Shazia Mirza performs in Reading
Are we all deluded? Is it only the deluded people who can succeed in life, by having supreme confidence in their abilities? Or maybe it's just comedians who are kidding themselves? These are the questions stand up Shazia Mirza has been asking herself, and what her new show, Cuckooland, will explore.
"I called it Cuckooland because I met an old friend a couple of months back who I had not seen for about 20 years and when he found out what I did, he said, 'how long are you going to keep doing that then?' And I said, 'well the Rolling Stones are still going!' But he said, 'there's a bit of a difference between Shazia Mirza and the Rolling Stones, you're deluding yourself, you're living in cuckooland'. And that got me thinking - am I deluded to want to keep working until I'm 80? And then I got thinking about delusion: that it's the deluded people who change the world. But you see the X Factor and things, and the deluded people on there are giving the deluded people a bad name! So I decided to write a show about it."
Shazia certainly has some reason to be confident in her abilities, as an in-demand stand up and columnist, having written for The New Statesman, The Guardian and website dawn.com. After ditching her career as a science teacher, she made her real break onto the comedy scene in 2001, shortly after 9/11, with an attention-grabbing routine that began with her donning a burqa and making jokes about her pilot licence, and she's been carving out a space for herself against all the prejudices weighed against her - as a female British Asian comic - ever since.
"People would always ask me what I thought about things and often I did not think anything about anything!" Shazia explained. "People wanted to know my opinion. I developed in public because everyone was watching me all the time. It put a lot of pressure on me.
"I just carried on going and I'm very pleased now because eventually the spotlight came off me and I was able to develop on my own. I did not enjoy it in the beginning because there was so much pressure on me to be a spokesperson and a commentator and be brilliant in six months. I feel much more relaxed now. I can just be funny. I do not care what people want me to talk about."
And her former role teaching science to inner-city schoolboys has certainly stood her in good stead for the often brutal comedy circuit, as she pointed out: "Oh yeah, if you can entertain East London 16-year-old boys who just do not want to be there or to learn and are swearing at you, it's very good training for stand-up comedy! At a comedy show I have never had someone stand up and say 'this is s**t, miss, why don't you just leave and do something else?'!"
Shazia Mirza is at South Street Arts Centre tomorrow (Friday, March 22). Tickets cost £15 plus booking fee from www.readingarts.com or call 0118 960 6060.
This article appeared in Bracknell News 21 Mar 13