Shazia Mirza’s Weekend Column

My name is Shazia Mirza, but I often get mistaken for other people. I was walking down the street the other day when a man came up to me and said, “I love your work, Benazir”.

I’m no good at introducing myself, I always go really over the top and say the most inappropriate things like “Hi I’m Shazia, I don’t smoke, don’t drink and I’ve got a rash. Then I’ll try and top what the other person is saying. They might say I’ve got a new car and I’ll say, “Oh that’s nice, I’ve just bought a helicopter”. It’s sometimes truth, sometimes a half-truth, sometimes three hundredths of a truth, but if I say it with a salt-of the-earth brummy accent and a mile wide grin it usually works.

As a comedian I get asked to perform in some strange situations. This week I was invited to an Inner City comprehensive to perform for their RE conference. I’d like to say it was the first time I’d been been mistaken for Mother Theresa but I’d been forgetting that time

I fell asleep in a sauna and came out more wrinkled than Bruce Forsythe’s elbow.

As a stand up comedian i’ve had to follow a variety of performers in my time, including dancers, magicians, and a stripper on a horse. But I’ve never had to follow a nun.

Sister Agnes entered before me dressed in a brown habit and Birkenstocks. I never trust people who wear sandals with everything. All I could do was sit on the side and wonder what her underwear was like. I kept thinking, I bet its kinky lace from Agent Provocateur. She looks the sort. All beige and demure on the outside, Jordan on the inside. She spoke about how she became a nun, then there was a Q& session. They wanted me to ‘inspire’ these teenagers in some way. After my few jokes about anal sex and shoplifting from Primark. I don’t know how inspirational I was.

But sometimes it’s inspiring enough just to be a brown woman saying ‘anal’ in public. The Q& A by these teenagers was quite challenging for me. They asked me ‘What do you think of Gordon Brown? Is the current economic climate a breeding ground for racial discontent? Does Susan Boyle need electrolysis? Actually, the last question was my own – the young women of tomorrow were too interested in pressing political issues to get mired in celebrity tittle tattle. I realized I’d have to save my anecdote about Lily Savage, Ulrika Johnson and a Travelodge mini bar.

Someone asked – ‘What do you think of the Burka? Is it too restrictive? – I said, “All my cousins in France wear the burqa which is great, because they all use the same bus pass”.

I was performing in Paris this week, though, as Monsieur Sarkosy would be relieved to know, not in a Burka. Someone suggested I visit the tourist attraction of Parl la Chez where the famous are buried. I had never been to a cemetery before, because my mum always told me the evil spirits would follow me home and sit on my face. The graves of dead people often reflect their lives – I went to Jim Morrison’s grave, which was surrounded by metal barriers, and people had thrown cigarettes (new and used, legal and ‘herbal’) on his gravestone. He died of a narcotics overdose. I’m sure he’s had enough. Then I went over to Oscar Wilde’s grave. There was a stone statue of a naked angel on his grave, but someone had snapped it’s penis off. Homophobia- when is it going to end for this poor man?

On his gravestone someone had graffitied ‘Sodomy forever’. I’m sure that wasn’t one of Oscars. It made me contemplate what would be on my gravestone. It would probably quite crude, a vaguely funny and have a massive postscript by my mum, telling the spirits to stay off my face. No fun for me then, not even in the afterlife.