A black snap-back hat and a black hooded sweatshirt are part of Amir K’s signature style and current wardrobe as he welcomes me into his home office. Outfitted with acoustic foam and haphazard recording equipment, he’s appropriately named the space “placebo studios.” The outside rain makes it surprisingly cozy. [Laughs] “We got a candle, we got some ambiance.” We waste no time getting settled. With nightly spots at the local clubs and headlining road gigs almost every weekend, Amir is a tough guy to pin down. Fortunately, we were able to kick back, have a chat, and hit a vape with him while pondering the depths of risk taking, making pipes out Legos, and pursuing your dreams.
One thing a lot of people struggle with is listening to their own true calling. What helped you listen to your inner compass, leave the security of a nine-to-five, and feel confident pursuing a career in comedy?
I think comedy was always there, man. My goal was to always have a career in comedy, I just didn’t know how I was going to get there.
You saw stand-up as an option for a career but never took it seriously.
When I was younger I was always the class clown, but the idea of being a comedian was pushed so far out of my mind because I was raised by immigrant parents. Their expectation, of course, was that I’d become a doctor or a lawyer.
But it’s not just immigrants. A lot of people can relate to thinking a career in the arts isn’t an option, isn’t for them, despite having aspirations to pursue one.
When you’re young, it’s such a far away dream. You don’t think it’s for you. You think other people do that. That’s sort of the mentality when you’re a kid. Coupled with parents who moved here from another country, it was just a far away thought early on. But it’s just bullshit you say to yourself growing up. I would lie to myself going to school saying “I gotta do this for my parents,” but knowing what I know now, there’s no other option. You only get one life. Why waste it unhappy, trying to appease your parents?
What helped you overcome your fear of going against what your parents wanted for you?
It was more the fear of failing. I did a couple open mics when I was 18-years-old and after I put my foot in and tested the water, I realized how awesome a career in stand-up could be. But to take the leap of going all-in was so scary. Because it’s like, “what if I’m not good enough?” and then “now what?” If I go all the way in and I’m not good enough at this, now what?
So it was knowing the alternative was something you didn’t want to do, which helped push you forward.
When the market tanked in 2007, it was a blessing in disguise for me. It pushed me to go all-in on stand-up. It was my “now or never” moment. I could try and re-up my real estate business, or I could say “fuck it,” move up to LA and go all-in. So that’s what I did in 2008. I left everything behind and moved to LA.
It’s one little thing you think sucks at the time, but it makes you go. I’m so glad I had that experience. I was 27. And you could always say “I wish I started when I was younger” but everybody has their own way. The good thing was, I came into comedy with a bunch of stuff to pull from and a bunch of life experience to talk about. So I wasn’t just an 18-year-old kid talking about jacking off.
Let’s talk about your creative process.
Usually, I’ll have a seed of an idea or character, then I’ll work with it on stage and see what comes out. And then find the beats and refine it from there. I should be a little bit more meticulous about writing my jokes down, but a lot of times I’ll just have them in my head. And when that blends with some riff and it lands, it’s dope. Ultimately, it comes down to owning your point of view and delivering it in a confident manner. When I’m all the way in my bag, it’s stream of consciousness.
When did you first smoke weed?
Weed’s been a part of my life for a minute. The first time I got high was with my cousin Ben. We weren’t related by blood, but when you’re Iranian, close friends are considered family. We would skate together all the time and one day he brought some weed. I was in fifth or sixth grade and he was a few years older. We smoked out of a pipe made of Legos. We were young and dumb. We put a tinfoil screen on the end and poked holes in it. A mixture of dirt weed, melting plastic and aluminum foil, what could be better?
I’m sure the makers of legos and your parents never thought that’s what Legos would be used for.
[Laughs] For sure. They say necessity is the mother of invention. We needed a pipe, and at that time, Legos were what we had.
What city outside Los Angeles has great pot?
Everyone thinks they have the best herb, but from my experience, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Denver, those places are good.
Do you have a favorite strain?
I tend to like sativas or sativa-dominant hybrids. I don’t stick to any one strain in particular. Anything that stimulates my brain and keeps me active, I like.
What role does cannabis play in your life today?
I smoke on a pretty regular basis. It helps me deal with anxiety and focus on the creative. I think there’s always been a cool crossover between cannabis and stand-up comedy culture. I love having friends in both industries. Like last night, I’m in the greenroom at the Comedy Store and my homies at ABX – AbsoluteXtracts – came through and laced everybody up. For the most part, we all share the same good vibe.
You can be in any city and an audience member’s going to come out with a joint after the show and ask if you want to smoke. I love that.
Follow @amircomedy and check out his site for tickets and tour dates.