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Saturday, October 24, 2020
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Performance Onstage Too soon for COVID jokes? Shazia Mirza on Zoom...

Too soon for COVID jokes? Shazia Mirza on Zoom comedy and life at home

The stellar UK comedian talks 'Across the Pond Comedy,' onstage diversity—and how she lost her 'Coconut.'


Shazia Mirza has been making the most of quarantine. The award-winning British stand-up comedian and writer—best known for her show “The Kardashians Made Me Do It,” satirizing the real-life story of a trio of Muslim teenagers who, in 2015, left Britain to join ISIS—is currently locked down in Londontown. She’s using this time, which she had originally intended to spend on the road touring her latest show, “Coconut,” to pursue other creative projects at home.

Mirza told 48 Hills that over the past four months, she’s managed to write stand-up material and a sitcom, produce an animated short entitled Gorillas in the Mist, and film herself for a BBC Masterclass, meant to educate budding comics about finding humor in the time of COVID-19.

She’ll give stateside audiences a taste of some of the new material she’s developed and some much-needed laughs when she headlines Across the Pond Comedy, the premiere installment of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy producer Lisa Geduldig’s new monthly Zoom series, Lockdown Comedy (Thu/16 at 6pm). She’ll be joined remotely by fellow UK-based comics Tanyalee Davis and Mark Maier as well as Geduldig.

I spoke to Mirza about coronavirus jokes, how competing on the UK program, Celebs In Solitary, helped prepare her for sheltering in place, and finding the happy medium between prejudice and political correctness.

48 HILLS Why were you excited to be a part of Lockdown Comedy?

SHAZIA MIRZA I’m used to doing comedy gigs three to four nights a week. I was meant to be on tour now, but I’m not, so I had to just keep going. It is exciting to know that we can still do “comedy,” even if it’s on a screen at four in the morning from the other side of the world to people I can’t see. It’s better than nothing.

48 HILLS I assume the show will center around life under lockdown.

SHAZIA MIRZA Well, I think it’s essential to mention the elephant in the room, which is the lockdown and the impact it’s had on the way I look — which is out of control. I have been wearing exercise clothes for four months, but I haven’t actually done any exercise.

48 HILLS What’s it like to perform stand up over Zoom?

SHAZIA MIRZA Obviously, comedy is a live experience. You look at the audience and they look at you. People laugh together, so it is a shared experience. It is weird to do comedy to a screen where you can’t see or hear everyone and you have people commenting down the side of the screen telling you it’s all hilarious.

48 HILLS Is it too soon for Covid jokes?

SHAZIA MIRZA The jokes that I’ve heard being made are not actually about people dying and the awful situation people are in, but more about being stuck at home—sometimes with people you don’t like or hardly know. Not wearing a bra for four months, having gray roots, being hairy etc… more domestic things that everyone is relating to.

48 HILLS How are things different in the UK right now in comparison to the U.S., based on what you experience or see on the news?

SHAZIA MIRZA In the UK, lockdown is coming to a close, things are opening up here,  but it seems that in the US, the death toll is rising. Every time I speak to my friends in the US, there seem to be huge tensions happening as people are shouting, but Trump doesn’t seem to be listening. Thank God for Stephen Colbert for making us all laugh about the absurdity of it all.

48 HILLS What can you tell us about your latest show, “Coconut,” which you’ve had to put on hold after shelter-in-place orders were put in effect?

SHAZIA MIRZA I was going to tour “Coconut” from March to July, but obviously that’s not happening. It’s been delayed now till 2021 or the afterlife, whichever happens first. It was about Brexit and reality TV and women, and how “strong” women are always labeled as such and it’s seen as such a bad thing. But then coronavirus happened and now everything seems irrelevant. I’ll have to rewrite it to make it more up-to-date.

48 HILLS Did you learn anything from your experience on Celebs In Solitary that helped prepare you for quarantine?

SHAZIA MIRZA Yes, I learned to keep busy, have a plan, meditate, exercise if you can, and dream. Dreams and plans are important for when you get out of this situation. You have to have things to look forward to.

48 HILLS You’ve spoken out against the “pale, male, and stale” on your same-named podcast as well as political correctness. If both are bad, then where is the happy medium?

SHAZIA MIRZA We just need all kinds of diverse voices—from all genders and backgrounds and nationalities and races and religions. The world being run by one type of person is not a reflection on the whole world and that voice cannot speak for all the others. We definitely need diversity and more acceptance.

Across The Pond Comedy features:
Shazia Mirza, Tanyalee Davis, Mark Maier, and Lisa Geduldig

Thu/16, 6pm, $10
Tickets and more info here.
**A Zoom link will be sent to all ticket buyers 48 hours prior to the show.**

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.
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