Muddy meets Shazia Mirza
The Brummy comedian on why she's not scared to shake things up, her new tour Coconut and where all the real eyebrows have gone.
Shazia Mirza is a hilarious, take-no-prisoners comedian who has you hooked the minute she opens her mouth. The self-confessed ‘disappointing daughter’ of immigrant Muslim parents from Pakistan, she’s known for channeling her incredibly strict upbringing into her stand-up (“My mother wears the burkha – she doesn’t want to be seen with my dad”) and for not being afraid to tackle hot potatoes like immigration, terrorism and jihadi wives.
As an ex-science teacher with two degrees, her one-time claim to fame was teaching “or rather trying to teach” the rapper Dizzee Rascal. Now she’s famous in her own right with numerous stand-up shows to her name and two recent international tours, The Kardashians Made Me Do it and With Love from St Tropez. She’s braved both Bear Grylls Celebrity Island and Loose Women, and if that’s not hardcore, what the hell is?
Her new show Coconut, which launched at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, wants to know: “What’s going on? Why is everyone fighting? Why does everyone hate each other? Who the hell is Alexa? And why are there no women left with real eyebrows?
Want some answers? Go and see Shazia when she brings the show to the Norwich Arts Centre in Norwich this month. Until then, you’ll have to make do with a bit of Muddy nosiness to keep you going.
Hello Shazia! (Can we call you Shaz??) How are you feeling in this so-called ‘dawning of a new era’?
The only people who call me Shaz are my parents when I am in serious trouble which is quite often, so I think its best to call me Shazia, it sounds a lot less severe. I feel the same today as I did yesterday just a bit more knackered.
Insightful, provocative, outspoken, politically-charged poster girl for liberated Muslim women – you’ve been described in many ways. How would you describe yourself?
Since I started comedy I have always had many labels put onto me. Muslim, Asian, female, stand up comedian from Birmingham. None of them say anything about me or my comedy. People don’t just come and see because you’re brown, you have to be funny. You also have to be good to last. I also find that certain people get labeled more than others. The men I started comedy with never get labelled as pale male and stale.
Which was hardest – going on Loose Women or Bear Grylls’ Celebrity Island?
Starving to death, getting attacked by a stingray and sleeping with crabs crawling up my legs, was definitely harder than an afternoon with a Nolan.
Are you still a disappointing daughter?
You haven’t achieved anything in life if you haven’t disappointed or offended someone. People need to be shaken up, that’s how things change.
Tell us a bit about the new show. Why Coconut?
My new show Coconut, is about my time on The Island with Bear Grylls. It is really a metaphor for the world and survival. It is about the strength of men and women, why women are better survivors, divisions between people, what is a strong woman?
Have you tracked down where the real eyebrows went yet?
An eyebrow genocide has taken over the world. No one knows anything.
You’re not afraid of sending up topics like Isis and jihadi wives. What’s your aim with your comedy?
I do comedy about whatever I find interesting. Also if I have a personal experience or opinion on something, I’ll do material on it. My aim is to reach as many people as possible.
What/who makes you laugh?
Stupid things and stupid people. There are plenty of them about.
If you ever married a prince where would you run off to?
What are you you up to for the rest of the day (sorry, we’re nosey)?