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Shazia Mirza

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Shazia Mirza Biography

Shazia Mirza is a very funny award winning British Asian stand up Comedian from Birmingham England.

She works all over the world and has toured the US, Sweden, Denmark, France Holland and Germany. She has appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, NBC's Last Comic Standing, and Have I got News for You (BBC).

Shazia could have married a rich man and lived in a mansion on The Bishops Avenue, with servants, bidets, and horses. But instead she chose to drive up and down the country for as little as ten pounds, staying in dirty lurid bed and breakfasts trying to make people laugh.She thought of giving up, but no Muslim man wants to marry her, now that's she's dabbled in jokes and fingered a few white men on the 38 bus.

Shazia Mirza Picture - Middle Eastern Woman Stand up comedian - female stand up comedian

Shazia Mirza Career Highlights

Shazia in Pakistan, 30 November 2008

Shazia becomes the first British comedian to perform in Pakistan at The 25th World Performing Arts Festival 11th- 16th November 2008 LAHORE PAKISTAN

Shazia in Edinburgh, 25 July 2008
Shazia performs her new show 'A Portrait of Shazia Mirza' at the Edinburgh Festival. 1st - 25th August at The Pleasance.

Shazia wins Columnist of the Year, 30 May 2008
Shazia Mirza wins Columnist of the Year (Consumer Magazines) in the PPA Magazines 2008 Awards for editorial and publishing excellence for her column in The New Statesman.

"Her laconic one-liners represent something quite unique in modern comedy."
William Cook, The Guardian

Winner Columnist of the Year PPA Awards 2008
Semi-finalist NBC's Last Comic Standing 2008
Winner GG2 Young Achiever of the Year Award 2003
Winner Metro Magazines in association with Jongleurs Comedy Clubs People's Choice Best Comic Award 2002
Winner London Comedy Festival and Hackney Empire 2001
Runner Up Birmingham Comedy Festival 2001


Last Comic Standing (NBC 2008)
Splitting Cells -Broadcast sitcom pilot (BBC3 2007)
F**K off I'm a Hairy Woman (BBC3 2007)
Richard and Judy ( Channel 4 roving reporter 2007)
28 Acts in 28 Minutes (BBC3 2005)
The World Stands Up (Paramount Comedy 2004)
Stockholm Live (TV2 Sweden 2004)
60 Minutes (CBS 2004)
Have I got News for You (BBC1)


The Fred MacAulay Show (BBC Radio Scotland 2008)
The Janice Forsyth Show (BBC Radio Scotland 2008)
Women's Hour (BBC Radio 4 2007)
With Great Pleasure (BBC Radio 4 2005)


Pakistan- World Performing Arts Festival (2008)
'Fun'-National Tour (2007)
USA- San Francisco Herbst Theatre (2007)
Switzerland- Arosa Comedy Festival (2007)
India- Tour (2006)
Sweden- National Tour (2006)
Canada- Winnipeg Comedy Festival (CBC 2005)
Holland- National Tour (2005)
Canada- Halifax Comedy Festival (CBC 2004)
Sweden- National Tour (2004)
Also performed in Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Paris, Kosovo, Dubai, Luxembourg


1001 Nights Now (2005- 2006) The National Theatre Tour. Produced by Northern Stage. Directed by Alan Lyddiard

Vagina Monologues (2003) The Royal Albert Hall. Directed by Eve Ensler

The Tribe of Beorma (2000- 2001) Women and Theatre Tour. Directed by Janice Connolly

Press Quotes about femaile comedian Shazia Mirza

"Warm, bubbly with a refreshing confidence.... and no shortage of gags" Metro

"Very funny...This woman knows how to grab and keep control of a room" ScotsGay

"A relaxed beaming comedian who has the crowd in stitches" The List

"Mirza performs with a distinct comedy voice that should put other comics to shame. She's breaking taboos, material which becomes endearing, fun and goddamn hilarious in her hands." Three Weeks

"Is Shazia Mirza bound for the Comedy shortlist? And yet if one joke most deftly reflects the moment it's her joke..." The Telegraph

"Shazia is a clever writer and performer with a volume of funny observational material"

"Calm, confident, challenging and always with original material" The Evening Standard

"Guarantees an audience with her biting deadpan observations" The New York Times

"In that global menagerie of Comedy Mirza is that rarest of rare creatures. Mirza is a proven draw" The New York Times

"Doing great routines she is breaking new ground" Mark Thomas

"Sticks the knife into political correctness with hilarious effect. A must see." Attitude Magazine

Female Comedian Shazia Mirza Show Schedule

February 2009

20th February
A Portrait of Shazia Mirza (90 min show)
The Drum
144 Potters Lane Aston Birmingham B6 4UU 0121 333 2400

21st February
Brentwood Comedy Club- Essex Arms
Warley Hill Brentwood Essex CM14 5HA 01277 201164

22nd February
The Angel
21 Church Street Stratford London E15 3HU

24th February
Keele University Students Union OTK
Newcastle-u-Lyme Staffs ST5 5BJ

26th February
Goldsmiths College Student Union
Lewisham Way New Cross London SE14 6NW

27th February
A Portrait of Shazia Mirza (1 Hour show)
The Public
New Street West Bromwich West Midlands B70 7PG 0121 533 7161

28th February
Cambridge University Annual Ball

March 2009

4th March
A Portrait of Shazia Mirza (1hour show)
Norwich Arts Centre
51 St.Benedicts Street Norwich NR2 4PG 01603 660 352

5th March
A Portrait of Shazia Mirza (1hour show)
Dundee Rep Theatre
Tay Square Dundee DD11PB 01382 203 882

6th March
A Portrait of Shazia Mirza (90 min show)
The Anvil
Churchill Way Basingstoke RG21 7QR 01256 819797

7th March
Peterborough Women's Festival- Thomas Deacon Academy
Queen Gardens Peterborough Cambridgeshire PE1 2UW

10th March
Mark Pitta and Friends 142 Throckmorton Theatre
142 Throckmorton Avenue Mill Valley California CA 94941 USA 001 415-383-9600

11th-14th March
The Punchline San Francisco
444 Battery Street (Between Washington and Clay)
San Francisco California CA94111 USA

21st March
Reigate Surrey

24th March
Comedy Camp
3-4 Archer Street Soho London W1D 7AP

25th March
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
372 Kennington Lane London SE11 5HY 0207 820 1222

26th March
Wivenhoe Funny Farm Comedy Club
Wivenhoe Town FC Clubhouse Elmstead Road Wivenhoe C07 9HX

27th March
The Comedy Tree Kingston

28th March
Wam Bam Club- Cafe De Paris
3-4 Coventry Street West End London W1D 6BL

29th March
Laughing Cows Manchester
The Frog and Bucket 96-102 Oldham Street Manchester M4 1LJ 0161 228 1652

Shazia Mirza Profile - 2008

There's something about holding the attention of a bunch of unruly kids in school which prepares you for a career entertaining drunken adults in nightclubs: French and Saunders, Dave Spikey from Phoenix Nights, even Tom O’Connor served their time at the chalk face before moving into stand-up.

But it’s unlikely any of them put up with anything like Shazia Mirza dealt with when she taught at a tough inner city boys school in the East End of London.

“The kids didn’t want to learn,” remembers Mirza as she wanders around the lobby of an arts centre in Oldham where she has just done a gig in an ultimately futile attempt to track down some cranberry juice (“Cranberry? Juice?” asks the manager, incredulously). “I used to have to lock the doors to keep them in. They used to escape from my lesson though a window. I mean, they weren’t interested in physics and chemistry; they wanted to be football players. It was a really poor area.”

“When I’m onstage, you get some bad heckles, but nobody would ever say things like, ‘have you got a boyfriend?’ Nobody’s ever said, ‘You’re shit, you don’t deserve to be paid’. I suppose once you’ve been a teacher, you’ve heard all that. The only time the kids listened to me was when I said something funny - actually, looking back on it, I used to go into school every morning and perform for them - so when I started stand-up, it wasn’t that different.”

It might seem an obvious career path in retrospect, but the woman once billed as the world’s only female Muslim stand-up comic never really wanted to be a comedian in the first place. It would have seemed a bizarre and ludicrous idea.

Her mother and father emigrated to Birmingham in the Sixties and she was brought up in a loving but strict Muslim Pakistani household in Edgbaston, alongside three brothers and a younger sister. Mirza remembers family gatherings where she would be in a room full of adults, making jokes, “and my parents would come in and go, ‘that’s inappropriate, stop it’. Y’know, ‘you’re a girl, you shouldn’t be standing in a room full of men, talking’.”

Mirza seems to have developed something of a dual personality: at her multicultural single-sex school her friends laughed at her jokes but thought that she was “very oppressed”; meanwhile, at home she was the unhappy but dutiful daughter, a little resentful of her father’s traditional attitude towards women’s expectations but going along with it all the same.

Still, a girl can dream.

“I just wanted to be onstage,” remembers Mirza. “The funny thing was, I was always making people laugh and when I look back on it, I was always watching comedy. When I was growing up, I loved Les Dawson, I thought he was fantastic. We used to watch him all the time. I’d never seen people like Les Dawson in my real life - we never mixed with white, male, working class people. But in a lot of ways, I could relate to him. I used to make people laugh but, at the time, I didn’t really know what a comedian was or what they did - it wasn’t a possibility for me. It wasn’t encouraged.

“I just thought, I’d like to be an actor, I’d like to be onstage.”

Her parents thought otherwise. middle eastern female comedian (stand up)

“My parents wanted me to be a doctor - because there aren’t enough Asian doctors in Britain. And then they said, if you can’t be a doctor we want you to do something respectable, we don’t want you going onstage. And so I had to do something respectable to get away from home. But the only way to do that was to go away to university.”

Mirza wound up at Manchester University studying biochemistry (“I hated it and actually spent all my time watching comedy and going to drama”) and after getting her degree, did a Masters at University of London and teacher training at Goldsmiths. Earning a reasonable living teaching physics and chemistry, Mirza enrolled at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and took acting classes after work.

“My parents didn’t know, I did it all in secret because I thought, there’s no point telling anybody, they’ll just try to put me off. Our culture encourages people to go into the sciences, medicine or whatever, because they think that’s more purposeful than the arts, you can help sick people, you can make poor people become rich in sciences, you can save people’s lives, but you can’t do that with the arts. Entertainment is not important. People can’t learn from entertainment.”

Mirza is very matter-of-fact but there is more than a hint of steely determination in the calm gaze.

“There were so many people telling me that I couldn’t do it that I thought, I’ve got to do it. And also because that’s what I knew I wanted to do, everything else I did just made me unhappy. I thought, well, I’ve got to do what I want to do.”

Despite having a combined working and studying 17-hour day, Mirza persevered with the part-time course for two years before going full-time for her final year.

“It was very difficult. I was knackered all the time. I used to learn my lines when I was supposed to be teaching - I’d sit at the front, read Shakespeare and learn my lines.”

She was, she says, only able to maintain a positive attitude under such difficult circumstances because she was, “a little bit naïve, I didn’t know what was going to happen or where I was going. I knew what I wanted, and that was to be on the stage and I was going to do anything to try and get there, but I had no money, I’d put all my money into going to drama school, and I just hoped that one day I would get so good at what I wanted to do that I’d be able to leave my job.”

Mirza, never one to do things the easy way, made her live stand-up debut in a packed pub in Brixton, in the early hours of one Sunday morning in late 2000. There was no stage and no microphone, but her coolly deadpan delivery of material which frankly assessed the position of a devout Muslim woman living in a secular world was an instant hit, and Mirza has enjoyed what appears to be a meteoric rise over the last couple of years.

But it’s not been easy. She has been attacked onstage and early in her career, members of one audience thought Mirza was actually a Hindu comedian making fun of Islam, so she began wearing a hijab in her act, until she got to the stage where she felt she was in danger of becoming “a scarf on legs”.

Her comedy has a refreshing honesty and openness that some can find difficult to take – she cheerfully confesses to a curiosity about alcohol and casual sex, even eating pork, though it’s clear that she wouldn’t dream of actually trying any of them – but Mirza is careful to differentiate between making jokes about elements of Pakistani culture she disagrees with, such as arranged marriages, and making jokes about Islam.

“Islam actually gives women a lot of power, but it’s our culture that takes it away. I would never challenge the ideas of Islam.”

Still, unafraid of saying the unsayable, less than a fortnight after 9/11, she began a gig in London with the words, “My name is Shazia Mirza, at least that what it says on my pilot’s license”. She still tells a gag about performing her Umra in Mecca, only to have her backside pinched by some unknown hand in the multitude. Thing is, it’s a true story.

Mirza is breaking new ground every single day. She’s ambitious and organised, and has plans for a book, a sitcom, theatre, a trip to Hollywood - and she wants to be the first Muslim woman to win an Oscar. Maybe she’ll do it. She is certainly a striking-looking woman with large, watchful eyes and movie-star cheekbones.

Either way, the next generation of Muslim women needs a better role model than Mirza’s own childhood inspiration, the Material Girl herself, Madonna. They could do worse than Shazia Mirza.

The biggest lesson she’s learned along the way is “that you get nothing instantly and nobody gives you anything. I think a lot of young people think, Oh, I’ll be a singer, I’ll have a few singing lessons. I want a record deal. Or, I’ll do a couple of gigs but then I want to tour with my own show as a comedian. But nothing happens overnight.”

“Your aim should be to be great at what you do, and that only happens over a long period of time. People get knock-backs all the time, it doesn’t mean that you’re not any good, it just means that you’re not right for that job at that time.

“Ultimately, if you really want something you’ll do anything to get it, so work hard, and believe in yourself.”

Shazia Mirza Interview - 2007

What appealed to you about getting involved with the British Library's Sacred exhibition?
Shazia Mirza: Well they asked me to do it, and I thought it would be a really nice thing to do because there are lots of artists taking part so I thought it would be fun. It's something different from what I normally do.

How different is it?
Shazia Mirza: I normally do comedy clubs, any audience really, whereas I think a different kind of audience will come and watch this show.

With Erran Baron Cohen also on the bill, is this the first time you've worked with someone Jewish?
Shazia Mirza: Oh God no,most of my friends are Jewish. My manager in America is Jewish, I go to America a lot, and when I do stand up comedy in New York all the people who help me get gigs are all Jewish, they all helped me to work when I first went to America. The first time I ever performed in America was in San Francisco, and it was organised by a Jewish woman.

Have you shared bills with other Jewish people?
Shazia Mirza: Yeah, I've always done that, even in this country.

Who's been your favourite Jewish person to share a bill with?
Shazia Mirza: Well, I've worked with Joan Rivers but I didn't share a bill with her, but I do love Joan Rivers. We did a charity gig in New York and I was on much later than her, about two hours later. But she was great. I met her and I spoke to her and everything, she was great. I've read all her books and always admired her.

Do you have any other Jewish comedy influences?
Shazia Mirza: I love Woody Allen. Even before I went into comedy or decided to become a comedian I loved Woody Allen. And I like Sacha Baron Cohen.

What do you think Muslim comics can learn from Jewish comics?
Shazia Mirza: Everything!

And what do you think Jewish comics can learn from Muslim comics?
Shazia Mirza: Nothing! There's nothing to learn, there's no humour! I get death threats for telling jokes, that doesn't happen with Jews. They embrace it, they love it. That's how they get through life.

Do you think it's easy to interpret the Jewish experience with the Muslim experience?
Shazia Mirza: No, it's not easy and it's not the same I don't think. I keep thinking the Jews are so ahead of their time and they've come such a long way, they're running all the great things like the entertainment business in America. My manager in America is Jewish and he saw me and said he'd like to work with me, because he'd never experienced any Asian Muslim comedy before. It's so different, you never see Muslim comics and even if you do, it tends to be very stereotypical, there's nothing clever about it. Like Woody Allen is very clever and very personal, but the people I've seen so far haven't matched up to that. And I think the reason for that is that we're never encouraged to go into the arts or comedy, it's always seen as the hobby.

Do you have any favourite Jewish jokes?
Shazia Mirza: Well, what is a Jewish joke? I have comedian friends who are Jewish but they don't necessarily tell Jewish jokes, they tell jokes about their neuroses and their life but that isn't necessarily Jewish.

What sort of reaction have you had from the Jewish crowd in Edinburgh and elsewhere?
Shazia Mirza: They love it. Even more so in America. Over here I always have emails from Jewish people telling me we've got so much in common and they totally understand my jokes. We have a lot in common but in terms of comedy Jews are well ahead of the game.

What do you think Jews relate to exactly?
Shazia Mirza: Well I did a show recently where a Jewish man came up to me and said 'I came to watch you tonight because I was interested in what you had to say'. I think a lot of them come to analyse the show because this man said 'I don't think people like Sacha Baron Cohen have thought this through, because the characters that they do, they're increasing anti-semitism on a day to day basis'. A lot of Jewish people come and they analyse my comedy and ask me really intelligent questions afterwards.

You've never had any Jewish members of the audience demand their money back?
Shazia Mirza: No! What, is that a Jewish thing? Asian people do that as well, they're asking for their money back before the show even starts!

Shazia Mirza Interview - 2006

What gave you the idea to tour India, how did it come about?
Shazia Mirza: It wasn't my idea. The British Council offered to take me to India, and so I said yes. I have done shows for The British Council before, and they have been fun so I knew it would be good.

What is your schedule when you arrive in India, will you be only doing comedy gigs?
Shazia Mirza: Yes I am only going to India to do shows that's all. I am sure that will be enough, I will be doing my one hour Edinburgh show called Fun.

How well do you think Indian audiences will respond to your brand of comedy?
Shazia Mirza: I am sure they will respond very well, because I have been told that I will be playing to people who have seen comedy before and speak very good English.

What type of material are preparing for the tour?
Shazia Mirza: I am not preparing anything special for the tour, I am just doing what I normally do and hope that it works.

What is the aim of your tour, what do you hope to achieve?
Shazia Mirza: The aim of the tour is to make people laugh and have my legs waxed by a proper Indian woman who I know will be good, also I will get my eyebrows threaded so that I have two eyebrows instead of one.

Can you see a tour of this nature catching on with other British stand-up comedians?
Shazia Mirza: The British Council has been taking comedians abroad for a long time now, it's not a new thing and many other comedians have been abroad, successfully.

What are you most looking forward to about the tour and what are you dreading?
Shazia Mirza: I am looking forward to buying some really nice saris, eating some really nice food and meeting some really nice people, maybe even getting a bit of a tan. I am dreading coming back a hairy woman.

What got you started in comedy?
Shazia Mirza: I started in comedy by accident - I was a teacher who hated teaching. The kids hated me and I hated them, and the only way to get through it was by making people laugh and doing stupid things so I did. Then I gave up teaching and thought you know what I'll do this for real.

What have you learnt so far from experience on the stand-up circuit and what advice would you give to aspiring comedians?
Shazia Mirza: It's hard - you just have to keep writing and writing and performing and performing to get better. It takes time and perseverance and it's good to fail a lot.

Do you have plans to go into television or film?
Shazia Mirza: Yes I would like both. I would love to do comedy films and write my own sitcom.

Who are your favourite comedians?
Shazia Mirza: Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, Dylan Moran.

Shazia Mirza Interview - 2005

How is it to be a Muslim, female stand-up comedienne?
Shazia Mirza: I don’t think of it. I just think of myself as a comedian, not this and that…

How did the comedian in you happen?
Shazia Mirza: It is a strange thing to say you wanted to be a comedian. It was an accident. I never planned to be one. I did it one night for a laugh and I couldn’t stop it.

Did you discover the comedian in you suddenly?
Shazia Mirza: Nothing happens suddenly. My parents wanted me to be a doctor, a good Asian doctor, so I will marry a doctor and our kids will be doctors and every body will be respected. I had enough of it. I didn’t want to be a doctor, I didn’t want to be a doctor because every one could say, your kids are doctors… I don’t know how I became a comedian; it takes years to become one. No, I don’t feel like a proper comedian.

Was your family disappointed with your career choice?
Shazia Mirza: No, they weren’t disappointed because I had a degree in biochemistry. I was a teacher and they thought what I was doing was a strange thing to do. They thought I will grow out of it and get married…

Which is the put on? The humor on stage or the serious you that you now seem to be…
Shazia Mirza: I am quite tired all the time. I am not a high energy person. When I was a child, I was naughty all the time… On stage, no, I am not a different person. It is the same person.

Are you generally reserved?
Shazia Mirza: No, I am not. I am just tired.

All comedians seem to face a problem; people expect them to be wise-cracking, humorous all the time…
Shazia Mirza: Most aren’t. It is not a transition of sorts. You aren’t the same person 24 hours a day. You have different moods. On stage, you have a written material that you want people to listen to.

Is every line you say on stage rehearsed?
Shazia Mirza: A lot of it is. One hour is a long time. You better have something up your sleeve.

What is the difficult part of being a comedian?
Shazia Mirza: It is all difficult… making people laugh, saying something valuable, travelling on your own, performing on your own, if something goes badly, it is all your fault… Shazia Mirza torrent and free downloads

Why is stand-up comedy regarded as such a man-thing?
Shazia Mirza: Because people think it is alright for a man to stand up there and make people laugh but it is not alright for a woman. It takes a long time to change that kind of mindset, to have an impact on something… But yes, I have worked hard for four years. I travel a lot, I do little gigs, little ones every night of the week, maybe because I am Asian I work hard.

Where do you pick your lines from?
Shazia Mirza: Life. I am a keen observer of life and people. I am baffled why people do certain things. I can’t understand why people are in porn films… I use that as my material. I get lines from family, travelling… You write things you want to say, your point of view, why you think one way, and the way I think represents who I am…

And how would you describe yourself?
Shazia Mirza: I was born and brought up in England, brought up by religious parents who go for Haj every year, all this defines who you are and how you think.

Has being a Muslim affected your work?
Shazia Mirza: It has affected others, not me. They come and watch my shows to see what I have to say, hoping there is something different, and it is different.

Has life changed being a comedian?
Shazia Mirza: Not exactly, though I travel a lot.

You are inspired by the great comedians of the past, the truth they told. Is comedy all about truth?
Shazia Mirza: Without truth there is no comedy and people don’t like to hear the truth. Any show could go wrong all the time. The audience might not understand my comedy because mine is not slapstick. I don’t talk about Bollywood. I don’t sing and dance. It is pure stand-up comedy the way we were brought up in the UK.

Do you research for the audience?
Shazia Mirza: No, not at all. I do what I want to. If they get it, they get it. Every show is different. Every audience is different. There will never be the same set of people in the same room every again. Usually one hour is a long time to do comedy. If it is going badly, that could be the longest hour in your life.

Do you plan to perform in India or Pakistan?
Shazia Mirza: I was supposed to go to Pakistan last month. It got cancelled. I will go in future. I want to go to India. It is very modern. I am sure their comedy is different from ours.

Shazia Mirza Profile - 2003

Shazia Mirza is the only woman on a tour of stand-up comedians, and the only Muslim. That means that she's the only one who comes on stage wearing the hijab, who doesn't drink, who doesn't have members of the opposite sex trying to get off with her in the bar afterwards - and who, if she does, has to explain that she doesn't go out with people unless she has first married them.

'It's extremely lonely,' she says over lunch in Amsterdam, where she is based for a month while she's on this tour of Holland. 'I'm living in a flat on my own. I haven't spoken to another woman for a week.'

She has already played Denmark and Germany this year (urging audiences in the latter: 'Oh, come on, join the war. It isn't the same without you'). She puts up with the unsocial hours and the grim existence for the thrill of being on stage up to an hour each night making people laugh. And they do laugh, and the hard graft of the comedy circuit ('anyone with half a brain would try and get off the circuit as soon as possible, because it's horrible') is paying off: next month she goes to New York and San Francisco, in a bid to make the Americans see the funny side of her Muslim woman's take on 11 September, the Iraqi war, the divisions opening up between Islam and America. ('My name's Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's licence.')

Her audience in The Hague that evening is initially bemused, uncertain what to make of this woman with covered limbs and head. Shazia Mirza wears the same 'lucky' pair of trousers for every gig and a plain black shirt. 'If you're a woman up there, the first thing the men in the audience think is, "Do I want to shag her?" I deliberately dress down. I want people to listen to what I'm saying.'

You can see them trying to work it out: does she want them to laugh at Islam? Is that OK? Is she even for real, this deadpan person with a light, Brummie drawl? How should they respond to this small, neat, demure and self-confessedly devout woman telling them that all men are pigs, especially Muslim men, 'but that's no use to me because I don't eat pork'?

This wasn't meant to be what Shazia Mirza did with her life. Born to first-generation Pakistani immigrants in Birmingham, she was raised to be a doctor. (Her father was a car salesman, working for his cousin, and is now employed by an organisation engaged in setting up Asian businesses; her mother brought up five children and is a teacher.)

Shazia remembers sitting round with the family at Eid, the aunties and uncles asking the children what they wanted to be when they grew up 'and all the kids saying they wanted to be doctors. They were only six or seven, but they were really well trained. I said I wanted to be an actress. Afterwards, my mother told me I was on no account to show them up again.'

Until she was 19, she claims, 'I didn't do anything. I wasn't allowed to go to parties. It was totally unacceptable for an Asian girl to want to do ballet or drama. I had to wear trousers under my skirt at school. My father was a Saddam Hussein-type figure. He had this regime going at home. He told my mother, "You've got to get your daughter into the kitchen, to teach her to cook and clean, or no one will want to marry her." He told me: "The only way you're going to get a decent husband is if you're in a decent profession yourself." So I became a stand-up comedian.'

Now, three years into a career as a stand-up, she feels ready to start mining her background for material. 'I haven't really begun to talk about what it was like to be a Pakistani Muslim woman growing up in a white community in Birmingham. The autobiographical stuff, the in-depth stuff, the painful stuff, comes later, when you've developed as a comedian and you feel you can talk about it in a funny way.'

Dutifully, she first went to Manchester University to study biochemistry. 'Virtually everyone on my course was Asian. I used to look at them and think, "Why are you doing this? Are you really interested? Or are you doing it for your parents, or because you think it will get you respect in the community?"'

Despite hating her biochemistry course, she became a science teacher in Poplar, in east London, but never gave up on her ambition to be an entertainer. She put herself through drama school on her teacher's salary: part-time for the first two years and full-time for the third, and then enrolled on a stand-up comedy writing course at the City Lit.

'The teacher said, "Comedy is about truth; you don't have to make it up, because all the material is inside you." And I was thinking, there's nothing funny about my life. I was just an Asian woman with excess facial hair and my parents were trying to arrange a marriage for me.'

Tentatively, she began to write about herself, especially about the facial hair. Even so, there remained no-go areas: 'There were times when I hated being a Muslim because I was never allowed out of the house. I couldn't go to drama classes like I wanted. But I felt I didn't want to tell people about that.'

It is these painful experiences that she says she now feels ready to explore - but there still remains a problem of how far to go. 'I'm quite devout. I would never make jokes about the Koran. I really believe in my faith.' But then she tells a story in her act about having her bottom pinched at Mecca ('I thought it was the hand of God. Then it happened again. Clearly, my prayers had been answered') which might be considered by some to bring the pilgrimage into disrepute in what is, after all, already a pretty hostile environment. 'It happened to me,' she says simply. 'It really happened.'

She is reluctant to get too deeply into this area of what is acceptable for comedy and what isn't, recognising that she'd be on a hiding to nothing, and wanting to let her performances speak for themselves. She does draw a distinction between the 'cultural things I don't believe in, like arranged marriages', and her faith. But, as she also accepts, faith is a personal matter, and the distinctions she makes are subtle and individual.

'I've had guys come up and ask me out after gigs. I say, "No, I'm a Muslim and I don't go out with people unless I'm married", and they think it's a joke.' Yet she later raises her eyebrows to the ceiling at the recollection of a man who came up to her after a gig in Eastbourne and asked if it was OK for him to talk to her. And she says that when she looks at George Clooney, 'I feel all my Muslimness going out of the window.' She is allowed, as a comedian, to have it all ways, but it's not altogether surprising that both within her community and beyond it, some people have found it hard to get a handle on her.

By the time she told her parents what she was up to, she had already been working as a stand-up for two years, often doing two or three gigs a night in 'horrible pubs and basements'. She'd won the London Comedy Festival 'and I was doing the Palladium, and I thought, I'd better tell my mum because I'm on Have I Got News For You next week'.

Her mother came to see her at the Palladium, 'and I think secretly she's very proud of me, but she still has to take criticism from the community'. It's slightly easier now that her daughter is famous. 'The Pakistani community only like you when you're successful. The last thing they want is to be shown up. I'm taking a risk that if it all goes wrong the whole community will turn on me. I've risked a lot really. I couldn't get a man before I was a stand-up. How am I going to get one now?'

Her father, she says, has never really got the jokes. I don't know how disingenuous she is being here, because she grew up watching Dave Allen, whose comedy her father loved, and with whose love-hate relationship with his background she has much in common. 'He just wants me to get married. It must be devastating for my parents. I've got three brothers and one sister and none of us is married.' (She says she would like to marry, but she would never give up performing, and she is sceptical of finding a man who would be comfortable with her continuing to work, 'and with being the butt of my jokes'.)

Mirza has had death threats and vicious emails, but she is also, as one of the few visible Muslim women in Britain, invited to comment publicly on all and sundry. 'I was asked to go on the radio to talk about the GCSE results from a Muslim point of view. So I said, "Obviously the boys are doing well at chemistry, because they've got to make the bombs."'

When she was touring Denmark a few weeks ago, she was invited on to Deadline, their version of Newsnight . 'They asked me where I thought Saddam was hiding his weapons of mass destruction. As if I'd know. I said up his wife's burkha, because no one would think of looking there.'

There is an element of frustration (as well as pleasure) in her response to all this. While she acknowledges that there is a dearth of Muslim spokespeople - 'they think, "We've got a man with one eye and one hook, who else have we got? Oh, a female comedian"' - she also sees it as lazy journalism. 'The real challenge would be to see me as a great British entertainer.' Shazia Mirza YouTube videos

And this is what she really wants to be. She is restlessly ambitious. 'I'd like to go to Hollywood, to be in a sitcom, to write a book, to do theatre in the West End. I'd like to do all the things people said I couldn't do.'

The mainly student audience in The Hague warms to her quickly, liking best the edgier jokes, the ones about Islam, bombs and terrorists. Afterwards, though, it is just as she predicted: women drape themselves around her male colleagues at the bar while she hangs around in the background waiting for them to decide they're ready to drive back to Amsterdam. The one man who does approach her says she reminds him of Dobby, the house elf in Harry Potter. Shazia Mirza video.

Female comedian Shazia Mirza has tried to do different kinds of material, but she acknowledges that audiences weren't nearly as interested when she talked about her time as a teacher as they are when she talks about Islam. This begs the question of how much comedy there really is in growing up as a Muslim girl who isn't allowed out of the house (though of course no one would dream of asking whether there's comedy in growing up Jewish). She, however, is in no doubt.

'If I'd played the game, if I'd got married to a nice Muslim guy introduced to me by my parents, it would have all looked nice from the outside, as it did for my mother's generation. But I'd say my mum had a terrible life, and she'd admit it. I saw it all the time when I was growing up: the women wore lovely clothes and jewellery, they had holidays. But the only reason they had a nice life was that they did what their husbands told them. I could have had that: I could have lived in a big house, had kids and been extremely unhappy. Comedians write best about sorrow, misery, loneliness. And I am still developing. I know the best is yet to come.'

Shazia Mirza Hairy Clip

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