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“Half-Persian” equals 100-percent laughs from comedian K-von

When Kevan “K-von” Moezzi decided to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian, he thought about what might make his take on the world a bit different than those of other aspiring comedians trying to coax laughs from a paying crowd.

It turned out the answer had been with him his entire life. So, while Moezzi trades in sharp and funny observational humor, his audiences also look forward to his takes on life, as K-von (his stage name) puts it, as a “half-Persian” comedian.

Moezzi’s work can be seen in clips on YouTube (including a TED Talk), three DVDs (including “Nowruz: Lost & Found,” a chronicle of his Persian New Year comedy tour) and his first book, “Once You Go Persian: A Survival Guide from a ‘Half.’ ”

For a week in early June, he’ll headline at L.A. Comedy Club at The Strat. It will be a rare weeklong stint at home for the Reno native and longtime Southern Nevadan, who lives in the northwestern valley but spends most weekends traveling around the country to perform.

And don’t let Moezzi’s takes on his half-Middle Eastern ethnicity and life as a first-generation American throw you. It turns out that Moezzi’s stories about growing up with his father, a Muslim from Iran, and his mother, a Presbyterian from Iowa, resonate easily across ethnic lines.

That story so many kids heard about how their elders had to walk miles to school and got, like, a measly piece of fruit for Christmas? “It’s the exact same thing, only my dad is like, ‘I only got one Persian cucumber for Christmas,’ ” Moezzi says.

“People have always said, ‘You know, you joke about Persians, but it really resonates with me, and I’m Armenian or I’m Chinese.’ ”

Coming to Nevada

Moezzi’s father left Iran about two years before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. “I think maybe he saw the writing on the wall, or was just lucky,” Moezzi says. He followed his older brother to Reno, where he met Moezzi’s mother, who also was working on the gaming floor at Harrah’s.

“All of the rich Iranians ended up in Beverly Hills, Irvine, San Francisco,” says Moezzi, who imagines his father taking a flight from Tehran to San Francisco, leaving the plane in Reno to use the restroom, missing the plane’s departure and then deciding to just stick around.

Moezzi’s father was keen on fitting in as an American, even if the meshing of Iran and Nevada wasn’t always seamless. He got a cowboy hat, “put Persian rugs in weird places,” Moezzi says, and “kept a wagon wheel he found at some swap meet in the house next to the Persian rug.

“It looked like Cracker Barrel meets Arabian Nights. It looked like the junkyard of an old movie studio trying to get rid of everything from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and the John Wayne films.”

The opening of The Mirage brought the family to Las Vegas when Moezzi was 10. He attended Faith Lutheran and graduated from Cimarron-Memorial High School. His Middle Eastern heritage did create a few complications for Moezzi while growing up, among them the pronunciation of his name.

School days

It’s actually “Kevan,” but was uniformly mispronounced, Moezzi says. “I started writing K-dash-von and stuck with that. It got to the point where substitute teachers would say, ‘Kevin’ and the whole class corrected her. That’s when you know you’ve got friends.”

But he didn’t consider himself a class clown. “I always wanted to be a comedian, but I always wanted to get good grades, too,” Moezzi says.

“I believe the class clown is the kid who stands on the teacher’s desk wearing a lamp shade and pulling his pants down. I was the class comedian. I was in the back of the room, giving one-liners to a buddy and trying to make him crack up, as opposed to trying to act out. I was basically an undercover comedian. I didn’t get into half as much trouble as the class clown did.”

His love of comedy came early, largely from watching comics work at what seemed to him to be a pretty neat job.

“I really liked Johnny Carson and David Letterman. They were sitting around a desk, palling around, laughing every night,” Moezzi says. “My dad’s job, he’d come home, his feet hurt, he’d take off his boots — ‘Aarggh!’ just screaming — and put his feet in Epsom salts. I don’t know, maybe Johnny Carson was doing it, too. But they made it look like so much fun on TV.”

Moezzi might consider his first public comedic performance to be riffing on a Bobcat Goldthwait bit at “the Mr. Spartan pageant at Cimarron-Memorial High School,” he says, laughing. “I got some laughs, probably not as many as I thought in my head. Maybe people were laughing at me, not with me. But this is it.”

Moezzi graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with degrees in marketing and business management, and was accepted into UNLV’s law school (his father had the acceptance letter framed). Instead, Moezzi got a sales job and performed comedy at night. His early credits include appearing on the reality show “Amish in the City” and MTV’s “Disaster Date,” as well as a Showtime comedy special.

Matt Chavez, producer and booker for the L.A. Comedy Club, calls Moezzi a “high-energy comic,which is great for Vegas, and he’s always been funny.”

And while Middle East-oriented material potentially could be troublesome, Chavez says Moezzi “does (it) really well. The way he talks about it is not really political. It’s not anything that would offend you or (something) you’re going to get upset at.”

“He’s for sure now a headliner,” Chavez says. “Guys don’t want to follow him now.”

‘What’s unique to me’

For the past few years, Moezzi has been focusing on stand-up comedy, navigating a landscape where podcasts and social media have become as important as club dates. Because his humor includes both Middle Eastern-based cultural bits about being a “half” and more mainstream themes, new fans who know him only from specific YouTube clips or projects can be surprised to see how wide-ranging his material is.

People might see, say, his bit about celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, or a riff on dating, “and think that’s the only thing I do.”

“So it depends on how people stumble onto me,” he says.

“Part of it is, you try to pick what you want to talk about, but another part of it is what an audience wants to hear you talk about.”

And mostly, they’re happy to just hear Moezzi mining humor from his own distinctive perspective. From the beginning, he says, “I started talking about what’s unique to me that nobody else could steal. And I’d say a mom from the Midwest and a dad from the Middle East, you weren’t hearing a lot of jokes along those lines.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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