Firoozeh Dumas wrote Funny in Farsi, which was about her experiences growing up Iranian American in Newport Beach. The hugely popular book earned Dumas the distinction of being the only Iranian American nominated for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. And Funny in Farsi came within an eyelash of being spun into an ABC sitcom.
She recently explained to NPR's Michael Martin that she doesn't know what killed the show, although she suspects the ground zero mosque controversy may have played a role.
Michael Martin: Firoozeh, you worked with writers to develop a pilot sitcom for ABC based on your memoir Funny in Farsi. The book is about your life growing up Iranian-American in Newport Beach, California. Can you just tell us a little bit about it?
Firoozeh Dumas: Yes. Well, my memoir took place, starts in the '70s and so when ABC optioned my book, they decided that the sitcom Funny in Farsi was going to be taking place in the '70s and this was in the early '70s, so when people still didn't even know where Iran was. And the writers that they hired was a husband and wife team of Jeffrey Hodes and Nastaran Dibai, and Nastaran, the wife, is actually Iranian herself, so it ended up being an absolutely hilarious script. I mean I was…
If you say so.
But they didn't pick it up. Any idea why? Did anyone ever tell you?
Well, nobody tells you. But I'll tell you this; the pilot was hilarious. I mean people were, people in the industry who had seen it had said it was just one of the funniest pilots they've seen in a long time. It was also very heartwarming. But at the same time when ABC, the president of ABC was making his decision whether or not to pick up the show, there was that whole mosque at ground zero controversy going on. And I had so much support from literally all over the world. I mean there was a Facebook page for the sitcom of Funny in Farsi, which had within two weeks 15,000 fans from all over.
But given what was going on in this country with this whole just hysteria around this mosque at ground zero, you know, it didn't get picked up and I wonder how much of it was because of that because it really was a very funny, funny pilot.
Firoozeh, we only have about 20 seconds left. So, discouraged? Coming back for more? Try again? what's next?
No. Well, I mean if somebody options the show, you know, is Steven Spielberg, does he listen to your show? . . . But basically, I think ABC really made a huge mistake, given how much attention I received, just months leading up to this decision, I think the whole world was watching to see if an American network would actually put on a show–a very funny show–about an Iranian immigrant family. So I'm really sorry that ABC did not pick up on that opportunity.
All right. Well, fingers crossed. Life is long.