Shazia’s Week

I’m in America. I walked into a Hollywood office this afternoon and the first question someone asked me was, “Is it true that Gordon Brown has commented on a radio scandal in England?” “From what I’ve read, this seems to be true,” I replied. “Is it a big scandal? Is there not a recession in England? Hasn’t there been an earthquake in Pakistan? Is there a war in the Congo? Isn’t America on the brink of a life- changing election?” The inquisition continued . . . All of a sudden I know how Americans feel when they travel outside their country. They as individuals are held accountable for their leader’s mischief. I was standing in this office, expected to give an explanation for the behaviour of Britain’s comedians and their Prime Minister. The man squealed, “It’s on the front of Variety magazine!”

Apparently Gordon Brown took a few days off from policing comedians to shake hands with some former al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia this week. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for deradicalisation of extremists is a bit like Butlins in the desert. They have access to a gym, jacuzzi, three meals a day and 100 clerics. Apparently it has a success rate of 80 to 90 per cent and no one has been suspended. Perhaps Gordon is thinking about outsourcing the rehabilitation of fanatical radio presenters to Riyadh.

There is no conversation in America other than the election. Tom Cruise could ring up Victoria Beckham and leave a message on her answering machine, saying he’d slept with both her husband and her dog and it wouldn’t even make the Orange County Gazette.

Flower sellers on the highways have been replaced by human noticeboards. I saw a woman standing on the street in denim hot pants and high heels with a sign saying “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11”. A man in a suit was holding a big placard on Sunset Strip which read, “If you’re not voting Obama get the fuck out of California”.

In LA the only campaign boards that exist outside houses are for Obama. The few McCain boards that are up have been defaced with mashed up pumpkin. If you were from another planet, you’d assume Obama was already president. But this is only California.

The American Taliban – McCain and Palin – have people voting for them, whose circles I will never move in. But I don’t think they would be fans of my comedy either.

I’ve been to a few dinners lately with people who I would previously have had nothing to say to and vice versa, people who I have nothing in common with – even people I don’t fancy – and now we’re all plunged into common conversation until dawn. A lot of Americans I’ve met are looking forward to the possibility this election brings. One female comedian friend of mine in San Francisco told me, “If Obama wins it’ll mean I can come and perform in London without being savaged by the audience, and without having to apologise for all the atrocities in the world before beginning my act.”

I have been invited to go to Pakistan next week to perform in Lahore and Karachi. The Pakistanis have never had a British comedian perform in their country before. I have been advised to bring a security guard and keep my jokes halal. I’ve heard of halal meat, but halal jokes?

I have been advised to bring a security guard and keep my jokes halal. I’ve heard of halal meat, but halal jokes?

I asked the organiser what this meant. She replied, “It’s quite simple. No sex, no sexism, nothing sexual [I think she’s got the sex issue covered], no swearing, no blasphemy, and nothing that will offend the public.” I put the phone down and realised I’ve got no act left. But on the plus side I reckon that if I can pull this off, I can definitely get my own show on Radio 2.