Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Shappi recalls childhood fear

WATCHING events unfold in Paris last month was like witnessing scenes from her own childhood, said Iranian-born Shappi Khorsandi.

WATCHING events unfold in Paris last month was like witnessing scenes from her own childhood, said Iranian-born Shappi Khorsandi.

The comedian fled the country with her family after continual threats to her father, a satirist writer. Threats were carried out in the French capital when terrorists gunned down cartoonists and others working at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in retaliation for publishing cartoons which depicted the prophet Mohammed. More people were killed when another gunman took several hostages in a Jewish supermarket in a suburb of the city.

She said, “Satirists cannot help but express themselves. The Charlie Hebdo guys, their office had been fire-bombed. They had continual threats but they had literally said ‘come on if you think you’re hard enough’. My father truly believes that a true satirist would die for their right to speak.

“My dad could have stayed in Iran and toed the party line but he could not do that. He uprooted and went to a country where he expressed himself in a different language. If I cannot speak I cannot live, that to me defines a satirist.

“When that happened in Paris it made me remember what it was like for us always having that fear that those people may do what they threatened.”

Personal experiences like these take centre stage for Shappi’s new show, Because I’m Shappi including her experiences as a single mother of two - but, she assures me, gushing about her children is one thing which is not funny!

She said, “I think there is nothing more dull than talking about your kids. All kids are cute and all kids say funny things. All kids knock your socks off. I talk about myself more than my kids. They have made me more relaxed about my job because it does not matter as much. I am less frantic about work in that way.”

Shappi talks about friendship and how those relationships frame our lives.

She added, “I found it really interesting that the friends that you make today are very different to the friends you make when you are 18. When I saw my little boy with his friends he will have something in common with, like playing with a bow and arrow, and that friendship might endure for 40 years. That has been one of the lovely things about getting older; realising how long you have known your friends.”

Shappi describes her comedy as a compulsion, a desire to perform, “a desire to connect with people you might not have anything in common with”.

She explained, “Having things in common with, or feeling alienation or isolation are not necessarily about having the same experience. I have learned it does not really matter if people have had the same experience as you.

“The older I get the more my upbringing becomes less important to me. It becomes less relevant.”

What is important is live comedy and playing to audiences around the country. Because I’m Shappi was a sell-out success in Edinburgh and went on to sell out in Soho.

Shappi added, “One of the things I love about this job is you get to know every single nook and cranny of this country. You get to perform in market towns even the locals do not know about.”

Because I’m Shappi is at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Friday, February 27 at 8pm. Tickets are £15. Box office (01491) 575698 or visit

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