Shappi Khorsandi celebrates her personal journey

Shappi Khorsandi
Shappi Khorsandi

The Iranian-born British comedian brings her new show to the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange on Friday, October 24.

Feisty and outspoken stand-up Shappi Khorsandi is touring the UK this autumn with her brand new show.

The comic missed out on 2013 because of a pregnancy, but now she’s back on the road, celebrating the good things in her life.

‘Because I’m Shappi…’ comes to the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange on Friday, October 24, at 9.30pm.

Shappi explains that the show takes an honest look at her personal journey towards her dreams.

“I guess it’s about things not quite turning out according to my plans,” she says, explaining that a career in stand-up comedy once seemed about as realistic as going to the moon.

“It’s also hugely about my family not being quite the shape that I envisaged it to be,” she continues, referring to the challenge of being a single mum with two children from different fathers.

“With my last daughter I went through the whole pregnancy on my own so that all comes into my show, which sounds a bit ‘doom and gloom’ but it’s possibly the most positive and happy show I’ve ever done.”

“If you’ve never been pregnant you won’t be alienated by it,” Shappi insists. “It is very much about the emotions of loneliness if you do have a baby by yourself and I think loneliness is something that everyone can relate to.”

It’s an interesting framework for a show but Shappi insists that she never knowingly chooses a theme. Things just seem to happen organically.

“You put the pieces together and you do a show,” she explains. “But it changes so much after the Edinburgh Festival and as you tour it. Between me and you – and everyone else who might read this – I often don’t set out to write ‘a show’. I just do thoughts and feelings that I have and they become show-shaped. There’s never a time when I think ‘right, this year’s show is going to be about jam jars’. It will just kind of happen the way it happens.”

But does Shappi have favourite subjects to talk about?

“I think whatever happens to be sort of…zeitgeist-y,” she says. “Whatever I think is on everybody’s minds or something that’s on everyone’s minds but they don’t want to admit it. Anything that I can present in my own shape to an audience that’s already familiar with it, if you see what I mean.”

Human emotions hold a particular fascination for Shappi, especially when it comes to friendships and the kind of friends that stay with us from childhood to adulthood.

But Shappi’s also known for discussing tricky or sensitive issues surrounding race and politics. Born in Tehran in 1973, Shappi was brought up in London. Her poet and satirist father, Hadi, had criticised the Ayatollah and her family fled Iran following the Islamic Revolution. She’s performed for Stand Up Against Racism and appeared in an Amnesty International video as part of a campaign against stoning.

Comedy and politics seem to mix well, but Shappi doesn’t think stand-ups are necessarily drawn to political material.

“They’re drawn to talking about stuff that evokes emotion in them,” she says, explaining why subjects like immigration often come up. “Whatever really gets your emotions going is what you want to share with an audience. It’s not like ‘I’m a comedian, therefore I want to stand on a soap box’.”

She continues: “Nowadays my material isn’t so obviously political and it certainly isn’t about my ethnic background because I’ve said a lot about all that and my life is not just about that.”

“But you often get asked to do stuff,” she admits. “I think, if you’re a comedian like me from a background like I have, when you’re asked to stand up for a cause then you do feel a social responsibility to do so.

“I’ve made my left-wing politics very public so when I’m asked to do a gig to support the fireman’s union, I’m there.”

Seriousness aside, Shappi’s main goal is to get laughs and I wonder which of her jokes she likes best.

“I don’t know,” Shappi muses. “It changes all the time. I guess a joke of mine that I see printed the most is: ‘I’ve got to have a baby now while my mum’s still young enough to look after it’. I see that a lot.”

“I look back on a lot of stuff and cringe years later,” she laughs, referring to some of the groanworthy one-liners she came up with when she was “younger and greener”.

However, for Shappi, jokes are meant for the moment and old ones get left in the past.

“They’re not my babies,” she states. “They’re not like songs. Sometimes I’m reminded of jokes and I go ‘oh God, yeah that’s good. Why don’t I do that anymore?’ Then I realise that’s because it was five years ago and it’s not relevant. It’s not important to me anymore to say that or to express that feeling.”

Keeping her material fresh seems to have been effective. Since starting comedy in 1997, the now 41-year-old stand-up has made many high profile TV appearances on shows like Live At The Apollo, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Q.I. She’s also written a best-selling autobiography, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English, which details her early life and her move from Tehran to London.

It sounds like a tough career, but apart from TV work, which can be pretty nerve-wracking, Shappi says she’s comfortable with performing in front of so many people.

“On tour I’m very relaxed because often that hour and a half that I’m onstage is the only time in the day when I’m not with kids,” she laughs.

“I’m like ‘yay, I’m with adults! I can talk about grown up stuff’.”

Tickets cost £16. Call 01273 709709 or click here