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The Jon Stewarts of Iran

If you had told Kambiz Hosseini 10 years ago, when he was a poor immigrant pumping gas in a small Oregon town, that one day Jon Stewart would bound eagerly into a green room looking for him and asking...

world Updated: Jan 25, 2011 01:03 IST

If you had told Kambiz Hosseini 10 years ago, when he was a poor immigrant pumping gas in a small Oregon town, that one day Jon Stewart would bound eagerly into a green room looking for him and asking, "Where are my dudes?!" - he would have given you a blank look. Newly arrived from Iran, unable to speak English, he had never heard of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." All he wanted was to work his way up to being a cashier so he could get out of the cold.

That gas station flashed into his mind earlier this month when the show's producers e-mailed, asking him to be a guest.

"I was like, 'Finally,' " he said. "I'd been waiting for that email for a long time."

Two years ago, Hosseini, who had long since learned English and was working as an art critic and host for Voice of America, teamed up with a VOA video journalist, Saman Arbabi, to create what has come to be called the Iranian Daily Show.

Hugely popular with Iranians inside and outside Iran, the show, "Parazit," pokes fun, Stewart-style, at the absurdities of life in the Islamic republic.

People in Iran tune in via personal satellite dish or the Web to watch Hosseini and Arbabi, who also emigrated from Iran, satirize their government officials and religious leaders. The show has created a mini-culture of its own in Iran, where fans circulate bootlegged DVDs of the latest episodes and imitate the clothing and expressions of the program's creators.

Although VOA doesn't know how many people watch "Parazit," posts on the show's Facebook page were viewed more than 17 million times last month and its YouTube channel generates 45,000 hits weekly.

(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)