This next portrait is the one of amazing Mary Basmadjian, an Armenian-American stand up comedian from California. My cousins and I are big fans, always sending each other her videos or watching them together, so I’m super happy that she accepted to take part in this project! Mary shares with us here how her identity as an Armenian woman and her profession intersect to discuss important issues and promote positive change in our community and beyond.
1. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Mary Basmadjian, I’m 30 years-old, I live in Pasadena, California, and I do stand up comedy and acting.
2. Can you tell us about your family’s story? How did they arrive to your current country/city? How big is the Armenian community there?
My father’s parents are from Alexandria, Egypt. They moved to Yerevan as kids and got married in Yerevan and had three boys (my father is the oldest), and then they moved to Los Angeles in 1979. They were living in Hollywood (Hobart St), and there was a good number of Armenians around that area. In 1985, they moved to Pasadena where they bought their first home, and there weren’t that many Armenians there compared to Hollywood. My mom’s parents’ story is very similar except they were from Cairo, Egypt, and got married in Armenia, then moved to Los Angeles in 1980, also living in a heavily Armenian populated area in Hollywood. My grandparents still live in Hollywood.
3. What does it mean for you to be an Armenian woman?
To me what it means to be an Armenian woman is to push boundaries with Armenian tradition in regards to everything in life. I constantly find myself wanting to be loved and accepted by “traditional” standards, but I also don’t want to give in to Armenian society standards. Our job is to change/bend the rules of this traditional game and still be able to play it, and not only play it but WIN at it.
4. What are the things that make you happy? How would you define yourself?
What makes me happy is when I hear Armenian women (or people in general – mostly Armenian women though) tell me that my videos bring laughter and joy to their lives and that they are happy and relieved that I discussed a taboo subject. I define myself as an Armenian girl who was brought up with nontraditional methods and environment and that has organically made me the mouth piece of most Armenian girls because I don’t have the strict brother/father/husband/lover telling me I can’t talk about certain things or do certain things in my life.
5. What would be your biggest dream?
My biggest dream would be to write/produce/direct/act in my own film about my own life (which would shed a lot of light on Armenian female life) and win an Oscar for it and put Armenians on the map in my thank you speech lol
6. Would you like to add anything else?
I started comedy seven years ago in hopes of doing what George Lopez did for the Hispanic community but for the Armenian community. I want non Armenians to know what “axchi” or “uff bey” means lol also I like to add the saying I have for Diaspora Armenians: “I may have been born in a melting pot but I will never lose my flavor”.