“The old building that we lived in, our landlord’s building, a bomb actually got dropped on there and they lost a kid,” said Kamyab. “That’s one of my earliest memories actually, seeing the women wailing over the loss of this child. I think that was the final thing that made my dad say, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’”
At the age of 5, Kamyab and his family moved from their home in Iran to Orange County. No one in the family really spoke English, so Kamyab had to learn by mimicking the other kids in his neighborhood.
“I think that’s probably why I do a lot of different characters in my acts,” said Kamyab, who often impersonates several ethnicities in his shows. “In seventh grade, I had this Spanish teacher who would let me teach the class sometimes. He would be grading papers and be like, ‘Amir go teach this lesson,’ because he knew I could do it in a funny way with a good accent.”
At the end of that year, Kamyab’s teacher put on a talent show for the school and let him and another class-clown friend host the spectacle. This was Kamyab’s first time performing comedy in front of an audience larger than his everyday classroom.
“In between the acts, we would come up and do little sketches and tell jokes,” said Kamyab. “I just loved watching everyone laugh at what we did. I think that was really when I caught the bug.”
Now, performing at The Comedy Store in La Jolla the weekend of March 23, the comedian’s audience reach has expanded drastically from the open-mic nights he would sneak into as an 18-year-old, brandishing his older brother’s ID. Although he has been a featured comedian at the venue, this will be Kamyab’s first time headlining at The Comedy Store.
“The best thing about stand-up comedy is there are never shortcuts,” said Kamyab. “You have to put in the blood, sweat and tears. You go to all these open mics for years where people don’t care for the comedy, or they don’t even know comedy is happening, and you just power through it.”
But there is a strong social aspect to comedy, in addition to the bond between aspiring comedians, which Kamyab equates to a kind of “graduating class,” that draws on the connection between the performer and the audience members. It’s this connection, built on the foundation of funny, that first drew Kamyab to the life of comedy, contrasted to the life of exile in UCLA’s law library.
“I kept lying to myself and my dad like, ‘Oh, I’ll go to school and be a funny lawyer,’” said Kamyab. “But I remember studying at the library and looking around at everyone in there and thinking, ‘These people look miserable.’”
Still, Kamyab admits it was the slight fear of “failing at my dream” that led him to the real estate business following college. It wasn’t until the market crashed in 2007 that Kamyab made the decision to move back to LA and pursue what made him happy, making people laugh.
“I realized money wasn’t the thing I should be chasing,” said Kamyab, who always makes a point to visit with fans after a show. “I lived like a bum for a while, but now things are good and I’ve never looked back. I’m a firm believer in that if you’re funny, people will find out about you. If you’re undeniably talented, people are going to hear about it.”
Having been mentored by Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani, Kamyab has also worked with other talents like Dane Cook and met legends in the industry, like Jim Carrey. As he has become more comfortable with the stage, comedy has also given Kamyab the chance to learn more about himself and how the events in his early life have shaped the person he is today.
“It’s not something I really thought about until later on, but I guess it’s kind of like therapy or something,” said Kamyab. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, stand-up is about you being the most honest and truthful about who you are.”