‘I BECAME A COMEDIENNE BY ACCIDENT’

She is the teacher who cracked jokes because she was having a tough time handling her students of biochemistry. And she candidly admits that her students did not learn anything from her, but they had a great time. This is Shazia Mirza, ...

By Ambily Madhu Menon

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Published: Sat 30 Apr 2005, 12:52 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:50 PM

the award-winning controversial doyenne of comedy, who was in Dubai to perform for One Night Stand at the Jimmy Dix last night.

City Times caught up with her a day before the show. A severe jet lag did not deter her spirits and Shazia, the stand-up comic, shared with us the other side of her life.

Is everything worth laughing at?

Yes. Everything. Although I don't talk about everything in my show.

Have you chosen comedy as a medium of communication because people laugh away even the most serious issues, so you don't run the risk of being quoted in or out of context?

I became a comedienne by accident and it was just because I wanted to be on stage. I didn't realise till muchlater that I could say whatever I wanted and it could be so funny. I didn't realise the power of comedy when I started doing it. I just wanted to have fun and it was a very interesting thing to do. I definitely didn't know why I was doing it. And I didn't realise what it would become. That I would go around the world. I never thought I would come to Dubai.

What do you enjoy the most about your comic act?

I love it when people laugh and the worst part is when no one laughs. Especially coming to Dubai because it has a large Asian audience...basically Indians and Pakistanis...they don't usually have the best sense of humour.

How do you coverup when nobody laughs?

There is no coverup. Everybody sees it.

What do you think is most challenging aboutyour act?

You want your comedy to reach everyone which doesn't always happen. Not everybody gets everthing. So that's difficult.

As a professional stand-up comedienne, what is it that you look out for in day-to-day events for inspiration?

I write down anything and everything that I see and feel that I can turn them into comedy.

Does comedy have a more lasting impact on the audience than say a seriously said statement?

I don't know. Sometimes it is good to laugh. But sometimes you laugh and don't remember why you laughed. And then serious statements make people laugh and sometimes comedy scares people off. I think both are important.

Do you think people would do something about a serious issue that is said with a touch of humour?

Yes. Probably the message gets across better. It is especially true if the audience is Asian, who are not very good at showing emotions in public.

As a perfomer, entertainer and crowd-puller, do you see your responsibilities increase?

I don't think of myself as having any responsibility. I just go on stage and just do stand-up comedy. I don't think of myself as important or someone who has something to say. I just know that I need to make the crowd laugh. But I don't know why I do it. I keep asking myself this question everyday.

Being a female stand-up comedienne, were there any difficulties that you faced in the initial stages of your career?

Men used to stare at me instead of listening to what I was saying. So that was very annoying.

And you pursued your career without your family knowing about it. Did all hell break loose when you told them about it the first time?

They wanted me to be a doctor. They wanted me to be respected. Though my parents do come and watch me, I don't think they understand the jokes. My mother is proud, but my dad doesn't understand it. He thinks I am ill and that I'll get over it soon.

How long have you been into stand-up comedy?

Four years.

Despite being a public figure, has your Muslim identity harmed you especially in the changed world climate post 9/11?

No. It hasn't harmed me and I don't see myself as any different. Maybe people do. I don't talk much about being a Muslim. I talk a lot about my culture but not my religion.

Are you a very religious person?

Yes. I talk to God everyday. He doesn't talk back, but I know He is there.

How was Shazia Mirza as a child?

Naughty. My parents were not happy. They thought I was really bad, but they didn't know why I was like that. They wanted me to be well-behaved though.

You grew up to study biochemistry.

Biochemistry was boring. My parents wanted me to be a doctor but I was not interested.

You were also a teacher — someone who learnt teaching while she taught. How was that experience?

It was a rough school that I taught in. I used to control my students by making them laugh and then I used that in my stand-up performances. Though I didn't like being a teacher, I did that only because my parents wanted me to do. I didn't teach the kids much. I just told them jokes most of the time. They didn't learn anything, but they had a good time.

You've been lucky in a way. Whatever you do, teaching, acting, radio, TV, stand-up comedy...people are constantly listening to you. But whom does Shazia Mirza listen to?

I don't think people listen to me constantly. I used to watch a lot of comedians on TV though. Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock...They were really funny. Their humour was different, but I could relate to a lot of what they said, because they talked about who they were, and I talk about who I am.

You are on the look-out for a streak of humour in mostof the issues...but what are the issues that bother you?

I talk a lot about myself and my experiences in life. I talk a lot about the fact that I don't smoke or drink or take drugs, whereas my friends do that all the time. I compare my life to theirs. A lot of it is personal humour. I talk about my parents and their arranged marriage and how they have been trying to marry me off unsuccessfully.

Do you visit your home country often?

Yes, I have been to Pakistan a lot. It is a nice and liberal nation.

There is a growing ‘trend’ if I may say of artists from both Pakistan and India doing their bit to promote peace between the two countries. Do you see yourself playing a role in this?

No. I like it that they are fighting. It is good to have a bit of drama in the world. I think they should carry on fighting. Peace is boring.

Anyone you idolise?

No. It is against my religion to idolise anyone. But yes, I hold the hate-mails I get from people, very dear.

What do you do about the hate-mails?

I read them to the world. They are quite funny.

What has recognition done to you?

It means nothing. Though it hasn't just come to me, but I don't seek it. I just want to be great at what I do. I love it when people say that they love my work. Fame is nothing, it is meaningless.

Do you also laugh away your worries?

I don't have worries, but I laugh at my experiences in life, no matter how sad they make me feel.

What's next for Shazia Mirza in life?

I am going to work in America. Though I don't like that place a lot, I think I will have to work there, since I find the need to work.



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