In the wake of 9/11 she introduced herself on stage with the line, “My name’s Shazia Mirza – at least that’s what it says on my pilot’s licence.”
She rode to fame on the back of the nervous laughs garnered by such gags, and has appeared on panel shows and Live At The Apollo.
Mirza got hate mail and abuse on stage after she made 9/11 jokes. She’s now strapping in for the inevitable rumpus her latest material will bring to her door.
The Birmingham-born former teacher’s new show, called The Kardashians Made Me Do It, is far more taboo-busting than any of her Twin Towers japes.
It probes why naive British schoolgirls have been packing their epilators, sexy knickers and body lotion to join Isis in the desert.
In the wake of Isis’ night of terror in Paris on Friday and the Charlie Hebdo outrage in January, it takes balls to tackle such subject matter – especially when you have already been the target of hate campaigns.
Ahead of taking her new tour on the road, Mirza shares her theory British girls are defecting from democracy to join Isis for one reason… “getting cock, not a caliphate”.
The Kardashians Made Them Do It (And 1D, Brad Pitt And Jason Statham) by Shazia Mirza
I didn’t want to write a comedy show about Isis, but it’s a show I felt I had to do.
The desire to write it began in May when I saw on the news the story of three girls from Bethnal Green who ran away to join Isis in Syria. I was with a childhood friend and we said, “We’d never have done that. What are they doing? Why are they doing this?”
To these girls, Isis are hot: they’re hairy and macho, they’ve got guns and it’s exciting. You can try to intellectualise it, but it’s just about getting cock – they’re horny teenagers. David Cameron can’t say that, but I can.
If you’re 14, why else are you going to somewhere so dangerous, when people are risking their lives to come in the other direction? You don’t know anything about religion when you’re 14.
Girls run away thinking they’re going to meet a gun-toting Muslim version of Brad Pitt. To them Isis is the 1D of Islam, full of sex symbols and halal Jason Stathams
How can anyone aged 14 say they’re radicalised or politicised? They were barely alive when 9/11 happenned, so what do they really know about politics? They run away thinking they’re going to meet a gun-toting Muslim version of Brad Pitt. To them, Isis is the One Direction of Islam, full of sex symbols – halal Jason Stathams.
Isis weren’t around when I was 14, so I didn’t think of going to Syria for a shag. My school friends and I rebelled in different ways. We went to nightclubs in Birmingham to take ecstasy with gay men – we didn’t think of running off to join the IRA.
Neither did I think, ‘Phwoar, he’s a bit of alright!’ when I saw Colonel Gaddafi on TV and hop on the next plane to Libya, but, that’s what these girls are doing by running off to join Isis.
I have to say all of this bluntly on stage, because Isis isn’t something you can pussyfoot around. I either say it how it is, or I don’t say it at all.
The truth is, Isis hate everything that’s Western, yet they depend on everything that’s Western. They live off YouTube, Twitter, Kalashnikovs and Viagra. They’re sexually repressed and spend all their time online looking at hardcore pornography. The CIA have said Isis are the highest users of hardcore pornography in the world.
I have trialled my new show already, and I started mentioning Isis around 45 minutes in. Everyone was laughing when I explained girls are going to join Isis to get cock. But they also knew what I was saying was true – underneath, this is a very serious show.
I’m not right wing yet the right like me. I say things they’d like to say, but feel they can’t
I screen a film at the end of the gig about Isis which isn’t funny at all, but which demonstrates what I’m saying. When I first did the show in the summer at Edinburgh Festival, after the film the audiences’ faces looked horrified. But they understood what I was aiming at by the time I did a London residency of the show and now I think, ‘The film is gruesome, but the audience really does understand’.
Before I get to Isis, the first half of the show is about offence. But being offended also relates to Isis, because people are scared to speak out against them in case they offend a particular group of people.
Some of the liberal left would protect the rights of Isis men. They don’t like me attacking Isis, even though they don’t support them. I’m not right wing, yet the right like me, because I say things they’d like to say, but feel they can’t.
I wanted to write about offence after a lot of ridiculous things happened to me.
I did a piece for Radio 2 about liberation that got a lot of complaints, but people were getting offended over jokes. The BBC also asked me to write a two-minute piece for the radio about hope. I didn’t make it about any religion in particular. When I sent the piece in and the BBC said, “It’s a bit bland, can you Muslim it up a bit?” I thought, ‘What do you want me to do, wail it from the top of a minaret? Read it in a burka? Turn the microphone around to face Mecca? How do I “Muslim it up a bit”? Would that producer have asked, “Can you Jew it up a bit?”
I basically never get offended, except when people wrote to the BBC to complain about a liberation piece I did for radio
It’s fashionable to be offended, and if you ask people why they’re offended by a particular joke or topic, they invariably reply, “I just am”. And how long does that offence last? What do you do with your offence once you’ve written your letter of complaint? Are you offended all day, or all week?
People get offended on other people’s behalf, or because other people aren’t offended enough. It’s ridiculous. Usually, I try to laugh off any offence. If we’re in a nervous situation, we’ll have a laugh. It’s what the British do. It gets us out of every situation, although it doesn’t always work.
I went to a BBC event called The 100 Women Conference, of women who the BBC thought were changing the world, and somehow I qualified to be there.
When I asked one woman where she was from she replied Nigeria, so I said, “Are you the one that keeps sending me those emails telling me I’ve won money?” I thought it was a joke, but she went absolutely mental. Normally if people are offended they wait and send you an email telling you, “You’re shit”. But this woman went really crazy right in my face. It turns out she was the Nigerian finance minister, so, in a way it was her sending me those emails all along.
I basically never get offended, although I was offended when so many people wrote to the BBC to complain about the liberation piece I did for BBC radio. I felt they were being prejudiced toward me, rather than being offended by what I’d actually said.
I think my new show about offence and Isis is the most important comedy I’ve written. When I started, I just wanted to get good reviews and have people like me. Once I stopped giving a shit about all that, I became myself.
This is the most nervous I’ve been before a show, because I feel I have to get it right, to sell it as well on stage as it appears on paper. I was lost in the wilderness as a comedian for so many years, but now I’ve finally got somewhere. I think, ‘This is what I want people to see’.
Really, I just want people to come to the show with an open mind. There is a message to the show, and it is nuanced.
But really, the message is, “Don’t be fucking stupid. Don’t join Isis.”
Shazia Mirza performs The Kardashians Made Me Do It in February 2016. Visit shazia-mirza.com for more information and tour dates.