I was up on stage showing my granny knickers to two hundred and fifty people.
I am at the Edinburgh Festival, where I have been complaining since I arrived about the terrible weather – but today it saved my dignity.
I was told by my manager that I would be on MacAulay and Co, Fred MacAulay’s radio show on BBC Radio Scotland, on Monday morning. Two days earlier I’d received a phone call from the producer of the show saying: “You must turn up to the Spiegeltent at 10am, where you will have to do five minutes’ stand-up and have a chat with Fred.” I assumed it would be just me and Fred in a studio, like every other radio interview I’ve ever done.
I woke up at 9.30am, rolled out of bed in my pyjama bottoms and vest, looked out the window, saw it was cold and wet, and thought, “I may as well go in my pyjamas – it’s radio, nobody will see anything.” I put on my fleece jumper, threw my coat on, and walked out.
So I walk over the road to the Spiegeltent, where I am due to meet Fred. I walk in, and there are two hundred and fifty people sitting on chairs facing a stage where a jazz band is playing. It is five past ten in the morning. And Fred MacAulay is sitting on a sofa on the side of the stage. There are four great comedians sat on either side, also waiting to go on.
I felt nervous and sick as the producer approached me and said: “Hello, Shazia, you’ll be on in ten minutes.” I wanted to walk out, and stood up to make my escape, but everyone had seen me.
When she offered to take my coat, I didn’t protest. I gave it to her and walked up on to the stage in my pyjamas. I stood in front of the microphone, in front of two hundred and fifty people, and did my five minutes of jokes. I then sat on the sofa with Fred and the first thing he said to me was: “Shazia, while you were performing there, I could see your knickers.”
I was wearing my grubbiest pair of knickers; they cost a pound from Primark three years ago. When I bought them they were white. They are now grey with two holes at the waist. The only reason I was wearing them was because I was lounging around in Edinburgh – I had no plans to have sex with anyone. Why would I wear nice knickers on a Monday morning?
I said: “Fred, the only reason I wore these knickers and came out in my pyjamas is because I thought it was just going to be me and you. I didn’t know you’d invited two hundred and fifty other people as well!” The audience looked at me strangely. I felt relieved that I had put my fleece on; otherwise I would have been standing there, in front of two hundred and fifty people, in cheap knickers with my nipples on display.
I am performing at this year’s festival in a bizarre venue that resembles a gentlemen’s toilet, though it has tents and fake grass on its roof for decoration. Sometimes I think it is not that dissimilar to a caravan, and I perform in dread of being towed away.
But I am pleased to announce that at every performance so far there have been at least three New Statesman readers in the audience. I asked one woman last night: “Why do you read the New Statesman?” She replied: “Because of its variety; I mean, it’s got you and Julian Clary, and then it’s got intelligent articles, too.”
I’d never met any of our readers before, and far from being the politically correct intellectuals I had imagined, they have all been really delightful people. They always put their hands up to tell me they read the magazine; in fact, my shows are coming to resemble AA meetings. They start: “Hello. My name is Roger from Birmingham and I am an NS reader” and end with, “That was a good show, but did I really need to see your old granny pants?”