Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Will The Real Comic Please Stand Up?

I like Shazia Mirza. I do. First she travels all the way to Pakistan to entertain us with live shows at LUMS and T2F. Then she travels all the way home to Ye Olde England to entertain us with her take on them. A take which, for those who happened to be present at either, doesn’t present her as a wit as much as it does a half wit. Then again, what is comedy these days if not a playing coshing of the truth while it whimpers gently and wraps its arms protectively around its head?

Shazia Mirza: striking a pose for Ye Olde England

Ms. Mirza begins by recounting the strange case of what allegedly happened to her at a Pakistani airport. Someone asked her for a bribe. This is not going to be a shock to anybody who has ever traveled to a third world country in something other than a coffin. What is shocking is that she forks over $100, thereby drastically increasing the going rate and setting an unholy precedent for any number of corrupt immigration officials in sketchy airports across the globe.

If that isn’t enough to make the rest of us angry, consider this…

"My first performance took place at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums). The audience was made up mainly of lecturers and students, and as I arrived I was told: "Don't worry about performing – we've stepped up security because people knew you were coming.""

First of all, I’d like to humbly request the lecturers and students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences to stop fucking with their guests.

"The fact that there needed to be security at all to tell jokes indicated danger. Pakistan is a sexually repressed country and that is the root of many of its problems."
Second, I’d like to suggest to Ms. Mirza that security is not also always equal to danger. In Pakistan security is often equal to privilege. As in, a sign of privilege. As in, to demonstrate that whatever is being ‘secured’ has a lot of money to throw around. Some people would have security guards in the crapper with them at all times if they could, maybe even swirling down the drain with the turd if necessary, so that when they lose a hand at that night’s poker game they can say ‘Oh yeah? Well I don’t care because I have so much money my shit has its own security detail’. My final word to Ms. Mirza on the issue of security in Pakistan is that these days most violent crime is actually committed by security guards.

Then we move on to her claim that Pakistan is a sexually repressed country, and therein lies the root of many of its problems. This is an interesting hypothesis, and doubtless the foundation of many a thesis project on gender studies by earnest young Pakistani women who aren’t getting any at home.

Unfortunately, if it were true, countries that aren’t sexually repressed wouldn’t have problems, and leaders of nations that are fine with a bit of skirt for breakfast or the dance of the two-headed beast in public wouldn’t need to export their legions of horny young men to far climes to get off on acts of gratuitous violence.

In fact, if I might just run with this, the most evolved country in the world right now is probably Finland, which has a record number of female parliamentarians, a gay prime minister, and has just banned strip clubs. So the answer to our problems my brothers and sisters – and you may indeed quote me in your thesis papers – might not be more sex but more lesbian sex.

"The last time I performed in Lahore I was told: "You can talk about anything you like – religion, politics, drugs, you can swear and curse, just don't mention 'The Sex'." Any sexual words or connotations were banned – because in Pakistan there is no mention of sex on television, radio, or in public."
Now this is where things get really dodgy for me. Which Pakistan is it that Ms. Mirza visited exactly? The Pakistan where you put your head into a bucket of stereotypes and bob for the most worm-ridden apples? Or the Pakistan where mucho copulation has led to mucho population, where wall chalkings offer phone numbers, texts direct you to ‘a good time’, film songs find new and disturbing ways to push the boundaries of vulgarity and there is a record number of accidents on a bridge in Lahore when a billboard of Neha licking a Magnum is, um, erected?

Neha at home

Ms. Mirza then went on...
“to perform two hours away in Karachi. The audience consisted of young people, old people, women in burqas and groups of men – all sitting on the floor together. The doors were locked as soon as all the audience were in, and once again armed security guards stood outside.”
Interesting. Yes the doors were locked (so as the performance would not be disturbed by people trying to come in when there was no more space), and I saw two women in burqas – in an audience of 300 people – but I completely missed the security guards. Could it be that my jaded Pakistani eyes are so used to the sight of overgrown eagle scouts that I don’t notice them anymore? Or could it be that Ms. Mirza is unable to tell the difference between a guard and a valet? (Note to Ms. Mirza: the first has a rifle/the second a gun/the first is for shooting/the other for fun.)

"On arrival I was told by the organizer: "The Pakistani Taliban are infiltrating down to the outskirts of Karachi now, so be careful with what you say. It's best not to talk about religion, or sex, and don't mention the word "gay"." Why? "Because gay doesn't exist in Pakistan," she explained. Pakistan believes it has freedom of speech, but the only freedom you have is to comply with the speech they want to hear. She continued: "There is a law against making any jokes about President Zardari. You cannot make any jokes about him in public and you are not allowed to text any jokes to your friends about him, otherwise you will be put in prison.""
I would now like to humbly request the staff and owners of T2F to stop fucking with their guests.

"When you tell a comedian not to do something, well. I made a joke about President Zardari. The audience loved it. They laughed like they had never laughed before."
Actually, I think we laughed a lot harder when he first tried to get us to stop making jokes about him.

"All the things the audience laughed at are the things they are most repressed about. Jokes about sex, religion and politics got the most laughter."
They did. But then again Ms. Mirza didn’t really make jokes about anything else. And there were some real zingers in there too. Such as:
'Extremists are told that when they get to heaven they’ll get 72 virgins. Have they ever thought about what a woman who remains a virgin her entire life probably looks like? Do you really want to go to heaven and have sex with 72 hairy bitches?'
'Why do fundamentalists have to say ‘you will burn in hell? Is ‘burn’ really necessary? What else are you going to do in hell but burn?'
She also did a great riff on anal sex. Which I personally do not think is funny.

"After the show I was invited to a party. I walked in, to be offered a joint of marijuana, followed by a joint of opium, followed by vodka and then a discussion on porn. I was asked: "What's your favorite porn film?" I have never watched porn. I tried to lie but I couldn't think of a porn movie, so I told the truth: I've never watched porn. This was met with "You've never watched porn? Let us show you some!" A collection of 600 films was pulled out from behind the bookcase. I was then offered a male Russian hooker for the night."
At this point, the people of Pakistan are probably asking themselves two questions. 1) Why the hell wasn’t I invited to that party? 2) If a male Russian hooker goes down on you in a forest do you make a sound?

Ms. Mirza ended her opinion piece by stapling once again onto our foreheads a label reading ‘the hypocrisy of a sexually repressed, censored society’, a label that no sane Pakistani would seriously argue with. How she came to that conclusion after two evenings in the company of people who are probably anything but, I don’t know, but as a writer I can completely empathize with her need to translate experience into material. For those who are offended by it, try to remember that she also sacrificed her mother.
‘My mother is a real namazi. She doesn’t pray five times a day. She prays twenty times a day. My problem with that is, the other day she said her prayers and then ripped the rickshaw driver off.’

As I said in the beginning, I like Shazia Mirza. I do. She can come back and poke fun at us anytime she likes as far as I’m concerned. And this time we’ll make sure those uniformed men are posted inside the bedroom instead of outside, and she won’t have to worry about the extremist she’ll have to have sex with when she gets to heaven.


TLW said...

So the answer to our problems my brothers and sisters .... might not be more sex but more lesbian sex.

*Sniff* (With Joy)

*Whimper Voice* (More Joy) :

Yes Please.

TLW said...

Pakistani girls probably could go both ways, but then they worry if anybody finds out, their phones'll ring off the hook.

Bolshevik said...

MSS, I think I'm in love with you. :-Psca

karachikhatmal said...

with regards to your rebuttal regarding her claim that sex is banned form radios, tvs etc your point only reinforces what she says.

the reason we have neha fellating megnums and films pushing vulgarity is because there we can't directly talk about sex. it has to be repeatedly covered up, and we have to pretend its not there. consequently, innuendo becomes the name of the game, and instead of treating sex as something normal, it becomes increasingly something associated with vulgarity.

i addressed this issue in a short film i made called a "A Pakistani Sex Scene"

Anonymous said...

This post is beyond brilliant


Umair J said...

I would like to reiterate what Bolshevik said...without the element of doubt...MSS, i am in love with you haha

also Faiza S Khan and MSS have remarkably similar takes on this Shazia Mirza business...hmmmm

Ahsan said...

Great post. I honestly didn't think there was too much wrong with her piece, but I think that may have been b/c I didn't go to her shows.

Alpha Za said...

TOtally hilarious, great stuff.

Totally on point.

The bit about the after party; Random people who she doesn't know are offering to give her drugs, take her to watch porn + the company of a russian hooker.... Did a Desi multi-racial orgy not cross her mind?

Tazeen said...

this is the funniest piece I have read in weeks. hilarious.

takhalus said...

A media friend who knew her from a few years ago says she is quite stuck up and not that funny. Besides flogging the "I'm a Muslim and not a terrorist so I'm funny" act she doesn't have much else..

TLW said...

Besides flogging the "I'm a Muslim and not a terrorist so I'm funny" act

When people pull that line, I always suspect that's all they have.

Good observation man.

Saad Azher said...

Very very funny, I did enjoy the full metal jacket quote.

Anonymous said...

that flogging comment is fake

Anonymous said...

great post, thanks for giving her what she deserves. Let see if you get another lame attempt in dawn blog or her own website? to justify what she wrote.

Anonymous said...

Shazia Mirza's article reminded me of the Lahore/Karachi Fashion Week coverage in the international press, they have to add the required amount of extremism/taliban/sexual repression cliches to get the copy approved. I am all for poking fun at ourselves but the halfwit humour of Mirza in this case has left me unimpressed.

Tyrone said...


Good rebuttal to that sorry excuse of an article!

However to clarify the things she said happened at the Karachi show really did, well apparently she did a private show where the events unfolded as she said.

So which is worse her exaggerating and making up or her not even mentioning T2F and its gracious crowd?


Anonymous said...

what a sharp and funny blog post.

and a blog is obviously the ideal medium for this sort of retort, as expertly demonstrated by MSS and the pyala gang.

compare with the article also on shazia mirza in the tribune today.

but actually, sometimes its not all about the medium, is it.

pyala, you are doing great work. how about doing some blogging in urdu?

Meehack said...

I didn't even know who she was until i came across this =|
Now that i do, hilarious piece!

Zakintosh said...

Good piece.

BTW, T2F did not say the things she claims to have been told … but Tyrone says she went to another private show so she probably got all that stuff there and mixed the two up. Odd.

Insanely insane said...

:) Wonderfully witty post. First time Im here and I must say I missed a lot.

Well done and keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Ok This might be the season for Mirza's...I have two questions 1) Who were the ones who invited a comedian and then handed here the list of words not to be used. 2) I lived in UK but never heard of Ms. Mirza and i do follow stand ups...have you?

I think she wasn't getting any there so she thought let's go and get some here and then talk about it may be i will get some back home. Now that we all are talking about her she actually might get some and not be one of the hairy bitch in heaven....

Don't get me wrong i like her she is smart and witty and probably got some fame out of these two gigs...

karachikhatmal said...

having missed the shows, but read the hype, i know that a lot of jokes were about sex, and were meant to puncture hypocritical attitudes.

which makes this even more precious

""I don't do jokes about sex because I have never had it," she says, in her deadpan nasal Brummie accent. Only if George Clooney converted in the morning and threw himself at her feet would she even consider changing that. It's marriage or nothing. "I'm serious!" she says."

'Standing up for Muslim women'
Fiachra Gibbons meets the devout comedian Shazia Mirza - whose act has kicked up a fuss in her religious community"

its seven years ago, but there's a great picture of her in a hijab, sans make up, looking upwards with all the poignancy of mandela.

MSS said...

aap sub ka bohut bohut shukria.

karachikhatmal: Sure there are holes in my argument big enough to drive an APC through but, and Ms. Mirza I am sure would understand, when you go for the joke you go for the joke.

zak: yeah, it was kind of obvious, to anyone who has interacted with the folks at t2f, that she was really stretching it with what she claimed to have been told.

ahsan: i have a bone to pick with you. in a comment on another post, you referred to pyalaites as 'gents'. i might not be a lady, but i'm most certainly not a gent either. that i know of.

Rabayl said...

If you think 'virgins = really hair bitches' is funny and Shazia Mirza's "real zinger" then I'm not surprised her dimwitted trite humour has found it's audience.

There is one tiny pedantic correction, do forgive: it's Iceland that banned strip clubs, not Finland.

Anonymous said...

If you think 'virgins = really hair bitches' is Shazia Mirza's "real zinger" then I'm not surprised her dim-witted trite humour has found its audience.

There is one tiny pedantic correction, do forgive: it's Iceland that banned strip clubs, not Finland.

Anonymous said...

@Tyrone: Actually she did NOT perform at any other 'private' venue in Karachi. She is talking about T2F. Incidentally I was also at the party she is talking about and believe me, other than the marijuana and vodka, all of it is made up. I would take the whole thing as a big joke but for the self-righteousness of her pronouncements about Pakistan... and of course the fact that most people reading her Guardian piece cannot tell that she is making things up.

Anonymous said...

I reckon a career at The Nation beckons for Miss Mirza. She outpakistanid' the Pakistanis!

Ahsan said...

Ah, sorry MSS. I've taken to calling you lot Pyalas now anyway, so it won't happen again.

Jay said...

@anon 6:48 PM
If she indeed had marijuana and vodka in tandem..then you need to pardon her recollection of facts.