COMEDIAN SHAZIA MIRZA SPEAKS ABOUT HER NEW SHOW AND FINDING INSPIRATION IN EVERYDAY LIFE
by ASJAD NAZIR
She has been described as one of the bravest and funniest comedians in the world, but Shazia Mirza is also a pioneer who has smashed open the door for a generation of British Asian stand-up talent and someone who has done things on her own terms.
She has performed all over the world with her unique brand of humour and delivered solo shows that have delighted diverse audiences. The funny girl, originally from Birmingham, follows up her last two hugely successful shows With Love From St. Tropez and The Kardashians Made Me Do It with her brand new offering Coconut. Shazia is once again promising to push the boundaries with a stand-up show talking about pressing issues of our time.
Eastern Eye caught up with funny girl Shazia Mirza to speak about the new show, comedy and more.
How do you look back on your comedy journey?
I’m still on it and don’t like to look back. It hinders me moving forward. I just like to keep looking straight ahead with blinkers on and anything that distracts me I just ignore it and pretend it’s not happening. Also, I like to think I’m getting better, not worse, so if I look back I will only remember the sh*t gigs. No one ever remembers the good gigs. I certainly don’t! Also, the sh*t gigs are the best stories!
How have you evolved as a comedian?
I say what I want to say now, rather than what other people want or expect me to say. In the beginning, I was expected to represent all ‘my people’; all women, all Asian women, all Muslim women, all brown people and all people from Birmingham. I just wanted to represent myself and be myself. Now I just don’t care! I just feel responsible for myself when I’m on stage. I’m no self-appointed leader. I’ve gigged everywhere, to all different kinds of audiences in different countries where some of the people don’t even speak English. I’ve had every kind of experience; I’m not scared anymore. I can still do a gig in a room above a pub in Dagenham.
Today, from where do you draw your inspirations?
I draw my inspirations from life, from people and from what’s going on in the world. There is so much to say, so much to be angry about and so much to complain about. This is the best time for comedy, when the world is in such a ludicrous time and place in history.
What inspired your new show Coconut?
My latest show is inspired by a few things; being on The Island With Bear Grylls, Shamima Begum wanting to come back and Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoking her passport and loyalty, but ultimately it’s about survival.
Tell us more about the show?
I did Celebrity The Island With Bear Grylls, which I survived. What I realised through my experience is that the island was a metaphor for life. I translate that experience to what’s happening in the real world.
How much of the material in the show is based on personal experiences?
All of it! I would not be able to do a show where I talk for an hour and didn’t feel connected to the material. I have to talk about myself and the things I have done. It has to some extent be based on the truth.
Who is the funniest person you know in real life?
My mum! But she doesn’t know it, which makes it worse and funnier. Everything she says is serious and ridiculous. She’s so out of touch with my life and what’s happening in the real world that nothing she says makes sense. She still thinks that John Major is running the country.
Can you tell if a joke will be funny when you are writing it or do you find out only on stage?
Sometimes when I write a joke I can see that it’s going to be funny, but other times, if it’s an idea, I have to try it out as I don’t have the punch-line till I try it on stage.
What is the secret of a great stand-up comedy set?
If I had that secret I’d be doing Madison Square Garden every night wouldn’t I? I suppose it has to be everything. Funny, profane, profound, clever, stupid, meaningful, meaningless, deep, shallow, relevant and irrelevant!
You are very daring with some of your jokes, would you say you are fearless?
I never say that about myself. I am unaware of what I am. I just think about what I want to do and do it. I never think about the audience’s reaction or whether they are going to like it or not. I don’t put boundaries or barriers on myself.
What else do you have on the way?
I have many things on the way. I have a few big projects that are coming out soon, you will hear about them. It’s all comedy!
You have achieved a lot, but do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Always! I would like to do films, write lots more stuff, and I still have to meet John Travolta.
Why should we come to the new tour?
It’s a great new show, it’s funny and it’s a commentary on the times that we live in, so everyone can relate to it.
Shazia Mirza: Coconut embarks on a nation-wide tour in November with performances, including Artrix in Bromsgrove (15), Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry (17), Lowry in Salford (24). Visit www.shazia-mirza.com for tour dates.