunts constantly teasing and making light of situations, so it’s what I was surrounded with.
Do you remember the moment in which you thought you maybe able to make a living as a comedian?
Yes. In 2017. Ha! The response to my videos, and the opportunities that began to flow in because of it, made me realize that I could actually make a living off of making people laugh versus strictly doing TV and Film.
Other than your videos how else do you practice your art?
I’ve taken sketch comedy writing classes, and improvisation classes, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC and LA. I write a lot, too, so I keep a flow of ideas saved on my laptop for reference. I watch a lot of standup comedy, and go to comedy shows, to keep myself engaged. I also test out ideas and materials on my toughest critics, which are my close circle of family and friends.
You seem to be very active politically. Where and why does the activism stem from, and do you have any ambitions in running for political office?
I’ve always had an interest in running for political office. At this point, I don’t know if my career in entertainment will help or hinder that, but it’s an ambition that’s being saved in my brain for possibly future purpose.
I’ve volunteered my time and/or resources to homeless shelters, Planned Parenthood, and community centers for underprivileged kids, to name a few. I’m a feminist, and a supporter of various movements that shed light on issues facing minorities and people of color.
What is next for Nazanin Nour? Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years from now?
I see myself writing, doing comedy, and being a regular on TV! I will make everyone love/hate me, one way or another . . .
Really, I just want to be able to do what I love, make people laugh, fight for what’s right, spend time with my loved ones, and be happy. Visiting as many countries as possible is also a must. And starting a non-profit. And taste-testing as many red velvet cupcakes and glazed doughnuts as possible. And being invited to Oprah’s house.