Shazia Mirza likes to break new grounds. Whether it is giving up biochemistry to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian or making jokes about President Asif Ali Zardari while performing in Pakistan, she is nonchalant about her choices. The British stand-up comedian of Pakistani descent bowed down to family pressure to become a science teacher. But she honed her writing and acting skills part-time at drama school and with late-night gigs across England.
It was finally an appearance on Have I Got News For You, a television show in England, that compelled her friends and family to realise that Mirza was serious about being a stand-up comedian. Fusing contemporary issues with her personal experiences, she managed to appeal to the audience with her deadpan style. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, she made news by performing her act in hijab and beginning with the remark, “My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that’s what it says on my pilot’s licence.” Apart from having her own gigs, she has had shows on BBC’s numerous TV and radio channels and gained prominence as a writer with her columns in The New Statesman and the Guardian. Over the years, she has struck a chord with people with her remarks about her failing to live up to her parents’ expectations and being a foreigner in her own country.
She says, “I always talk and write about family, parents, marriage relationships. Parents want their children to get married, the kids aren’t bothered. When I travel across the world for my shows, people never think that I am British. When I went to Pakistan in 2010, the customs officer asked me, ‘Are you Pakistani? I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Where were you born?’, I said, ‘England’. ‘That makes you a foreigner,’ he commented. So I get called a foreigner in my parents’ country of birth, and I get called a foreigner in my own country of birth.”
In her typical tongue-in-cheek manner, she says about her performance in Mumbai, “I’m expecting a lot of rich, single, goodlooking men who are not threatened by women to be sitting in the front row of my show. I will joke about family, marriage, culture, news stories, anything I feel passionate about. But I will tear the Indian men to pieces, they need that. I’m the woman for the job. But everyone will have a good laugh.”
When: Today, 8:30 pm
Where: Canvas Laugh Factory, Third floor, Palladium, Lower Parel