From Edinburgh to Stockholm, Paris to London and even San Francisco to Berkeley, Shazia Mirza takes her comedy show global.
And, as odd as some cultural references in the United States may be, the daughter of Pakistani immigrant parents raised in a strict Muslim household rarely changes her jokes.
"Humor is universal in itself," she said. "We all love, hate, get angry, cry, hate our parents and presidents at some point. I don't change much when I travel around the world. I mainly change local references -- they don't have a Kmart in France." Still, "the topics of love, politics, racism, upbringing, travel and Tom Cruise always go down well all over the world," said Mirza, joining three others in the 11th Annual Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians on Wednesday in San Francisco, Thursday at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley, and Friday in Palo Alto.
Whatever city, whatever country, Mirza rarely does it without a smile.
"I love comedy," she said. "Sometimes it does get tiring and lonely traveling and driving up and down the highways eating stale sandwiches, but I love comedy enough to suffer a bit. Every job has it's ups and downs. But I really do love being on stage and talking to people, telling them what I think and making them laugh. And as long as people are there to listen to me, I'll carry on doing it." As for the alleged "obese epidemic" in the states, Mirza said she doesn't notice.
"I haven't measured them," she
"Most of my comedy is about my life. It's autobiographical," she said. "But I also do routines on what I think about certain things, like sex, atheism, and George Clooney." Rarely can Mirza escape any prejudice, being a British Muslim female.
"Prejudice is not country-specific," she said. "It appears in all universal forms all over the world. When I'm in America, the biggest prejudice I face is that people think I'm Mexican. I have been mistaken for Salma Hayek, and also been offered jobs as cleaners (maids) and been spoken to in Spanish. I was once put on as a Mexican act on a comedy night in L.A. The audience was really annoyed when they found out I was English. I was surprised, as previously being English had offered me all types of things in America. Someone once offered me sex after they heard my English accent on the phone." As for her approach, "I try to be truthful and original," Mirza said. "I try not to do any material that will hurt anyone or make them cry instead of laugh." If Mirza's a role model for a girl who wants to be a comic, she'll live with it. But not without offering some quick advice.
"I'd say, 'Can you not find a rich man to marry? It'll save you a whole lot of pain, agony and trauma. Then I'd say, 'Watch lots of comedy. Maybe do a comedy writing class so that you can learn how to structure your material and then just gig as much as you possibly can.'" And the feeling after a really good show?
"It's like spending the night with a box of chocolates," she said. "Amazing."