Melissa Shoshahi is electricity shoved in a pair of skinny jeans. Her gut-busting impressions of her Iranian parents makes her one of my favorite comedians to watch in Los Angeles.
When I sat down to interview Melissa Shoshahi, the first thing she said to me was, “My mom is a bikini waxer in Seattle. She’s actually one of the top bikini waxers in the world.”
What? I chuckled not exactly sure of where she was going with this.“You’re laughing, but if you google her, she’s been featured in magazines and television shows… She does five minute brazilian waxes.” Melissa proudly explained.
Before we go any further, I think it’s important to explain just what a Brazilian Wax is. A Brazilian Wax is when someone removes all of your pubic hair. All. Of. It. Yup, even back there.
Yeah, there, too. ALL of it.
This process, on average, can take anywhere from thirty-minutes to an hour. Melissa’s mother does it in five. She has a technique. A particular set of skills, if you will, skills that made her a legend in her field. She’s an impressive woman with one ultimate dream: to pass her waxing legacy on to her only daughter, Melissa.
Her request was not absurd. In Iranian culture, family is everything. Parents are very involved in their children’s lives and decisions. It is an honor to uphold your family’s good name and extend their life’s work and legacy for another generation… Just one problem: Melissa was awful at waxing.
“I was so bad at it,” Melissa told me. “I was so bad at it—it would take me five minutes just to get the wax on them...and another five to take it off.”
Breaking the news that you won’t be taking over the family business is an awkward enough conversation without the added nudity. It put Melissa in a hairy predicament (forgive the pun, I had to). So, she avoided the confrontation altogether, enrolling in beauty school night class to appease her family. Meanwhile, her true passion lie elsewhere...in stand-up comedy.
If you think about it, Melissa did desire to carry on the family business of exposing oneself...she just prefered to do it on stage.
Stand-up comedy is having a moment in the Middle East right now. With tours like Amed Amed’s “Just Like Us” and Maz Jobrani’s Axis of Evil, the art is beginning to take root and blossom as we continue to become a more globalized society. But for Melissa’s parents…well, their generation didn’t have a clear understanding of what this even was/is. The only certainty, to them, was that comedy does not constitute as a real job. And certainly not one for their precious, college-educated, only daughter.
Melissa kept her passion for stand-up comedy a secret for a long time. She moonlit as a comedian while studying at waxing school, but her confidential career hit a snag when a regular customer showed up at a club.
“One day, when I was living at home, she [Melissa’s mother] was really mad. She was really, really mad at me,” Melissa remembered. Melissa asked what was wrong, and her mother revealed her knowledge of Melissa’s secret.
“One of my customers, she went to your show, and she said you were on stage drinking and talking bad things.”
Melissa’s mother was furious. She didn’t talk to Melissa for two weeks. They made amends, eventually. But a tacit disconnect remained. Melissa continued to pursue stand-up comedy. Her mother continued to just not get it.
After a few years, Melissa was starting to come into her own as a performer. She began touring with Max Amini, a popular Middle Eastern comedian who regularly performs to sold-out theaters around the country. Melissa was his opener. She invited her parents to a show.
And that’s when the tide began to turn.
“They saw me in a different light,” Melissa said. “They saw that—you know—that this isn’t a hobby, and she’s [Melissa] is doing really good. And they looked at him [Max] and thought she’s really doing something for herself.”
Today, Melissa’s mother is her biggest fan. They finally bridged the gap to understand one another better. Watching Melissa captivate audiences by sharing her personal stories helped Melissa’s mother to let go of the fear she had when her daughter initially revealed her dream. And that’s really what this comes down to— we fear what we don’t understand.
My own mother feared many things while she was alive. Foreign foods and hotel rooms, come to mind as particular odd phobias. But the beauty of my (and I suspect, your) mother is that with understanding came unmatched love.
I encourage all of you to make an effort to better understand your mother and give her the opportunity to better understand you. And together, I hope you both discover your own personal five-minute waxing technique dream—or whatever you’re into, and use it to deepen your love and appreciation for one another.