Following the success of her critically acclaimed recent shows With Love From St. Tropez – a riot of brexit, buquas and butt-plugs through the lens of The Periodic Table, and The Kardashians Made Me Do It – a searing and urgent exploration of life, love and Jihadi brides, Shazia is taking on the burning (and infectious) issues of our time in her latest show, Coconut.
Shazia will be performing in Worcester on Saturday February 19th at Huntington Hall.
Comedian Shazia Mirza is a regular face on TV in the UK – appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show (ITV), Graham Norton (BBC), Top Gear (BBC), Loose Women (ITV), The Late Late Show (RTE), and she is a regular panelist on The Wright Stuff (Channel 5).
However, growing up in Birmingham with strict Pakistani parents nearly saw Shazia’s career take a different turn. Her family hoped she’d be a doctor or a lawyer – and she reluctantly got a degree in biochemistry and became a science teacher. But her dream of being on stage led her to take comedy-writing classes at night and she began performing at small clubs around London.
A few weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, she got on stage wearing her hijab, and started off her act:
“My name is Shazia Mirza… at least that’s what it says on my pilot’s licence…”
After that night, Mirza’s comedy career took off. She was profiled on “60 Minutes,” was a semifinalist on Last Comic Standing and started performing to packed audiences all over the world.
We caught up with Shazia to discover a little more about the Brummie comedian who is taking the comedy world by storm…
How long have you been on the comedy scene?
I first started comedy about 14 years ago in a place with no chairs, no microphone, no stage, everyone was talking and there were police sirens going off because a man was being arrested outside for drug dealing. Somehow everyone laughed at all my jokes though!
How did you get into comedy?
It was an accident really. I never planned to do this. I was a science teacher in an East End comprehensive where, when I look back, I was actually doing comedy every day. You have to keep them interested, entertained, informed and then at the end of the day they may lock you in the broom cupboard. At least at the end of a gig I can just go home after 20 minutes.
Is teaching anything like writing/performing stand-up comedy?
There is no difference between teaching and stand up. You have to keep the audience engaged and interested; you have to entertain them. The great thing about stand-up is that no one throws a chair at you and locks you in the broom cupboard at the end of your set.
Describe your comedy?
Funny, observational and personal.
Do you have any specific influences?
All the greats will always be influences. Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, George Carlin – all the greats who were all unique, with totally original voices, and who are all dead now. But if I had to pick one, it would be Joan Rivers. She became the first woman to host a late-night network television talk show, the first woman to do a lot of things. She was ground-breaking, unique and there had never been anyone like her before.
Where do you find inspiration?
In life. With ordinary people chatting on a bus, people waiting in a queue at a bus stop. The ordinary is the most interesting.
If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?
I would probably be a miserable bitter teacher teaching somewhere just to pay the mortgage and wondering what the point of my life was.
How do you deal with a joke flopping?
Like a bad date. Pretend it didn’t happen, move on.
What are your pre-gig routines and rituals?
I have to be by myself. I go through all my jokes, and I must not eat crisps because half way through your set they get stuck in your throat, you choke on them and you can’t get your jokes out.
You were on Celebrity Island. Was that scary for you?
The Island was difficult, mentally and physically. We were literally starving to death whilst trying to navigate where we were exactly. It was like Vietnam.
Do you think people take offence much quicker these days?
Along with complaining and tutting, being offended is a new national British pastime. I still think comedians do tend to say what they want though. You can’t censor us; the minute someone tells us not to say something, we go out of our way to say it. Things are more sensitive now compared to when I first started but that’s because minors around are feeling attacked by our leaders and politicians and people who run the world.
What kind of audience do you think you generally attract?
My audiences are a lot of fun. They are mixed ages and abilities so it’s always fun. Some of them don’t really know what they’re coming to, and that’s always funny for me to watch.]
How easy do you find it to write comedy?
It takes years to get good and get quick to see something and then turn it into a joke but the more you do it the better you get. A bit like sex, and baking.
What is the secret behind a successful comedy show?
It’s like a romantic date. Good rapport with the audience, laughter, fun, and challenge. And give them a kiss goodnight.
Do you feel that the comedy industry has grown in its diversity?
When I was growing up, there was no one on TV that looked like me. I used to watch Larry Grayson, Frankie Howerd, Kenny Everett. I thought the comedy world only consisted of white gay men. If you don’t see people that look like you, doing certain jobs it never seems like a possibility to you. Which is why we need to see all types of people, visibly and publicly, doing all kinds of roles on TV.
Have you had an awkward situation with an audience member?
Yes, many times.
One time a solicitor stood up in the middle of the room and said, “Your job is to entertain. That is what you’re meant to be doing, you are not meant to be talking to the audience and bantering”
He thought he was in court. I told him to shut up and sit down. That was pretty awkward.
What advice can you give upcoming comics?
Work hard. Never give up. Fail, fail again, and fail better each time.
Shirza will be in Worcester on 19th February 2022 performing her latest show ‘Coconut’ at Huntington Hall.
For tickets Click Here.