"I'm not Arab, I'm Persian! It's so obvious! You can tell the difference!"—Nasim in the new NBC sitcom Whoopi.
Last night NBC premiered a new sitcom called "Whoopi", starring Whoopi Goldberg as a three-star hotel owner in New York City, Mavis.
One of the characters of the show, the so-called handyman, is an Iranian guy played by the British comedian Omid Djalali (he is originally Iranian as you can tell by the name). He has previously played some roles in the movies "The Gladiator" and "The Mummy" and is quite famous in Britain for his ethnic comedy and has also won some awards.
This is the first time that a Middle Eastern character has an important role in an American network sitcom. The Iranian origin of Mr. Djalali has added a lot to the character of Nasim (a girl name?). He is somehow anti-Arab (he loses his temper and starts a fight when anybody calls him an Arab) and not really used to diversity. One time he is telling Mavis how overwhelming he finds the diversity in the US and complains that Portuguese are all over the place! He ends: "the problem with this country is that you don't know who your neighbor is!" In the next episode he'll express his fear of Chinese people because of SARS!
I found it quite amusing to see a typical Iranian guy in a sitcom on TV. Not that I'm proud of these characteristics or I think all Iranians are like that, but firstly, I think a social satire should be like that: you are criticizing people for their bad social habits and quite frankly I've seen lots—and heard even more—of Iranians expressing feelings that border a strange "Iranian-ized" racism, which I'm not going to discuss here, since it deserves another post. Secondly, I even believe that Mr. Djalali's character is loveable for normal viewers which would give us a nice little break.
We have to wait and see how Nasim's interactions with diverse New York culture and Mavis's brother, a conservative Republican lawyer, will go.