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Comedian Shazia Mirza on Isis and the Kardashians!

Shazia Mirza plays the Stratford ArtsHouse tonight (Friday)
Shazia Mirza plays the Stratford ArtsHouse tonight (Friday)

COMEDIAN and writer Shazia Mirza is a regular face on TV, offering insights and humour on subjects that are considered a no-jokes zone. Tonight (Friday, 13th May), she takes her new show, the intriguingly titled The Kardashians Made Me Do It, to the Stratford ArtsHouse as part of a UK tour. It promises to be a searing and urgent exploration of life, love and jihadi brides. The Kardashians Made Me Do It is inspired by three girls who left Bethnal Green to join ISIS [one of whom was recently pictured in Syria with a Kalashnikov rifle], and an unrelated radio piece Shazia contributed to the BBC, which subsequently received a record number of complaints. The show tells of the confusion it caused as she looks into the nature of offence, the dangers of politically-correct liberalism versus the sinister and terrifying intrusion of ISIS into the lives of young British Asian women. She spoke to Herald arts’ Gill Sutherland...

Shazia, what can we expect from the show? “A lot of laughs. The show is about four things really: political correctness, people being offended, jihadi brides, and ISIS.”

What inspired this show? “I never normally have a reaction to the news… but when I saw the girls going [the three Bethnal Green schoolgirls, aged 15 to 16, who travelled to Syria in February 2015 to join ISIS] I couldn’t stop talking about it with my friends. I just couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t something we could have done.”

Why did they do it? “We came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with religion or politics, it’s just they are teenagers and rebellious.”

How does this relate to the Kardashians? “When the girls went, their parents were asked: ‘Why did your daughters go to Syria?’ [during a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing], and one of their sisters said: ‘I can’t understand why she’s gone, she was a normal teenager — she used to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians.’ That’s what they told the Government.”

And what do you make of the Kardashians? “I can’t believe that they are a ‘thing’ at all. They have a following, they are in magazines and on a TV channel! It’s just incredible; I don’t understand why people relate to them.”

You grew up in Birmingham, the daughter of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan. How did you become a comedian? "It was an accident really; nobody plans to be a comedian. I was teaching science at some very difficult and challenging schools in Tower Hamlets and Dagenham, you had to be entertaining, otherwise they just would not listen to you. I fell into comedy. I was still teaching when I did my first gig in 2003. It was at a rough pub in Brixton. There was no microphones, no stage or seating, and someone was being arrested outside, and I had to stand in the middle of this room and make people laugh. It was kind of like being in the classroom and I thought: ‘God, this is really easy’, and so I’ve just carried on.”

The comedy scene is dominated by while males, does that bother you? "The thing is, in comedy everybody feels like an outsider, that’s why they’ve come into it. But I do feel that I am an outsider in a group of outsiders.”

Who were your influences? “Growing up I loved Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Robin Williams — they’re all dead now. They were very groundbreaking, original, and brave. A lot of comedians now are all the same, you can’t tell one from the next.”

What would be your guilty pleasure? “Sometimes after touring I sit in bed by myself watching old episodes of Hart to Hart [the 1980s TV show], Fawlty Towers, Rising Damp, or Dallas!”

What is your mission? “To make people laugh. Although I don’t like to impose a way of life or a belief on people, I would like them to come to my show with an open mind, have a good laugh, but maybe, when they leave, they might think differently about something."

Tickets are £15 from www.stratfordartshouse.co.uk or by calling 01789 207100.

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