Comedians Shazia Mirza and Harith Iskander on meditation, comic trends and why you must stop eating curry
She doesn’t have much to say about celebrity roasts (except that her favourite is “chicken roast”). He is called Malaysia’s Godfather of Comedy. She claims she got into comedy because “my parents forced me to do something shameful and disrespectable that would show up the family”. He gets the best laughs when he jokes about a certain small body part of his. Now Shazia Mirza, the British stand-up comedian of Pakistani descent, and Harith Iskander are joining forces to make sure Chennaiites get a dose of comedy that is anything but tame, at the MRT1 Stand Up Comedy Night.
Quite irreverent, taking digs at her religion, Mirza’s humour has led her down alternate paths—she is a columnist with The Guardian and the New Statesman, and one of the panellists on The Wright Stuff, a UK chat show. “I enjoy all of it. It’s a privilege to be able to do what you love and get paid for it,” she says. Meanwhile, Iskander, who turned comedian in 1991 and is a fan of Indian funnymen like Vir Das, says his big moment came last year, when he performed before 9,000 people. “Laugh Malaysia was the first stand-up in a stadium featuring a Malaysian comedian, so I’m a little proud of that,” he smiles. Ahead of their latest visit to the city (Mirza was here in 2013 and Iskander last year), we get them talking. Mirza say:
Your stand up journey so far.
It’s been amazing. The highs have been meeting the Queen three times, and the lows have been waiting for nine hours in the Indian visa office in London to get a visa to come to India.
One-liners that got the loudest laughs.
I don’t know, as I don’t have a machine to measure laughs. I have some scales that I use to weigh myself though. They broke last week. I really should stop eating my mum’s curries.
Being a woman in this profession.
Being a woman anywhere can be difficult. Being a woman in India can be difficult. Being a woman on a bus in India IS difficult.
Taking comedy to other platforms.
No (I don’t take it to any other platforms, like social networking), but I do take it into the bedroom and bathroom.
Trends in stand-up.
Tight jeans and beards.
New routines you are working on.
I’m Asian. I’m always working.
On attending a silent meditation session during your visit in 2013.
I think everyone should meditate, it is the answer to all problems. ISIS should meditate instead of chopping people’s heads off.
What do you do when you are not telling / writing / thinking up jokes?
I am trying to find a husband.
Tomorrow, at Taj Coromandel, from 7.30 pm. Rs 6,000 (including drinks and dinner). Details: eventjini.com
This show vis a vis your last performance in the city.
Oh, it will be very different! I will be wearing a different suit. And new underpants.
The Chennai audience.
The audience is incredible, which makes my job so much easier. You guys certainly know how to laugh. You are what I call a mature comedy audience—you know comedy.
Working on any new routines?
Yes. It will involve this line of questioning.
What do you do when you are not telling jokes?
Playing with my kids and loving my wife/manager. I’m a really boring person off-stage. Trust me.
Surya Praphulla Kumar