|Shappi Khorsandi - picture by Henry Cooksey|
Shappi Khorsandi is a bit of a favourite of Radio 4 and the BBC in general. As an Iranian-born standup comedian, she ticks a lot of boxes. But note the "Iranian-born" - the mainstay of her act is the fact that she's Iranian, but she left Iran at a very young age and has lived in Britain for pretty much her entire life. Almost every article's biographic detail states that she and her family were forced to flee Iran after the Islamic Revolution. But Shappi and her family were already in London prior to the revolution. Her father (Hadi Khorsandi) had been the editor of the satirical journal Asghar Agha and had been very critical of the Shah's regime which led to their self-imposed exile. After the Islamic Revolution he returned to Iran, but soon found himself in trouble with the new authorities and fled to London. Subsequently, he was subject to several death threats.
I'm not belittling the very serious threats to her father; he's a very courageous man who uses satire to fight totalitarianism in circumstances where we would all look the other way. Shappi happily hijacks his status and either through dis-ingenuity or allowing incorrect details to circulate, she very much uses the "fled from the Islamic revolution" card to lend credence to her otherwise sub-par comedy. In the clip below, she expresses disbelief at people who ask if she's really Iranian sarcastically saying "I just say that to be more popular," but the sad thing is that it's true. If she wasn't Iranian, then she doesn't have an act. Like Jo Brand about being fat or people in the TA about being in the TA, Shappi can't shut up about being Iranian. Her entire act is predicated on this and once you've heard her for five minutes, you've heard all the material she's got. It's jolly difficult to criticise or even make jokes about Muslims these days, so the main attraction of Shappi for the Beeb is that she can do so with impunity. But she's not a Muslim herself and was raised in a secular family. The other half of her act used to be about her husband and child, but now she's divorced, she just makes snide remarks about his lower level of success.
Lee and Herring used to do some excellent material about lazy comedians. Have a look at the clip below and see how it applies to the tiny bits of Shappi comedy that isn't about being Iranian or being divorced.
I love that Shappi makes a comment about being mistaken for Omid Djalili - she fucking wishes. Djalili was born in London and his family are Iranian Bahá'ís - a much persecuted group in Iran. But Djalili happily embraces his Iranian heritage and plays with it, often making audience preconceptions the butt of the joke. He'll be here long after we've got bored of Shappi's same five minutes of material.