SHAZIA Mirza, controversial female comedian, is due to grace the stage of the Lowry, MediaCity with her new show ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’ in March. Quays News entertainment reporter Amy Cully Steele caught up with her recently…
“My show is about ISIS and the Jihadi Bride. I wanted to call it ‘The Road to Al-Baghdadi’ because the leader of ISIS is called Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but I was performing at a theatre in London and they wouldn’t let me call it that,” said Mirza.
“Since then, a theatre in Bradford where I was performing refused to put my poster up. They told me to remove the Arabic writing because they didn’t want to frighten people. I thought, god, wait till you see the f*****g show!
“To be honest, everybody is offended these days. It’s fashionable to be offended.”
Shazia’s show is centred on the story of three girls from Bethnall Green who go to join ISIS. Although while her work borders on territory that other comedians may fear to tread, Shazia insists that her material is no more hard hitting that that of popular comedians such as Ricky Gervais or Frankie Boyle.
“That’s the great thing about comedy. You can be really blunt, you can be really crude and you can say it how it is-and you can be funny. People may find it hard to laugh at, but it’s better to hear it that way than any other.”
Though she insists that the edge to her work is not deliberate.
“I never go out of my way to push boundaries.
“This show comes from a really passionate place in me, it’s something I really care about.
“I try to be myself as much as possible on stage, and try to say what I really think and what I believe is true and often when you do say the truth it is funny.”
Shazia is renowned for the deadpan tone which she employs when juxtaposing controversial current issues with comedy, and she demonstrates this perfectly in her show’s title, ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’ which is derived from a story she tells in her show about a girl who goes to join ISIS, and her family are required to speak to the government about that motives their daughter may have had.
“One of the sisters said, ‘I don’t understand why she’s gone, she used to watch the Kardashians, you know.’ Your sister has gone to join ISIS and you’re telling the government that she used to watch the Kardashians?! I thought to myself, that’s probably exactly why she has gone!”
A former high school teacher with a degree in biomedical science, from a reportedly strict Muslim family, Shazia resents the notion that the industry is any harder to break for a woman than a man.
“I wanted to be in comedy. I loved it and I found a way of doing it. So I feel like if I can do it then so can any other woman.
“I’ve been to some places where they do see women on stage as a loose thing to do.
“But I still don’t really feel like there’s a boundary [for women]. If you really love something and you’re passionate enough about it then I think you’ll always find a way of doing it.”
Listed in 2003 by The Observer as one of the top 50 funniest acts in British comedy, as well as 2008 PPA Awards Columnist of the year, Shazia possesses an acute ability to convey her comedy in any form.
“Comedy is you, you’re not playing a character unless you’re playing a character. I like people to read my stuff and hear my voice.”
Shazia was noted by The Daily Telegraph to be ‘provoking laughter and large intakes of breath once again. Brave and urgent.’ Though she makes a point of not reading any criticism of her work.
“I think critics are irrelevant. I’m going to do the show whether they like it or not, I don’t care what they say. And I think it’s really patronising for people to keep calling me brave – they don’t call Frankie Boyle or Ricky Gervais brave. Is it because I’m an Asian woman?”
So brace yourselves, Manchester. Shazia is coming on Saturday, March 19 to rattle some rib cages.
By Amy Cully Steele
Picture credit: Linda Nylind