Before I became a comedian, I was a science teacher in an East End comprehensive. My parents were happy with this profession; it was respectable, sensible and, they thought, a good asset to obtaining a better class of husband.
But Ialways wanted to be on stage. So one day I left teaching and started stand-up comedy in secret. I would trawl the basements of clubs and pubs every night. Worried that my parents would find out, the night before I was due to appear on Have I Got News For You, I told them. They watched the programme as though it was a gameshow; my mum called me up afterwards and said, “Did you win any money?”
My parents live in Birmingham, where all the Asian people know each other. People stop my mum in the street to ask how I’m doing. She replies, “My daughter tells jokes, but it’s just a hobby. She’s actually a biochemist, graduated from Manchester with a BSc (Hons).” They are consumed by respect, honour, success and what the neighbours think.
I said, “Mum I’m not a stripper.”
“Yes, but you still get on the stage every night,” she replied.
My parents are now secretly proud. The last time I went home, I overheard my mum telling the gas man, “My daughter is in show business, just like Shirley Bassey.” Then my dad called me yesterday and said, “Shaz, I don’t care what you do, just as long as you’re the best at it; you could be a pole dancer for the Stringfellows, man.”