By Iman Sadri
December 9, 2018
Ariel Kashanchi is an Iranian American comedian, actress and podcaster. She has broken into comedy in New York and Los Angeles, regularly performing at famed locales such as the Hollywood Improv, The Laugh Factory, and The Comedy Store. Ariel is a comedic star on the rise, and a future perennial face on television. She hosts two podcasts, is a pilates pro, and a cat lover. Her comedy ranges from dating to Persian parents to politics to witty humor. Being a MENSA member with an off the charts IQ, Kashanchi was too modest to reveal her SAT score, but we deduced it to be above 1500. She skipped the 11th grade, and even got into law school by 19. To get caught up with this prolific and prodigious Persian talent, we met up with Ariel Kashanchi for a recent Q+A in West Hollywood.
Iman Sadri : Thank you for meeting with The Persian Observer. Can you talk about your early life, upbringing and education ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I was born in Iran and my family and I left when I was 18 months old. We fled to Turkey for a few days, then went to Israel for a few years. Being Jewish, we got automatic citizenship. We lived on a Kibbutz, which is a small community, on a farm, where everybody contributes. We then moved to Kansas City. And then moved to L.A. as political refugees. My formative years were spent in L.A, in the Valley, where my sister and I were raised.
IS : Did you attend Taft High School ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I did until my last year. And then I transferred my last semester. I was super shy. The complete opposite of who I am now. I was a nerd. The kid that everybody would copy off of. I was easily intimidated. Sometimes I would go to the library for lunch and hang out and read books.
IS : And then you became a comedian …. You have to be witty to be a comedian.
Ariel Kashanchi : Yeah you do. Everyone who’s funny, it comes to them from a different place. For me, it’s always been my defense mechanism. If I don’t want to talk to somebody, I am funny, so there is no real connection. That’s kind of been how I would get things, from being funny. But I enjoy it.
IS : What were your favorite subjects in school ?
Ariel Kashanchi : Science. English, which I loved and Literature.
IS : What did you do after high school ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I skipped 11th grade. I graduated when I was 16. I started college at CSUN really young. And then at 19 I got accepted into law school. I hadn’t even finished undergrad at that point. I hated law school. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. It’s something my parents wanted. I did well on the LSAT. I got on the 90th percentile. I have a high IQ. I am in MENSA. I decided to drop out of law school a month after I started. I wanted to act. I tried acting for a few years. It was terrible. If you’re a female they’re only going to send you out to do hot girl stuff. To show up in an audition in a bikini. That’s not me. And so I stopped. I had a bunch of sales job and started doing pilates and became a pilates instructor. And that’s what I did for many years. Until somewhat recently.
IS : What inspired you to get into comedy ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I always wanted to do it. But I needed a sign. I train a lot of celebrities. I was training this celebrity who I am friends with. I would tell her stories about my dating life and my parents. She was always entertained. And said that I should write. I wrote a little short story and I sent it to her. And said hat I should be doing Stand-up. So I thought that if this person who has executive produced a TV Show, and won awards …. if she thinks I can do it, then I can. So I moved to New York and started doing comedy. You just need a boost. From somebody that’s credible.
IS : I lived in New York City also. Where in NYC were you living ?
Ariel Kashanchi : Upper West Side and Battery Park, which are polar opposites.
IS : Can you explain pilates to me ?
Ariel Kashanchi : It’s a core based workout. You’re using spring based resistance to put your back into alignment.
IS : Did you have any other influences that made you pursue comedy ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I loved Chappelle from the moment I first saw him. Sarah Silverman I always liked. Eddie Murphy when I was young. I don’t know why my parents would let me watch him, but they did.
IS : Were there any sitcom influences ?
Ariel Kashanchi : The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air I was obsessed with.
IS : If you could have lunch or dinner with any comedian no longer alive who would you meet ?
Ariel Kashanchi : Joan Rivers.
IS : What’s your schedule like now ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I do pilates a couple hours per week. And then I have writing jobs. I was writing for a game show and I left last year. I write jokes for when people are doing voice-over for videos.
IS : Can you elaborate on your early Stand-Up experiences and writing process ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I took a class in New York and that’s how I started. The instructor was a down and out, no longer comic who was teaching comedy. I didn’t think I had my voice yet. I would say things that weren’t jokes but they were kinda funny. I would do a lot of shock value stuff.
IS : Would you say that being a comedian helps you become a better actress ?
Ariel Kashanchi : You have to be vulnerable to be comedian. There is nothing more vulnerable than standing on stage and trying to make people laugh. Yeah, I think it makes me a better actor if the right part came along.
IS : Can you talk about some of your focal points of the Stand-up comedy that you do ?
Ariel Kashanchi : My web series was mostly dating stuff. I’ve been doing a lot more about my parents lately. Not so much about relationships and dating, I just find it to be a boring subject. Everyone talks about dating. It’s not interesting. I am trying to shift away from that. A little political. Smarter jokes. I am little eccentric. The high IQ makes you weird. Anyone else that I’ve met in MENSA has had an equal weird-ness, so I kind of play that up for stage.
IS : What do you think about the fact you and only a handful of others are one a few Iranian American women who have broken into comedy ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I think it’s great. I get so excited whenever I see an Iranian girl doing anything creative. It helps see what Persian people are really like. It takes away some of the mystique and xenophobia. It’s great. It makes me proud.
IS : What do you think can be done to get Iranian Americans of the next generation to pursue careers in entertainment ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I think it’s usually the parents who stand in the way of that kind of thing. Teaching the next generation to not listen to their parents.
IS : Do you think it’s time for a sitcom with Persian Americans on TV ? What more can be done to get Hollywood to move in that direction ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I am writing a pilot right now. More people need to get out there and create content and support each other.
IS : What are your favorite sitcoms on TV today ?
Ariel Kashanchi : A show called, Difficult People. It just cancelled. I was obsessed with that. I am Sorry, it’s another show that I love.
IS : Are there any characters on TV or comedians who’s comedy most resonates with your personality / comedy style, if any ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I think Natasha Leggero is amazing. Her show, ‘Another Period,’ I really love. She’s so talented, so good. She has a very unique and bitchy voice, which I enjoy. When I was working on the game show, we had her on a lot. She could deliver any joke.
IS : Can you elaborate on your Stand-up experience thus far ? How often do you perform, etc.
Ariel Kashanchi : It’s a grind. It’s a lot of networking, more than anything. Talent comes second, unfortunately. I feel like everyone has the same experiences with Stand-up. You get nervous and then you get to a point where you enjoy it. There is nothing like having a good set. There is nothing like feeling connected to an entire crowd. I do a lot of Weed Shows. It’s a really tough crowd because everyone is high. So they’re not necessarily laughing a lot. They’re not super engaged. When I do those shows I don’t do any material. I do complete riffing and crowd work and obviously I am going to be high too, if I am on stage. It’s such a cool experience.
IS : What does your schedule consist of now during the day ?
Ariel Kashanchi : Most of my days are spent working on this podcast. Writing. Interviewing. Finding guests. Vetting guests. Editing, promoting.
IS : How do you come up with the Iranian Mermaid title ?
Ariel Kashanchi : Well, you know, a name like Ariel. Everyone always makes mermaid comments. I used Iranian Mermaid on Twitter because it’s easier than having to spell my name. It kind of captures …. you know, I am Persian, and you know .. Ariel.
IS : Your take on Iranian vs Persian ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I like Persian.
IS : Where do you get inspiration to draw material from ?
Ariel Kashanchi : My jokes comes to me when a premise comes to me. I do a lot of jokes on Twitter, that’s where I test stuff out. If I think of a premise that I like, I’ll write it out in the form of a Twitter joke. It’s kind of a different format and see how that goes. If it goes well than I build it up to do it onstage.
IS : Can you elaborate on your podcasts ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I do two podcasts. Don’t Be a Dick. That’s me on my own, with people telling me stories during a time they were a Dick. With Ghosted Hunters, I originally wanted to pitch a show about getting Ghosted. Before I could pitch it, Bravo had one coming out. My friend and I were talking about how funny it would be to do it in a style of a True Crime podcast. So that’s what we did.
IS : If you could portray any historical figure in a biopic is there anyone that comes to mind ?
Ariel Kashanchi : I’ve always had an obsession with Farah (Pahlavi).
IS : Imagine you’re 100 years old and you’re reading your Wikipedia profile page. What are some other career milestones you would like to see on there ?
Ariel Kashanchi : That I had a good ten year run on a panel talk show. That I was the first Middle Eastern woman to be a correspondent on The Daily Show. Beyond that, professionally, I would like to write some good books at some point. Have some shows, sell that pilot.
Follow Ariel Kashanchi on Social Media @ArielIsNotAMermaid
Iman Sadri is the founder of @LASmileMagazine and @ThePersianObserver