New Statesman 2009

Shazia's Week

05 March 2009

It would take Armageddon togive my mum an incentive to leave the house. She no longer seems to feel it's necessary to go shopping, stand at bus stops or argue in the post office.

Watching the Islamic channel 24 hours a day is apparently all you need for a healthy, happy lifestyle. My mum's favourite show on the channel consists of a man looking into the screen and praying. The viewer ismeant to watch this and pray along. It's a bit like Songs of Praise, without the fun, and there's no coverage of the Oscars.

 

However, they do have awards. The one I liked best was Mullah of the Month. That beard in a dress does it for me every time.

 

I was in Birmingham on Friday to do a show in my home town. I asked my mum if she'dlike to come. "I won't swear, I won't talk about anal sex, and I'll tone down my jokes about you and Dad," I said. "No, it's OK. I think I'll just stay at home," she replied.

 

My mum has only ever seen me perform once in her whole life. Even then, she sat behind the ice-cream seller clinging on to the chair in front, in case I didn't get any laughs. My dad has never seen me perform. I don't mind, though. He always laughs much more loudly than a joke actually deserves, and in the most inappropriate places. He also offers a very loud social commentary on the whole show. This was my experience of watching Steptoe and Son with him throughout my childhood.

 

My friend Christine asked me the other day: "Doesn't it upset you that your parents don't come and watch you?" No. It's a cultural thing. If I were a doctor, my mum would sit in the waiting room all day just to tell the patients, "That's my daughter, you know." If I were a barrister, security would have removed her from the Old Bailey by now for disrupting proceedings.

 

When I go home, it's like being gay. Like when someone has a disease that everyone's afraid of and can't speak about. We all sitaround the dinner table talking about everything apart from what I do. The word "comedy" is never mentioned - in my house, it's the equivalent of "homo". My parents stick to euphemisms, such as, "So Shaz, how are things in the office? When is half-term?" and "What's happening with your pension?" Occasionally my dad will put a positive spin on things and use the phrase "show business" - at least half that expression is academically acceptable, and it's normally followed by Bruce Forsyth.

 

It's about success and what other people think. The woman next door to my parents has just had a baby girl. My mum responded by saying: "Never mind. Bad luck, you'll just have to keep trying." For my mother, the only thing worse than having a daughter is having a funny one.

  

My mother is always trying to reassure me that in my business nothing ever lasts. She is also always trying to convince me thathousewives are never jobless and that cleaning is therapeutic.

 

"I don't know what's wrong with your generation. You can't do anything domestic. You can't even make chapattis," she says. Who knew that a lack of chapattis was stopping the world from functioning? There is no chance ofme ever being deluded. It is mygreatest fear to be deluded. I actually talk myself out of jobs and play down any achievements just to give myself a sense of security.

 

My parents definitely had different hopes from my generation's. They just hoped for clean kids with 2:2 degrees who were not on crack. Me and my friends hope for just a little bit better: we'd all like to run MI5, fly to the moon, and marry George Clooney. But where I come from, these are ridiculous things to dream about, and if they haven't happened by the time you're 21, you may as well just get married, buy a Dyson and start vacuuming those beige carpets.