Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shazia Mirza at the Newbury Comedy Festival

One of the fruitful pies I have a finger in is comedy reviewing; which essentially putting into words the post performance assessment that most people save for the post performance pub visit.

I used to review a fair bit of stand up, but stood down after I found myself too easily anticipating jokes or wearily recognising a comic formulaic approach to a topic.

Still such insight did lead to me being crowned the 2005 Jongleurs SMART Gagmeister and a trip to the 2006 Montreal Comedy Festival, so not all bad!

However, with staffers at the Newbury Weekly News and its website newburytoday not quite mopping up all the review tickets at this years Newbury Comedy Festival I am actually doing a few reviews over the next week.

My first was last night and readers of this blog get to see it here first!

Shazia Mirza
New Greenham Arts
Friday 7th July 2007

Standing up in that niche market of well known Muslim female comics, Shazia Mirza has blazed a path as an edgy, boundary-trashing performer and indeed she did have a bounty of observations that prompted everything from nervous laughter to guffaws.

However, her performance lacked warmth and to begin with I thought it lacked polish, indeed some comics see summer festivals like ours as an opportunity to fine tune their new Edinburgh shows.

However, by her own admission this was her ‘old’ show; so actually it was just a bit tired and tour weary. No more was this evident than with the contrast when she ad-libbed, picking on audience members for light relief. Then she positively sparkled.

So she was almost lacking conviction as she romped through some clever material that mocked racism from a unique perspective; together was some gasp inducing quips about everything from honour killings to being raped by unlicensed minicab drivers – or being offended if they didn’t try!

Mirza’s problem, and one that a seasoned comic like herself should know, is that a small venue often produces small laughs. However she convinced herself wrongly that her material was too ‘edgy’ for Newbury and was prone to tell us when something was funny if we failed to reward a line with enough laughs

She spent some time reading out the death threats she has received from fellow Muslims that even prompted police protection at earlier gigs, and these perhaps best illustrate how groundbreaking she is; characteristically she dismissed it as ‘honour heckling’

Her show, spilling over the scheduled hour, sadly ended clumsily with a short video that merely illustrated some of her earlier observations; then she grabbed the mic to say goodbye, presumably to a wasted opportunity.

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