Shazia Mirza is in versatility-revealing mode over the next few months, with some seriously varied screen time coming up. The award-winning Brummie comic has "just filmed Celebrity The Island with Bear Grylls, which will be on Channel 4 in September," she tells FGWG, "and I play Shabana, a counsellor, in the new feature film Arifa which will be premiered on the 15th June."
If you're reading this on Thursday, somewhere near London, that premiere is happening at Shoreditch's excellent Rich Mix venue - link below. Meanwhile Shazia is also honing her next stand-up hour, With Love from St Tropez, for a run at the Edinburgh Fringe's Gilded Balloon in August.
"The new show is about the state of the world: lies, fake news, misrepresentation and all my experiences of this," she says. If it's anything like her last show, the admirably bold The Kardashians Made Me Do It, it'll probably offer some seriously nourishing food for thought. Certainly more satisfying than the food you'd get on Bear Grylls' Island, anyway.
Now, let's take a trip back in time.
My first gig was years ago, in a pub in Brixton. There were no chairs, no tables, no microphone, everyone was standing up, and I had to stand in the middle of this room and just speak. As I started talking the police came, drove right up to the venue, and started arresting someone. There were blue flashing lights coming through the window. I think people were laughing, I don't know what at. But I think it went quite well, as I got asked back.
Favourite gig, ever?
My favourites are Glastonbury, Arosa Comedy Festival (performing in a tent at the top of The Swiss Alps), World Performing Arts Festival in Lahore Pakistan (performing in a tent outside to 1000 people) and performing in Bangalore, India, when comedy was new there. It's always exciting to perform comedy in a place where its only just beginning. They are excited, we are excited, and you don't know how it's going to go, or if we will click and understand each other. It's like a first date.
There have been so many. But I was performing in the middle east once and I mentioned sex (lack of it) and when I got off stage there were police there waiting to arrest me. They said that they had been informed of my "Immoral content". I explained to them it was my lack of "Immoral material" that I was joking about and they said "Well as long as it's not true, that is OK". I was really scared that I was going to go to jail. They had handcuffs ready and showed no mercy.
The weirdest gig?
On a farm in Sweden. The farmers barely spoke English and I had to do the gig at 5pm because they said that it got dark at 6pm and so they had to have it early. I was standing on a wooden box in the middle of a barn where one man who spoke a bit of English started translating to the rest of the audience unannounced.
Who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
Anyone who can't change their mind. Those people who see you once at the beginning of your career for five minutes and then hold that opinion of you, for the rest of their life. If they can't change their mind, they can't change anything.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
Of course. That is comedy, not everyone will like everything all the time. And also these days if someone is not offended, you're not doing it right. I loved doing a routine about teaching where one of the lines I would say was "On parents evening... which was more like singles night" and some people didn't like that, I thought 'I've got a lot worse material than that.'
What's your best insider travel tip, for gigging comics?
Always carry nuts with you. You never know when you are going to get hungry, and if anywhere will be open after the gig. But if you have nuts you won't go hungry and they are good for you.
The most memorable review, heckle or post-gig reaction?
I had only been doing comedy about a year when I had a review from a woman at The Times saying that sitting in my gig was like sitting in a torture chamber where I tortured my audience and I had no future, I was not going anywhere and I should probably just torture myself! I don't think she liked me, and just wanted to say the worst things about me as possible.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
I always think I can do better, and create more original, funnier and different work. So I am always pushing myself to do that. There are so many things I would like to do, like a sitcom, and more films. Particularly an action film.