Kosher Comedypresents Muslim comic

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Muslim comic Shazia Mirza. Photo: Martin Twomey
Muslim comic Shazia Mirza. Photo: Martin Twomey  

Shazia Mirza was raised in a strict Muslim environment. Raised in London by Pakistani parents, she's a trained biochemist who likes to make people laugh. She also likes to push the envelope. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mirza daringly donned hijab attire for a UK stand-up gig. "My name is Shazia Mirza," was her opening line. "At least that's what it says on my pilot's license."

It worked. In 2003, the UK Observer named Mirza one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. Now, courtesy of nice Jewish girl Lisa Geduldig, Mirza brings her comic stylings to El Rio on Thursday, April 17, at 8 p.m. Mirza is the headliner for Comedy Returns to El Rio, a multicultural celebration of laughter that Geduldig brings to El Rio on the third Thursday of each month.

Though Geduldig is an out lesbian who often features LGBT comics, Mirza came out to the B.A.R. as a heterosexual.

"I am not gay/queer/LGBT â€" well, not that I know of," she said. "There is still a chance I could be. I mean, I am quite hairy, and I do like politics and do believe in social justice. I am also a huge fan of Barry Manilow and Cagney and Lacey, and absolutely loved Behind the Candelabra, and Elton John was married before he came out, so I could be."

Mirza did share a little bit about her identity with us. "I identify myself as a woman," she said. "Well, I was the last time I checked. I do have a deep voice, but so does Shirley Bassey. I try to identify myself as myself, as I hate labels. They are useless. Over the years I have been called many things: Asian, female, lesbian, gay, Pakistani, British, English, Indian, Afghanistan, Arab. Once I was even introduced as a black man. The most I am, really, is beige. I don't have a coming out story, but I do have a staying in story."

Mirza is never one to hold back. "On stage I talk about what I feel passionately about," she said. "Anything that I think is funny, that bothers me, that I find unjust, my parents, the world, lack of sex, lack of drugs, lack of rock and roll. All my comedy comes from my own life experience. I don't have a message. I am just doing this until I find a husband. Then I can live in Beverly Hills, have my nails done everyday, and get my own reality show based on all the men and women I sleep with. That is real success."

It'll definitely be a night of non-traditional laughs. One of the performers who follows Mirza is San Francisco resident Belo Cipriani, who might be led to the stage by his guide dog. Openly gay, Cipriani is totally blind. He told the B.A.R. that he'll be talking candidly about being gay and disabled.

"How could I not?" he said. "It's so usable. It's such a big part of my life, and people want to get a glimpse into my world."

Cipriani says that he'll share stories about meeting guys in his dark world. "You're so easy to date, you come with a manual, people tell me," he said. "When men want to date me, it's a learning curve. My comedy is my life. I try to tell my story. My goal isn't to make people laugh, but you have to laugh sometimes because the anecdotes are so hysterical."

Cipriani is single at the moment. "As I look for a potential mate I'm taking my time," he said. "I'm not in a rush."

Comedy fans might, however, want to rush over to El Rio for a night of politically incorrect insight into the human condition. Mirza and Cipriani will be joined by several other performers, including Geduldig, the evening's Hostess With the Mostess.

El Rio requires that all attendees be age 21 or over.

 

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Presents: Comedy Returns to El Rio, Thurs., April 17, 8 p.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission St., SF. Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620054 To learn more about Shazia Mirza: www.shazia-mirza.com.

 

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