Shazia Mirza: a female standup comedian who is, in fact, a devout Muslim
June 14, 2003 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Did You Hear the One About the Suicide Bomber?
After Sept. 11, Shazia Mirza became famous by telling a single (some think abominable) joke. It's a funny thing, being a devout Muslim female comic.
posted by y2karl (33 comments total)
no reg link
posted by andrew cooke at 9:22 PM on June 14, 2003

Hey, thanks--I forgot about doing that.
posted by y2karl at 9:26 PM on June 14, 2003

So when can she get over to Portland, OR for a show? I'll buy two tickets.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:27 PM on June 14, 2003

D'oh! Forgot to add Shazia Mirza's Official Website, too.
posted by y2karl at 9:29 PM on June 14, 2003

Lest we forget, Yakov Smirnoff was once topical too....what a country!
posted by filmgoerjuan at 9:40 PM on June 14, 2003

Great post Karl - she is funny and courageous. There are many other reviews and articles about her on her web page.
BTW, Yeats' birthday was this past Friday.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:56 PM on June 14, 2003

... what a country ...

Shazia is 'a great British entertainer' (from Birmingham, just like Ozzy Osbourne).
posted by plep at 12:03 AM on June 15, 2003

Shazia is 'a great British entertainer' (from Birmingham, just like Ozzy Osbourne).

Yes, I know that's she's British, plep. "What a country" is Yakov's signature punchline to his stock-in-trade schtick about life as a Communist-era Russian living in America.

My point is that Shazia seems to be cashing in on British and American audiences' interest in the muslim long her routine stays fresh remains to be seen. Perhaps one day she too will have her own theatre in the Ozarks...a girl can dream, can't she?
posted by filmgoerjuan at 2:00 AM on June 15, 2003

Ah, ok, thanks... I'd never heard of Yakov, so was unfamiliar with his signature punchline. Sorry for the misunderstanding. :)
posted by plep at 3:33 AM on June 15, 2003

She. Is. Cool.
posted by mokey at 4:41 AM on June 15, 2003

Excellent link & article...she sounds great.
posted by davidmsc at 6:21 AM on June 15, 2003

I'm not sure I agree with the consensus here. Doesn't anyone think that this kind of navel-gazing, narccissistic humour functions only as a form of inverse racism, and demeans us all?

Maybe you have to live in the UK, where all things aspiring towards Asian/Middle Eastern culture are currently in fashion, to get just how reactionary this kind of one joke stand up really is. Maybe.
posted by ascullion at 7:04 AM on June 15, 2003

I'm all for humor, even when it deals with oppression and tragedy and becomes politically incorrect for some (it's the old issue about Jewish humor, too, ascullion)

of course racist assholes will always laugh at a person of color making fun of their own ethnicity, for all the wrong reasons. it's their loss -- assholes are not good judges of humor, that task requires intelligence. think about chris rock: how many racists laugh a little too heartily for the "i love black people but i hate n___s" joke, missing entirely the point (they probably don't find his LAPD material as funny, one imagines?

unfortunately -- and I'm judging only the quotes in the NYT story -- Mirza doesn't sound like a Muslim Richard Pryor. it's cool to be outrageous, but you actually need to be funny. the pilot license thing is pretty thin, like the rest of the material quoted in the story
posted by matteo at 8:28 AM on June 15, 2003

Matteo makes a good point, which while I-was-getting-all-high-and-mighty in the last post I forgot to mention. I haven't seen her in a club, but I have seen her on TV, and she was startlingly unfunny. There are two short clips here.
posted by ascullion at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2003

she's admirable, brave, independent, paralyzed with fear, isolated from even her roomies, bound in the straightjacket of a woman-despising religion, and not funny. i predict a 7 week CBS sitcom, yanked after 4 episodes followed by rapid descent to the bottom of the pop culture wastebin. but then, i thought al gore would be president too.
posted by quonsar at 8:44 AM on June 15, 2003

Which begs the question, quonsar, when are you going to take your act on the road? I want to book my tickets in advance...I love your Sledge-O-Matic routine!
posted by filmgoerjuan at 8:52 AM on June 15, 2003

Good post, y2karl. You know, it's an old story, comedians trying to break away from an insular immigrant culture without betraying their roots or hopelessly alienating their parents, especially here in America...

And quonsar, I'll buy tickets to your act for all my friends.
Not for me, you understand, just for my friends. The bastards.
posted by languagehat at 9:53 AM on June 15, 2003

Groom Lake Welcomes Comedy Legend Quonsar!

As you can see, it's a, cough, big tent show.
posted by y2karl at 9:56 AM on June 15, 2003

quonsar, that was perfectly put. There doesnt seem to be any evidence in her tired jokes that she holds an honest love for her culture; she's just stuck.

If anyone else were telling these jokes, they would just be considered dumb and mildly racist.
posted by mdn at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2003

Hey guys, I'm white.

I'm going to go suck at dancing.

Now wasn't that funny?
posted by angry modem at 11:41 AM on June 15, 2003

Look at me, I'm gay. I guess you could say I'm queer about this town. Look, purple, woohoo.

Nope, still not funny.
posted by benjh at 1:49 PM on June 15, 2003

Maybe if you actually danced for us, angry modem..
posted by ascullion at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2003

Are there any jokes about 9/11 yet? I only know of one, but it's way too offensive. I'm somewhat surprised there isn't more humor surrounding the events of the last few years since people often use humor as a grieving mechanism.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2003

I like humour that tackles uncomfortable subjects head-on and points out to us just how ridiculous we are a lot of the time. I guess it comes down to your perspective though, and we all have a different view of and reaction to humour about tragedy. If enough people agree with her view on life, she may be successful as a comic, otherwise she will join the millions who tried and could not connect with audiences. It will probably be a matter of whether she can transcend the pigeon-hole that people will now put her in as "That Moslem chick that made a joke about 9/11" and move on.

There are a number of 9/11 jokes circulating, elwoodwiles, but I did notice that they took a lot longer to appear than they did over other events and tended to focus on Moslem stereotypes. Following the Challenger crash, jokes were circulating by e-mail within hours, but it was probably a week before I got the first one after 9/11.
posted by dg at 4:55 PM on June 15, 2003

For the first time in a long time, the Onion was actually funny on September 11th.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:23 PM on June 15, 2003

she's not that funny
posted by mr. man at 7:45 PM on June 15, 2003

elwoodwiles: Here's an excerpt from a 12/01 lecture on that very topic.
posted by umberto at 9:04 PM on June 15, 2003

I'm half white, half black. But I can't dance either. In fact, I didn't get any of the cool genes.

Total ripoff.
posted by delmoi at 9:06 PM on June 15, 2003

"from Birmingham, just like Ozzy Osbourne"

Yeah, and I wouldn't fly on any plane he was piloting, either.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:33 PM on June 15, 2003

she was on a TV show in france not too long ago (kinda outrageous one), where the 'journalist' asked her:

- Soooo, you're a virgin, right?

- *stare at him in disbelief*...Only in France people would ask me this...

she's fun.
posted by Sijeka at 5:58 AM on June 16, 2003

If you're a "politically correct" thinker, you probably wouldn't find much funny. However, the satire behind saying "at least that's what it says on my pilot's license" is funny, I think. As is "don't worry, I won't blow you up."

It's not ground-breaking.. it's the typical "make fun of the stereotype" comedy. Just like the white men can't dance joke, or the overweight comic on "Last Comic Standing" who said the next episode of Fear Factor should be finding something hidden in his crevices.

Some take it as disrespectful to the victims of September 11, but then anything not pious and humble said about September 11 can be taken as disrespectful.

Hogan's Heroes made light of POW camps, 1941 made light of Pearl Harbor, comics have made light of tragedies as far as I can remember.

It comes down to.. some people don't think it's good humor, some do.
posted by rich at 9:44 AM on June 16, 2003

If you're a "politically correct" thinker, you probably blah blah blah...

oh for fuck's sake. I have no problem with people making fun of stereotypes but there's a difference between making a joke that references a stereotype and just making a statement that acknowledges a stereotype and calling that funny in itself. The reason it seems funny is because the person who the stereotype is meant to pigeonhole is accepting and even promoting the stereotype, and our mild discomfort at recognizing that we were thinking that makes us laugh. But really, it doesn't have any deeper commentary or significance; it's a superficial kind of humor and will fade quickly. But I guess that's true of a lot of stand-up, so it's nothing new.
posted by mdn at 10:54 AM on June 16, 2003

Omid Djalili - funny Iranian comic. Not muslim though. And he is funny, according to me, as I am an official abbatoir of taste, I am sure you'll agree.

Oh, and there were lots of 911 jokes available here (the UK) immediately (1011).
posted by asok at 9:42 PM on June 16, 2003

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