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Shazia Mirza
Shazia Mirza
Opinion » Celebrity Interviews

Interview with Shazia Mirza

Shazia Mirza is a very funny award winning British Asian stand-up comedian from Birmingham. She could have married a rich man and lived in a mansion on The Bishops Avenue but instead she chose to drive up and down the country staying in dirty bed and breakfasts trying to make people laugh. Here she talks about wearing clothes from jumbles sales, eating her flatmate’s food and the joy she gets from getting her cashcard back from the machine.

When in your life have you been most broke? How bad did it get exactly?
As children we were very poor. We had no money at all. We never ever went on holiday, never had any toys, never went out to eat and never had new clothes. All our clothes were from jumble sales, the first time I had new clothes was when I was 17 when a got a part time job at McDonald’s. I have never been that poor in my life since. It was extreme poverty.

What were the worst jobs you ever did and what made them so bad? Were there any benefits?

I worked at McDonald’s, Baskin Robbins, and a waitress at the Grosvenor House Hotel and Fortnum and Mason. I hated being a waitress I was rude, sloppy, and uninterested in smiling at people I had no concern for. Working at Baskin Robbins was great fun, it was like holiday camp. We’d eat the ice cream all day and make people the most awful pancakes.
But none of this was really hard work at all, because eventually I became a teacher. I taught Science in an East End Comprehensive, it was like Feltham Institute for Young Offenders. Trying to get 16 year old boys interested in Science was a struggle, but I got some great material.

What were your digs like back then? Any interesting flatmates we should know about?
I went to Manchester University and stayed in a really rough part of Longsight where we would hear gun shots in the night. I shared with some strange people. One girl had a breakdown when her cat died, and another guy who was studying Chemistry would set up experiments in his bedroom where he would stay in his bedroom all night and make drugs then sell them to other students. He was always off his face, I never saw him sober. Then he got a first class degree.

What was your favourite budget meal? Do you still enjoy it?
I loved Fisherman’s pies from Tesco, at the time they were 79p, and I would have one every day without fail. I still have them, they’re just really tasty which means they’ve probably full of the most awful ingredients.

Any interesting money saving/making tips you picked up back then?
This is not a good tip to give young people, but to save money back then, I used to shoplift.
Don’t do it.
It’s better just to buy really cheap things and try and make them last. Living beyond your means never pays off. It’s best to save up and then pay for things in full.

What was the worst thing about being skint? Were there any upsides?
Being skint is not good, because you can’t have the things you want. But It was fun, trying to do things without money and see how far we’d get and what ideas we’d come up with. But most of all it just made me work hard, so that I didn’t have to be skint anymore.

Did you ever do something that you regret like borrow money with intending to pay it back or drink lighter fluid Withnail style just to keep warm?
I used to shoplift.
I took out lots of student loans
I got a huge overdraft
And I used to eat all my flat mates food.

What was your lowest point?
Having three jobs whilst also teaching and also being at Drama School part time. I was so tired I would fall asleep on trains and buses and during lessons when I was meant to be teaching.

How did you manage to keep your dreams alive?
When I was a child and we were really poor, I always used to say to myself, ‘I must make something of my life, so that I never have to live like this ever again’ Being that poor drove me to work hard and do something. I also inherited a work ethic which a lot of Asian people have, which is all about hard work and nothing else.

What was the defining moment that turned your fortunes around?
There came a time when, whenever I went to a cashpoint money would always come out, instead of the cash point taking my card, and I no longer looked at the price of a carrot before buying it.

What one piece of advice can you give young people with ambitions of being successful?
I have never been lucky, and no one has ever gone out of their way to help me become successful. No one really wants someone else to be more successful than themselves.
The only thing that ever got me anywhere was hard work, and persistence.


Shazia Mirza’s new show Busybody which will be on at The Edinburgh Festival 3rd- 29th August at The Gilded Balloon. Check for all details.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2011

Tags:   Shazia Mirza  /  stand-up  /  comedian  /  broke
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