A female British Muslim walks into a comedy club

Courtesy PhotoRisk-taker: Comedian Shazia Mirza appear Wednesday night at Punch Line.

Courtesy PhotoRisk-taker: Comedian Shazia Mirza appear Wednesday night at Punch Line.

Comedian Shazia Mirza understands San Francisco.

“It’s not like the rest of America,” Mirza says. “I can do material there and people will understand it, and they’ll know what I’m talking about. In San Francisco they’re very intelligent, very funny and very gay.”

Mirza, appearing at the Punch Line on Wednesday, is British, Muslim and female – all traits that color her material.

She has done stand-up in a burqa, quipped about her pilot license and dares to do racy material in heavily censored locales.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

“In India, the police asked for copies of my jokes beforehand, to investigate whether they were offensive or not,” says Mirza. “I think the only reason I got the OK is that they didn’t really understand them.”

Despite her British passport and Indian-born mother, Mirza was subjected to additional screening by Indian immigration officers before she could enter the country, because her last name is Pakistani. A business visa that normally would have been issued in a day took six months.

“They’re worried about terrorism,” says Mirza. “When I told them I was a comedian, they asked me what that meant. They didn’t believe I was British, and they didn’t believe I was going there to make people laugh.”

Despite the difficulties, audiences found her risqué material side-splitting.

“The crowd kept asking me to go further, go further,” Mirza says. “They wanted the most sordid, out-there material because they can’t get that in life over there.”

Before performing in Pakistan, she was advised to avoid referencing drugs, politics, religion or sex, but she didn’t.  
“The audience loved it because they’re laughing at things they’re conditioned not to laugh at,” Mirza says.

Raised in a strict Muslim family in Birmingham, a rough British city, Mirza now lives in London. After teaching science, she became a comedian, bucking her family’s expectations, and perhaps reducing her popularity among Muslim men.

“Obviously Muslim men, they don’t really want to marry me, because I speak,” Mirza says in a video clip online.  

As with many comics, relatives are a source of her material – especially her mother’s obsession with Mirza’s marriage prospects.

“She lives in this community where Pakistani women go around pimping their daughters to any man that’s available,” says Mirza. “I think she feels I have to be married before she dies; otherwise she won’t feel she’s achieved anything. The problem is I’m not bothered. I love my life and I’m very happy and I’m not obsessed with it.”

artsentertainmentOther ArtsPunchline Comedy ClubShazia Mirza

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Roger Marenco, president of operators union TWU Local 250-A, speaks at a news conference outside the Muni Kirkland Yard announcing Muni will not be increasing fares on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s union leader encourages riders to say ‘thank you’ to their Muni operators

A conversation with Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250A

San Francisco’s live music clubs have been closed for more than a year. (Twitter screenshot)
S.F. venue recovery fund begins accepting grant applications

Entertainment presenters may apply from April 21-May 5

Most Read