Shazia Mirza: A Portrait Of Shazia Mirza
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
As seen on F*** Off I'm A Hairy Woman, Miss Real World and Have I Got News For You (all BBC), World Stands Up (Paramount), 60 Mins (CBS). Voted one of the 100 Greatest Stand Ups (Ch4)
Rather like Ali G's ‘Is it cos I is black?’ catch-all retort to unfavourable situations, Shazia Mirza attributes any failure to laugh at her material as guilty discomfort at what she perceives to be its provocative content.
In reality, it's nothing of the sort. It's simply not that funny. In case she hasn't already made it abundantly clear, she's a female Muslim stand-up, credentials which she seems to think imbue everything she utters with a shock value that negates the need to add anything more.
She swears! She talks about sex! But while it may be highly unusual for a Muslim woman, it's pretty standard fare for a comic.
Mirza's jokes are shocking only in their lack of ambition. Of budget airline Ryanair, she offers: ‘It's just a council estate in the air’. On a TV programme she made with a glamour model, she remarks cattily but witlessly: ‘Danielle is such a glamour model name.’
Her material about race and religion, though there’s less of this now, tends to be similarly half-hearted. She makes some gag about the incongruity of a Muslim going ski-ing, but without any real punchline. The only time her low-level bitching hits the mark is in an excellent gag about Heather Mills, again, an obvious target, but a good line all the same.
The jokes are underpinned by a barely-disguised awareness of her failings - on more than one occasion she nervously jokes about stopping people trying to leave the gig.
The show hinges on the fact a photograph of Mirza, who also writes a column for the New Statesman, was recently hung in the National Portrait Gallery, next to one of Nelson Mandela. She can't quite believe it and says so, several times.
It's not really that surprising - to be a Muslim woman doing stand-up is pioneering and deserves recognition. It also makes Mirza’s squandering of her considerable profile all the more irritating.
Reviewed by: Nione Meakin