Culture critic Nisha Vaidya chats with comedian Shazia Mirza, in discussion of her upcoming show ‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’.
Shazia Mirza is an acclaimed comedian from Birmingham who is currently touring the UK with her funny yet provocative piece The Kardashians Made Me Do It – a show inspired by three girls who left Bethnal Green in London to join ISIS. Her tour comes to Birmingham on 9th April and 14th May, and I spoke to her about how it’s been so far.
Despite the controversial nature of her comedy show, Shazia un-apologetically identifies first and foremost as a comedian and performer than any type of political speaker:
‘It was just something that interested me and I decided to do a show about it! I’ve never done a political show in my life and I may never do one again.’
Her tour happens to arise in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and touches on sensitive issues like ISIS and its recruitment of young women. I wondered whether she had encountered any tension in her audience compared with her performance of the show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
‘My show has got nothing to do with any terrorist attacks at all…I’ve been on tour with it since the 5th February after performing it at the Edinburgh Festival as a work-in-progress. I’m just a comedian doing my show really – the attacks have got nothing to do with my show.’
Regardless, as a Birmingham native, she does feel the pressure to please when coming back to perform here.
‘I’m very excited about coming to Birmingham. I’m doing two shows in Birmingham – I’m doing the Old Rep and I’m doing the Midlands Arts Centre and I think they’re both sold out, so obviously my home crowd wanted to come and see me. They are my home crowd and I probably know a lot of them! And I think you feel like you know them and they know you. There’s always that expectation – “Oh my god, it’s someone from Birmingham!” – It’s like someone from your family coming to perform. They really want you to do well. I will worry about whether they’re enjoying it, you know? So there is an expectation.’
As for having a target audience for her show, Shazia is delighted for anyone to come and enjoy her work along with her regular following:
‘I don’t have a target audience, I’m just very happy and very grateful for anyone that comes to watch me, but what I do get…my audience are gay men – I have a large gay following. I always have done. And they’ve always been very supportive to me. My audience is gay men and Guardian readers.’
And the future for Shazia? Her material has undergone many changes during the past decade before coming to The Kardashians Made Me Do It, which she calls her ‘funniest show yet’.
‘Well I’ve been doing this for 12 years and it takes a long time to get good in comedy. [You have to] find out “What do I want to say?” “How do I say it?” “How do I make it funny?” and that takes a long time and then when you find that kind of groove, you just kinda carry on with that!’
The Kardashians Made Me Do It will be showing at the Old Rep Theatre on Saturday 9th April and The Midlands Arts Centre (Mac) on Saturday 14th May.