Shazia Mirza: The Kardashians Made Me Do It
By Caro Moses | Published on Thursday 17 September 2015
At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (yes, I’m still talking about that) Shazia Mirza’s latest show was presented as a work-in-progress, yet still scored glowing praise from assorted comedy critics. The show now has a title, ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’.
The set deals with some interesting and topical subject matter, and it’s comes as no surprise that it’s handled well by this veteran of stand-up (and myriad TV and radio appearances). I sent some questions over, to find out more about the show.
CM: Can you tell us what ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’ is all about? What do you talk about in the show?
SM: My show is about ISIS and Jihadi brides. It is about why I think young girls in Britain are going to join ISIS. I also talk about political correctness and offence.
My show was inspired by the three girls from Bethnal Green who went to Join ISIS earlier this year. I relate it to my own up-bringing: my life was exactly the same as these girls growing up, but I rebelled in the normal way- I dyed my hair pink and took drugs. I didn’t join a terrorist organisation.
CM: Is there actually a connection between the Kardashians and Jihadi brides..?
SM: Yes. When the three girls left for Syria the families were called into the home affairs select committee, which was led by Keith Vaz at the time; they were asked why they thought their daughters had gone to Syria, and the sister said, “I can’t understand why she’s gone, she used to watch The Kardashians”. These girls have since been tweeting whilst in Syria and have mentioned Kim Kardashian many times, so I’ve got some material about it.
CM: It sounds like you discuss some pretty serious themes. Do you have to work harder, do you think, to make more serious subject matter amusing?
SM: This is the most serious material and most political show I’ve ever done. In the past I’ve avoided these kinds of things and did loads of material about Primark, being hairy, and wanting to be Madonna. I just wanted to be like every other comedian, I just wanted to get laughs. In dealing with this subject matter I have had to be very truthful, and that’s OK because the truth is always funny.
CM: Do you have an agenda? Are you consciously making political statements?
SM: Don’t worry, I am not trying to convert the world to Islam. I have no agenda, I never have had, and I have never made political statements before now. This show is not something I particularly wanted to do either, but I felt I had to, and I knew exactly what I think and feel about it, which made it easier to find jokes about. But one thing I felt for sure, is that if I’m going to do this show I have to really go for it and say it exactly how it is, or I don’t do it at all.
CM: Do you think it’s possible to make a political (or other) difference via a stand up set? Or via any other of the media outlets at your disposal…?
SM: Twitter. No one is going to change the world in 140 characters. It is easy to sit behind your keyboard and say this and that, but it’s not going to change the world no matter how many followers you have. Ghandi, Mandela, Cagney and Lacey, they never tweeted.
You actually have to do something.
CM: We see you all over the media these days, with your column writing and radio and TV appearances, but it appears you are still attracted to stand-up. What elements of your job do you find most satisfying?
SM: I love stand up, you have to love it otherwise you’d never survive. I know I love it, because when it goes badly, I still get up and do it again, which means I must really love it. I can say what I want and talk about whatever subjects I want.
CM: You used to be a teacher, didn’t you? What made you decide to switch career? Had you always had other aspirations?
SM: I went to drama school after university; I always wanted to be on stage. I became a comedian by accident – it wasn’t something I looked to do or aspired to do I fell into it – and I’ve never wanted to do anything else since.
CM: Who would you say has been an influence on your career?
SM: When I was growing up, in our house we watched a lot of comedy. My dad loved Dave Allen, and my mum loved Frankie Howerd and Kenny Everett – all the gay ones. So these were the people that inspired me, and influenced me growing up, I loved them all.
CM: What’s next for you?
SM: I’m going to do ‘The Kardashians Made me do It’ in New York and LA and on tour in this country. I’m also going to Brussels to perform for the King of Belgium, and I’m doing a few new TV projects here. I’m going to write a book, too.
Shazia performs ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’ from 24 Sep until 3 Oct at Tricycle Theatre. See this page here for more info.
She will also appear at Soho Theatre from 21-25 March 2016. See the venue website here to book.