by Caroline Radnofsky
A ticket to see Shazia Mirza is not for the faint of heart. Before she begins her act, she moves down the aisle, sizing up her crowd; squashed into the tiny venue and soaking wet from the sudden Scottish downpour. At one point she rifles through the pockets of a member of the audience. “A bus ticket – so he’s down to earth.” Next she finds a press pass – he’s a reviewer. “I’ve shot myself in the foot!” she groans theatrically. The audience laughs but squirms – who will she pick on next?
Nothing is off-limits for Shazia: sex, religion, racism, terrorism, misogyny and family pressure are all material. When other comedians are making jokes about Team England’s epic fail in this year’s World Cup and their girlfriends, Shazia is more courageous, turning taboo topics into comedy.
Her one-liners are witty and well-placed, (“The best thing anyone's ever shouted at me? Oi you Paki. Go back to India!”) but it’s Shazia’s storytelling that really draws in the audience. Her tales of being a Pakistani mistakenly invited to meet the Queen along with 400 British Indians and of her Irish atheist boyfriend posing as a minicab driver to meet her mother are both entertaining and endearing.
Shazia Mirza started out as a pioneer: the first practising Muslim woman in comedy. These days she’s more than just a novelty, though: Shazia’s an established comedian in her own right, and her material resonates with anyone who’s ever experienced parental pressure, culture clash or felt out of sync with their peers.