For stand up comedian Shazia Mirza, humour can be found even in race, religion, community and gender
Being a woman and a British of Pakistani origin, stand-up comedy was not a natural choice. But making people laugh is what Shazia Mirza enjoys the most, something she knew even when she was a school teacher. “I hated being a teacher. I passed time by telling jokes but my students used to call me boring and unfunny. I took up comedy to prove them wrong,” she says with a straight face. Shazia Mirza was recently in the city to perform as a part of her India tour.
Talking about the British Indians and Pakistanis, she says that their women are quite conservative. Their girls are brought up to be good little daughters who will get married eventually and give parents a few grandchildren to play with. “I have been a disappointment to my parents on so many levels,” she says laughingly exhibiting her self-deprecating sense of humour. “I am not married and am gallivanting around the world.” The gender, religion and community stereotype that is often associated with her has also given her plenty of fodder for her gigs. “People outside Pakistan think we are miserable, conservative and backward. As if we breed terrorists all the time. I have performed in Pakistan so many times. Lahore is a very fashionable, modern and artistic city. In fact most of the women don’t wear a hijab in Lahore,” she says.
Commenting on the recent stereotypical portrayal of Indians by Oprah Winfrey on her show, Shazia says, “Westerners come to India to find themselves. I don’t understand what is there to find. Why can’t they find themselves in their kitchen?” Observations from real life, conversations, travel expeditions, she believes there is humour in everything. Whether it is about religion, race or pop culture, nothing is out of bounds for her. “When I was growing up I did not even know what atheism meant but now there are so many atheists. People now believe in Kim Kardashian,” she says. Giving a comic twist to her harrowing experience of getting an Indian visa, she says, “Even though I have never lived in Pakistan, because of my heritage the initial conclusion was that I must be from the Al Qaeda.”
In fact her heritage and ancestry is a topic of much speculation. “When I am in England, people think I am an Indian, in the U.S they think I am Mexican, in France they take me as French or Persian and in Pakistan they assume I am Hindu,” she says. However, she believes that humour is the way to get over any kind of tragedy. “If you get any terrible news, just make a joke about it,” she says.