Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Shappi Khorsandi - the Top Standup Comic

Public Domain Cartoon

Young men and women in Iran are fighting for freedom under an oppressive regime. How can I not address that in my comedy routine? asks Shappi Khorsandi.

Audiences adore her. She's beautiful, she's smart, she's incredibly funny and she knows exactly how to send herself up. Of course, most comedians can do that, but maybe it's the special Khorsandi way she does it that captures our hearts.

"People say to me: "Are you really Iranian? ... No, I just say that to be more popular."

If the best comedy relies on shock tactics and on twisting facts around in unexpected ways, then this is Khorsandi's great strength. With her political background, she has plenty of original and promising material to work with and a whole plethora of fresh angles we may not have heard before in quite the same way. She tells it all with perfect timing, and in a matter-of-fact, overtly agreeable manner that renders even the most non-pc jokes inoffensive.

"I never wanted to be a stand-up," she says. "I wanted to be a doctor. My parents pushed me into stand-up comedy."

Shappi Khorsandi Flees the Iranian Revolution
Khorsandi was born in Teheran on 8 June 1979. She and her family were forced to flee the country after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah was overthrown and replaced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The reason for the Khorsandi family's flight was that Shappi's father, Hadi, had just published a satirical poem that mocked the revolutionary regime. He was a journalist and a satirist and his daughter explains, tongue-in-cheek to chat show host, Jonathan Ross how the Iranian authorities advocated free speech - although there was no freedom after you'd spoken.

Khorsandi was married to Christian Reilly between 2005 and 2010 and the couple had a son, Charlie, who now lives with his mother at Richmond Park in West London. She claims Charlie is named for that great comedian, Charlie Chaplin.

Khorsandi's Husband, Christian Reilly - Material for Jokes
The break-up of her marriage provides more grist to the Khorsandi comedy mill. She tells how difficult it is when you are divorced, and how she could not bear to tell her parents. 

"They still don't know, because they don't follow me on Twitter." She says her husband is a stand-up comedian too, then as an aside. "You won't have heard of him." She tells how they went to counselling, but the counsellor had a picture of her family on her desk, with her husband's head cut out which didn't inspire any confidence in her counselling skills.

On Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Ross describes Khorsandi as being one of the most exciting comedians around. Khorsandi, explaining how she deals with her material, says that there are young Iranian men and women fighting for freedom.

"As an Iranian comedian, how can I not address that?"

  • Shappi Talk - 4-part series, BBC Radio 4, July, 2009.
  • Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, BBC 1, 26 June, 2009.
  • Edinburgh Comedy Fest, 2010.
  • Live at the Apollo, various, BBC Worldwide.

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