Interview with Shazia Mirza

'Remove all your facial hair; Attacked by a Stingray..'

Remove all your facial hair; Attacked by a Stingray. Shazia Mirza, the award-winning British Asian stand-up comedian, actress, and writer, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of comedy. Breaking barriers with her unique demographic, Shazia shares her journey and philosophy on inspiration. Unapologetically herself, she reflects on a hilarious and embarrassing fashion choice from the '80s and how her accidental entry into comedy helped her survive teaching in a rough school. Recounting moments from 'The Island,' she humorously recalls a near-stingray encounter and the unexpected inspection by Bear Grylls. Shazia's recommended movie list includes classics like Scarface and Raging Bull, while her advice for budding comedians is to work hard, be brave, and tell the truth. In a fire round, she cheekily suggests wearing the Eiffel Tower on her head and contemplates starting a cult focused on real eyebrows.

Being such a unique comedian in terms of demographic, how has that affected you and how do you feel like it may inspire others?

I am never looking to inspire anyone, I don't think that's how inspiration comes about. I think it's best that I just get good at what I do and then people will automatically be inspired. I never think about things like that, I only think about doing. good job in my job.

What would the world be like if it was filled with clones of yourself of all genders?

It would be confusing, erratic, unpredictable, but fair and honest. But also moody and awkward mainly on Mondays and Tuesdays. But one thing is for sure, things will never be boring.

What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever worn?

In the 80's I wore Deeley boppers to school every day which had read glittery hearts on them.

How did you start comedy as a profession and was there a trigger for it starting?

It was an accident. I was teaching in a rough school, I got bored, they got bored so I tried to make them laugh. It helped us all get through the day quicker. I thought this was fun, so I started doing open mic nights, not thinking it would ever go anywhere.

Toughest/Funniest moment when you were on ‘The Island’?

It was quite hard when I was nearly attacked by a stingray and we were starving to death in a tsunami with hypothermia. It was funny though when Bear Grylls turned up to inspect our camp and looked horrified that after a month, we still didn't have a sleeping area.

What movies/series do you recommend?

I recommend seeing old Al Pacino movies: Scarface, Frankie and Johnny, and Gotti. Also De Niro in Raging Bull and Bitter Moon- Polanski film. A series to watch is Jeffrey Epstein on Netflix, and also R Kelly. There are things we should know.

What/who are your main driving forces and influences in your life?

I am influenced by a lot of things, like truth, experience and injustice. I observe things and people. I listen to people's conversations on the bus. I follow people on the street when I hear someone saying something interesting. In comedy, you don't have to make things up. I love ordinary people who live ordinary lives.

If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your family and friends presume you’d been arrested for?

Speeding. I find this 20 miles per hour speed limit, very hard to stick to. I can walk faster than that.

What is the most outlandish fact you know?

I know for a fact that if you use a plaster with some honey, you can remove all your facial hair. I found this out during the pandemic.

What words best describe you?

'Likes staring into space'- That was from my year 11 school report.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?

So far. Performing with Robin Williams.

If you had to give any advice or tips for someone starting a comedy career what would they be?

Work hard. Gig every night. Be brave. Take risks with your material. Tell the truth.

Fire Round

Your favourite personality?

Robin Williams.

What could you wear on your head that would cause people to stop and stare in awe and amazement?

The Eiffel Tower

What kind of cult would you like to start?

A cult of everyone having real eyebrows.

What sport would be the funniest to add a mandatory amount of alcohol to?

400-metre hurdles.

Are you a shower singer and if so, what is your song choice?

I only sing in the car. Never in the shower- there is too much to do.

When performing, what are your favourite parts?

The part where there is laughter. It can only be then.

Who do you know that reminds you of a character in a TV show or movie?

My dad reminds me of Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses.

Finally, does pineapple belong on pizza?

It belongs in a tree.

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Image by Idil Sukan