By Grace Nasri, Iran Times
An Iranian-British comedienne whose "Beginner's Guide to Acting English" was published in July says being a comedian was her "childhood dream."
It wasn't happenstance that Shappi Khorsandi, who is in her mid thirties, became interested in comedy from a young age. Her father, Hadi Khorsandi, was a respected satirical columnist in Iran; but one of his articles drew much controversy after angering the newly established Islamic regime and almost led to his execution.
"Dad's offices were mobbed," Shappi told The Birmingham Evening Mail. "Everybody started chanting for his execution. Dad opposed extremism in all forms, which made him a target in Iran."
Shortly before, Shappi's uncle, then 19, was killed while demonstrating during the 1979 revolution. "He [Hadi] had to get out, then made a home in Britain. But even when we were living here, we knew dad's life was in real danger. I'd look for assassins in the hedgerows."
When Shappi was six years old, the family-which includes her older brother Peyvand-immigrated to England, where Shappi, now a mother of one, works as a comedian and writer.
She told the Iran Times she became interested in comedy from a young age. "It was a childhood dream. After university, I immersed myself in London's comedy club scene," she said.
As a comedian, Shappi performs in a range of settings from television shows to stand-up stages. When the Iran Times asked Shappi where she prefers to perform, she said, "I love smallish London clubs, but recently I performed at The Birmingham NEC to 11,000 people. Performing at The Melbourne comedy festival was pretty wonderful.... I don't have a 'favorite' place as such; any where will do for me. The Secret Policemans Ball at the Royal Albert Hall was an amazing thing I was a part of last year."
In addition to her comedy career, Shappi is a published author. "A Beginner's Guide to Acting English" documents Shappi's life, telling the story of
how her family became asylum seekers "long before it was fashionable."
"I tried to speak to my dad about it all, but he's just been so quiet about the protests and I felt: 'Your heart is broken. You sacrificed living in Iran because you spoke out against these mullahs and you failed. The revolution didn't happen the way you wanted. It was about freedom and to get rid of a dictator, and instead something far worse came in that nobody could have predicted, and now your heart is broken because this is exactly the future you feared'," Shappi told The Birmingham Evening Mail.
"When you speak the same language as a people, and their voices and faces are so familiar, you can't help but feel you should be there, marching alongside them and supporting them," she said.
After the family settled in England, Hadi started his own opposition magazine which found wide circulation among the Iranian diaspora. As a result,
in 1984 Hadi learned that the Iranian regime had issued an order for his assassination.
"I've called it a fatwa in the past and my dad has scolded me for that," Shappi told The Evening Mail. "A fatwa is specifically for blasphemy, and for my father it was never about Islam, it was about the Islamic Republic government. But he was on their death list and the assassins had been given orders to shoot him while he was taking me and my brother to school."
Hadi's family was given asylum in England and went into hiding under protection from Scotland Yard. "As a result, I did everything I could to become
English," Shappi said. "I didn't want anything to do with being Iranian because to me it was just bleak and scary. I didn't even tell my friends about the assassination plot because I didn't want to look like the nutter who made up lies to get attention."
Although the last time she saw Iran was before the 1979 revolution, Shappi has not forgotten her Iranian heritage and has been following developments since the disputed elections.
When the Iran Times asked her to share her thoughts about the political situation in Iran, Shappi said, "The people of Iran must make the changes from within, as they are bravely doing right now. U.S involvement in Middle Eastern matters tends to lead to bloodshed. There must be no military involvement from the U.S and the situation must not be used as an excuse to attack Iran. The best thing the U.S can do is to keep reporting what is happening, keep it in the news and talk to the Iranian government with diplomacy and politics, not bombs."
Aside from her public life as a comedian and author, Shappi is the mother of a young son. When The Evening Mail asked Shappi about her marriage to fellow comedian Christian Reilly, Shappi said they were no longer together.
"We're not together, anymore," she said. "I don't think many marriages survive children. You fall in love with one another, then a baby comes along, and all your love goes there, instead."
For more information on Shappi visit: http://social.shappi.me/
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