Ask Birmingham-based stand-up comedienne Shazia Mirza when she discovered her talent for being funny, and she quips that if she’d realised it, she would have repressed it “because it would have been unacceptable in my family” (they wanted her to be a doctor).
The 37-year-old humourist, who will be performing in the city soon, has won several honours, including the AWA Arts and Culture Award and the Columnist of the Year at Professional Publishers Association (PPA) Awards. She has toured Sweden, France, Denmark, the US, Germany and the Netherlands over the past decade.You were a teacher and a columnist before taking up comedy. Did you plan your life this way? Also, do you remember your first performance?
If my life were planned, I would have married George Clooney. I never planned to be a comedian, it was an accident. I became a teacher at 21 and longed to do more. I wanted to be on stage but never thought I would do what I am doing now. My first performance was in a bar in Brixton, London. I was trying to tell jokes, with no stage and no microphone.
How did your family react to your choice of profession? Did you fear added censorship because of your ethnicity?
Someone will always be offended. Even if I joke about my mother, there will be someone in the audience that I don’t know who will be offended on her behalf. Those people need to find something else to do with their spare time. My parents are now very proud of me, but I don’t want them at my gigs.
How is the comedy scene different in India and the UK?
For the British and Americans, stand-up comedy has a long history and tradition, but it’s still new in India and the east. It is catching up, though. Here (in India), it’s less slapstick and more thoughtful humour.
What is in store for the Mumbai audience?
I will keep it to myself for now. It will be my first big performance in Mumbai. I think the crowd will be great. They are desperate to laugh, I’ve heard.
Any tips for aspiring comedians?
For aspiring comedians, the mantra should be, be funny, be honest.
Catch Shazia Mirza perform from October 15 to October 17, at Canvas Laugh Factory, Lower Parel, from 8.30 pm onwards.