When the bubble burst on the housing market in 2008, Amir K decided it was time to stop waiting on his dream of performing stand-up comedy. He moved to Los Angeles, California, hustled his ass off and made his dreams come true.
Amir came to the United States when he was five years old, after his father brought his family from a war-torn Iran—a sacrifice that caused Amir to postpone his true calling in life, comedy. But don’t fret, because this story has a happy ending. The actor and writer is perhaps best known for his roles on MADtv and 2017’s Hollywood Said No. CULTURE was fortunate enough to sit down with the energetic comic, and he was very candid about his comedic beginnings, his delay in entering the scene and his experience with cannabis. Spoiler alert, you may never look at LEGOs the same way again.
You’ve been doing standup for over a decade now. How did you get into it?
I was always a funny kid, and my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Smith, encouraged me to do some performance things for the class. But I didn’t know what it was, because we’re immigrants. I came here with my family when I was five years old. I was transplanted into this whole new world, and I had to learn how things worked culturally and how people interact. The miscommunications in those situations provided me with a lot of material. I loved making my friends laugh. It helped me fit in, if we were all laughing, because we were all together. I learned that my connection to other people was through laughter, because humor can cross all borders.
How did your family react to your comic aspirations?
I kind of had to skirt around the issue. My dad brought us from Iran, through a war, sacrificing so much so that his family could have a better life. So, I felt I owed it to him to go to school, so that’s what I did, and I put my real dream and passion on the back burner. I would do the occasional open mic while I was at school at UCLA, but after college it would be another eight to 10 years before I would get back into it. And it’s funny, in hindsight I don’t think they would have ever had a problem with me doing stand-up if I just talked to them. They were just looking out for me and wanted me to be happy and make a decent living.
Why the lengthy delay?
After I graduated, the real estate market was booming, so I decided to do that. I made a bunch of money and eventually started an appraisal company. The whole time making up excuses not to do stand-up. I would always say I was going to get back to it, but I had a good job. Then the market tanked in 2008, and I was like “Fuck it! I’m going all in.” I moved up to LA, and I would pass out fliers to get people to come into the comedy clubs. If I got enough people to come in, they would let me do a set on the late show.
Society and its acceptance of comedy have changed significantly in the last 10 years. Have you had to augment your performance?
It really depends on where you go. I don’t mind playing anywhere, because I feel that if you’re funny, you’re funny anywhere. It transcends everything, and of course some places are more sensitive than others, but I don’t think you should change your show in any way if you are trying to pursue comedy for your personal satisfaction. I don’t want to do a stand-up set that I don’t enjoy because I’m afraid to upset somebody. I’m doing this because I love doing it, not to fit into somebody’s pre-conceived notion of what I should do or say. Most comedians have felt it, but I think there is a pushback happening right now in comedy, and in a couple years I think it will go back to normal where we are allowed to say whatever we want. Because we should be, we’re comedians not politicians. I think we are moving past the hypersensitivity. If you don’t like the stuff, don’t go. That’s why I prefer to work comedy clubs. Because the audience knows that they are there for a show and to be entertained. They are paying to hear stories from a different point of view, and most adults are okay with that.
Can you tell us about the first time you were introduced to cannabis?
I had a cousin who was a few years older than me, and we would always skate together. We were skating at a gas station when I was in sixth grade, and he had a pipe made out of LEGOs, actual LEGO pieces with a piece of foil as a screen. Super unhealthy way to smoke, but we were just dumb kids trying to get high. I remember being super hyper-aware of everything going on. I was transfixed on watching my foot push my skateboard as I went around and around this gas station. One time my cousin got ahold of some hash, and we smoked way too much. It must have been a combination of the hash and my low tolerance, but I remember getting one of those big jugs of Gatorade, and shaking it after I took off the lid, not realizing what I was doing. So, there’s red Gatorade going everywhere in the kitchen, and I remember thinking that I was out of my mind. And as I got older, I remember a lot of my friends telling me I was the first person they got high with.
“That’s what makes cannabis the porthole to my creativity. It also lowers my guard on some things I might be hesitant to talk about on stage.”
What kind of role does cannabis play in your life now?
I use it now to deal with anxiety, or if I need to get a little extra creativity when I write. Or if I’m doing a late show at a club, I’ll smoke a little to get loose. Not so much that I’m out of my mind, but just enough to take a little of the edge off. It also helps me focus. My mind is like a rat’s nest, and sometimes when I smoke it helps quiet my negative thoughts and anxiety and allows me to be more present in the moment without worrying about a lot of other stuff. That’s what makes cannabis the porthole to my creativity. It also lowers my guard on some things I might be hesitant to talk about on stage. It lets my mind, just go. And when I’m really in the zone, the audience will go with me.
Photo Credit: Lex Ryan
Many artists work hard for years to make it in the extremely oversaturated producer/DJ scene, so it’s a major testament to LP Giobbi’s success that she caught the eye of Sofi Tukker at a show, got invited on tour and has been a smash hit ever since. Far from a one-hit wonder, however, Giobbi is hustling all the time with non-stop touring and shows. She took a break from her busy schedule to chat with CULTURE about her ethics, dreams and success so far.
How did you first get your start?
A while back, I was asked to play with an all-girl electronic band. I didn’t know much about synthesizers, but if you know music theory and how to play piano, you can figure out the rest. So I spent the next four years in a garage teaching myself sound design and synthesis, how to play synthesizers on-stage, and how to produce and use Ableton and other programs.
Finally, I ended up playing a gig at a live music festival, because they needed someone to fill in. It turned out to be a horrible gig, but Sofi Tukker was there, and she asked me if I would want to go on tour as a DJ. I said I wasn’t really a DJ, but she said, “Are you coming or not?” So, I had to go!
“I think that female freedom to choose whatever career path you want, freedom to choose what you want to put in your body, and in general the freedom to choose for a woman, I think it’s all very tied.”
How did that lead into you doing more of your own projects?
It’s really exciting, because playing music on-stage gives me an idea of what I want to do and the kind of music I want to play. I started making music while I was on the road and started playing it out, and I was able to test what was working and what wasn’t. It’s really fun to get to see what works in a live setting.
Do you have anything specific you’re working on right now?
I have some new music [that came out at the end of October], and I’m super pumped. It’s very tribal and hard-hitting, and I collaborated with some amazing artists. There’s a lot of music I’m working on right now, and I can’t wait for it to come out.
Photo Credit: Xander Wright
Do you have any tours going on currently?
There’s a lot more touring in the works. Right now, I’m on this U.S. run with Sofi Tukker. When I have days off, I’m able to go play other shows as well, and that’s the first time I’ve really been doing that. And next, I’m going to Europe on tour, so I have things going on for the rest of the year.
I’m really excited, really because this is the first time I’ve added a few extra drum machines to the show. It’s been really fun to learn as I go and get to go on the road with some new toys.
“I don’t personally smoke, but I grew up with hippie parents who were Deadheads, and cannabis has always been a huge part of my life.”
Tell us about what Femme House is, and how are you involved?
When I first started producing, it was from sheer feminist stubbornness. When I first started playing music, I was surrounded by male producers. They were great, and I had a great experience, but I didn’t know many other female producers. So, I thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s a role I could have.” Living in LA, I was meeting so many talented women, and I just wanted to kind of change the narrative and get as many of the men in the room as possible.
We’re doing free monthly workshops right now in LA, and we’re extending to New York next year. It’s a safe space for women and nonbinary people to learn how to use Ableton and how to program drums and record vocals and basically just make a song. So far, we have some awesome support from Roland and Ableton, and it’s just been really, really overwhelming and completely inspiring to see all the support that we’ve gotten from these companies that I’ve always looked up to and respected. It feels like such a wonderful time to be doing this and to be providing these opportunities.
Has cannabis impacted your life?
I don’t personally smoke, but I grew up with hippie parents who were Deadheads, and cannabis has always been a huge part of my life. I always have been blown away that alcohol was so easy to access, and much more so than pot, because there are so many issues associated with alcohol.
Does cannabis advocacy tie in with the other things you advocate for?
I think that female freedom to choose whatever career path you want, freedom to choose what you want to put in your body, and in general the freedom to choose for a woman, I think it’s all very tied. I also think decriminalizing opens up doors for people that can help them medically, with depression, and with creative flow. I think it does a lot of good.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
There’s a really cool project I am doing with Sofi Tukker where we go into clubs and make them into neon jungles. People can rave all night and dress up like animals. It’s a really fun part of the culture that we’re building and the community that we’re building, and it’s all about finding your inner child and the fact that [when] one of us shines, the more we all shine. It’s a big, important part of my ethos.
Leisure and Laughter
Photo credit: Michael Rababy
Comedy and cannabis are two things that should be used responsibly. While they can both be wonderful, too much of a good thing can lead to bad jokes or burnout. Luckily, Dino Archie has just the right recipe for success. Shortly after appearing on Season 3 of Adam DeVine’s House Party on Comedy Central, he debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! He looks to life find inspiration for his routines, and he also looks to cannabis—but he doesn’t lean on it as a crutch to fuel all his material or creativity. CULTURE spoke with Archie about maintaining that perfect balance, his jokes and the power of cannabis.
How did you first get into comedy?
A buddy signed me up for an open mic in LA, because he thought I was funny. I was always a fan of comedy, and then I fell into it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do something with. I wanted to write funny movies and comedy since I was in film school. Then I got a job as an assistant director, and we did a movie in New York. I would read lines with actors and improv, and I was good at that. Then I got a role in “that” movie, and the movie never really saw the light of day. But then, during the little screening we did, everyone laughed at my part. Then people were like, “You should do comedy; there’s something there.” So, I did; I kind of got the bug, and I never stopped doing it.
What are some of the major themes you usually tackle in your comedy?
I’ve done three comedy albums, and they’ve all had different themes. The first one was about love, and the second one was about not taking any shit from those who try and dictate how you feel. Now, I’m back to the theme of love. My new album is called I’ve Changed, and it’s about how as I get older, I realize I can’t be married to an outdated way of doing things. I have to learn how to be funnier, how to connect with people better. I want to be open to that.
“When I’m in conversation with another creative person, that’s when my best writing comes out.”
What gives you the inspiration for your material?
It’s everywhere. I can go on someone’s Twitter account, or I can go to my local coffee shop, and if I mess up my routine, go somewhere I don’t normally go, life will throw some funny shit at me that I wouldn’t normally notice. I try to be introspective, but also look for inspiration anywhere.
Photo credit: Beau Partlow
How does cannabis play a role in your life and your comedy?
I’m a lazy smoker. I grew up in California; weed was always around me, but I didn’t smoke or drink it until I went to Canada, to Vancouver. I really liked it, because in our culture, people drink a lot, and that can be very destructive, but weed opens you up to a different kind of vibe. It lets you slow down, stop and smell the roses. I live in LA, so it helps me not get mad at things like traffic, crowds. If I find myself wanting to lay on the horn and scream, I just go, “Hey, we’re all just trying to get somewhere.” Why not light up?
Does cannabis ever make its way into your comedy?
It’s not necessarily a part of my identity like some comics, but I think it just fits my vibe. Even before I smoked, everyone always thought I was high, because my eyes are kind of low; I’m not in a rush. It’s great when I want to have access to some different things and try some different material. It’s fun to smoke, but I don’t want to abuse it. I don’t have to get super high to get creative. I don’t want to be one of those people who does it too much, and then you can’t even smoke a joint around them. I try to limit myself, but I definitely enjoy it.
What is your writing process like?
When I’m in conversation with another creative person, that’s when my best writing comes out. If I’m not around someone, I do talk out loud and work things out in my head. I just recently started writing things down more, because I’ll forget that shit. That combination is usually best.
Lifted with Lipstick
The Pacific Northwest is known for many things—excellent legal cannabis, of course, the rain that doesn’t stop for months on end, good coffee and good beer. One thing we’re less famous for, but those in the know are privy to, is our one-of-a-kind, world-class drag culture. One locally famous drag queen, Indika Haze, marries the region’s love of cannabis and drag to create a persona that’s uniquely her own.
Before becoming the drag performer she is today, Haze was a professional dance teacher. Unfortunately, health issues halted that journey, but she still strived to channel her creative energy elsewhere, and thus Indika Haze was born. Haze was kind enough to have a thoughtful chat with CULTURE about her origin story, her inspirations and of course, the cannabis that makes it all possible.
How did you become Indika Haze?
I started drag as Indika about four-and-a-half years ago. A friend of mine was transitioning from female to male, and he was wanting to go out, and he wasn’t comfortable going out on his own at first. So I put on some of the tackiest, most busted drag I possibly could, and went out with him because I wanted him to feel more comfortable. So Indika came from a place of giving other people space to be who they want to be.
Who are some of your influences as a performer?
Always been a big fan of RuPaul obviously, as a performer. I think I’m most inspired by local talent that we have out here, because we have some phenomenal talent here in the Pacific Northwest. The people who have inspired me to really go for it and push myself to be the best artist I can would be people like Cucci Binaca, Isabella Extynn, Lady Chablis and Mama Tits. They all have a very different aesthetic, but they’re all very strong in their different modalities, and they are all a force to be reckoned with in that community and people look up to them and respect them. More recently I’ve become obsessed with the theatricality and the intensity of makeup that people like Irene Dubois are bringing to the stage.
“Also when I’m deciding on my music, [cannabis] helps me get into a creative mood. I’ve always used weed when I’m choreographing my song choices and memorizing, and coming up with dialogue for when I’m doing my hosting events.”
How has cannabis influenced Indika Haze?
For a little while, I was actually sponsored by a couple different cannabis co-ops here in Washington, before it went recreational . . . So I was a rep for them and would go to events and pass out fliers.
One of the things that I love nowadays is that people know who I am and they know that I’m a pot smoker. So they’ll come to my shows and not only will they tip me in ones, but they’ll bring joints and tip me in a bag of weed or whatever. So it gives me a chance to really hang out with a lot of people who come to our shows, our patronage, which is lovely. Also when I’m deciding on my music, [cannabis] helps me get into a creative mood. I’ve always used weed when I’m choreographing my song choices and memorizing, and coming up with dialogue for when I’m doing my hosting events.
So it’s something that’s inspired me, but I also use it on a more practical basis for my health condition. I have Osteochondritis dissecans, a degenerative joint disease. My family has a history of being addicted to pills, so I don’t want to take pills if I don’t have to. Weed is the only thing that I’ve found that subdues the aches that I get and make it not as painful, especially when I’m running around in six-inch heels and a bunch of padding for eight hours at a time.
“Weed is the only thing that I’ve found that subdues the aches that I get and make it not as painful.”
What’s your favorite thing to watch when you consume cannabis?
Well, it depends if I’m getting ready or winding down for the night. If I’m getting ready I have my setlist and I watch the music videos for them, or I put on effed up Trixie Mattel songs. And then at nighttime, I get really stoned and watch Planet Earth 2.
Catch Indika Haze Live @ The Mix in Tacoma
The Mixtape: Every Saturday, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Queens of the Night: Every third Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
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