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“It gets quite personal. You don’t hear enough from ethnic women. It’s important to own that narrative.” | Sadia Azmat talks identity at the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show.

I’m coming up to the Women in Comedy Festival in Manchester with a comedian called Nobumi Kobayshi. We’re doing a split bill called Lost in Translation. I think both of our shows are a little bit subversive so you look at us and we don’t necessarily meet what the expectations you’d have from what you see on the tin.

I think it’s funny comedy and very empowering. Mostly my stuff is about relationships and sex and a bit on race and identity.

What made you want to talk about identity in comedy and put personal self-reflection a stage in front of strangers?

Well my comedy influences are mostly those American staunch comedians, who are really in your face about certain issues. People who are confident talking about things like race, like Patrice O’Neal, Dave Chappelle and Kat Williams. There’s Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks.

They don’t really shy away from these issues and I think that helped to spark my interest in them. That’s why I lean towards them through my sense of humour and try to make fun of it. I think in this country we don’t talk about things very openly, we’re very apologetic about things.

I think that’s the good thing about being on stage. You don’t have to be apologetic. You can explore things and people will go with you as long as it’s funny and entertaining. It’s not a TED Talk. I’m not here to change people’s mind or political opinions. They’re entitled to disagree with me. But I think if you’re really good, you can make people feel more relaxed talking about these things.

Would you say comedy is a good platform for opening up discussion?

I think good comedians do do that. It’s not something I always wanted to do, but I feel like it’s something I can’t not do, because of the comments I get after shows. Things like “that really made me think”. So I don’t think it’s my active goal. But audiences are so intelligent, you can give them that and try to be funny up there.

You’ve said you talk about relationships and sex and things. How personal does the show get?

It gets quite personal. I think it’s important only because I don’t think you hear enough from ethnic women and it’s important to own that narrative. You often hear that we just complain about what we don’t have. And it’s not too bad – things are getting better on many fronts and that’s something that should be added to the conversation, that things have improved vastly.

It will definitely get personal, yeah. I think the truth is funny. I could try to joke about Martians in space and no one would find that funny. But if I tell you about my period and things like that, like tissue paper stuck to my shoe or something. It’s funny just to enjoy that misfortune.

What made you want to perform your new show at the Women In Comedy Festival UK?

I’ve been gigging in London for so many years and I really like it. I came up to Manchester for the Women in Media conference at the beginning of the year. I really like it, I think Manchester is a good hub for comedy. The festival celebrates women and comedy, which is really great.

I think it’ll be nice to see what other kinds of audiences are out there and what they take away from it. I don’t want my comedy to be too London-centric. I want it to be relatable in the world. So I’m really excited about that. I hope people listen to my podcast and see if it relates to them.

I came up to the first ever Asian Women’s Festival in Birmingham last year. I had a lot of fun talking to Asian women. Sometimes you don’t look or feel British, but that was a festival where we all had the same position, we were all born here but not white. There were a few white people supporting, which was lovely. It was nice to feel like I was surrounded by people who understood that.

I did do some of my risky material there and, considering it was an Asian crowd it went really well. I was a bit worried. It wasn’t even an evening gig – it was during the day, in the afternoon. They really went with it. It’s exciting, as an artist, that people will go with you on something. Some Asian audiences I’ve performed for have been somewhat conservative, so I consider that a big win. I’d love to see Manchester come onboard with my journey too.

Tell us about your podcast.

It’s done with BBC Sounds and it’s called No Country For Young Women. In the first two series, we’ve already explored how you fit in if you live in a country where you weren’t born.

In the third series we’ve got coming up, we’ve got a lot of celebrity guests, which I’m really excited about. We’ve got Rose McGowan, Ainsley Harriott and some really cool comedians, Phil Wang and Phoebe Robinson. We’re looking at what home actually means. So if you feel like you don’t fit in, what you can do to make somewhere feel more like home and what does home mean to you. I’m really excited about looking at that in the third series.

Are there any other shows at the Women In Comedy Festival UK that you’re excited to see?

Kiri Pritchard-McLean is amazing. I’m definitely going to catch her. I saw her work in progress at the Fringe and she’s so brilliant and funny and I’m a big fan.

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

Obviously with the #metoo movement, I wonder if there was something that could be done to make sure safe spaces are provided. I think that would be good to see in the future for comedy to make it more accessible to women.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

I would say do it. Don’t delay. When I decided I was going to do my first gig, I gave myself two weeks to just get on and do it. If you leave it too long, you get inside your own head and you make it into something unfun and over complicated.

I’d also say rehearse. You don’t want to go and wing it on your first ever time. If you can rehearse in front of your friends in the living. Have a run through before your first gig.

Definitely do it, don’t put it off, but do take some time to rehearse.


Sadia is performing Lost in Translation with Nobumi Kabayshi on October 4th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

You can listen to her podcast, No Country For Young Women, here.

To keep up with other things Sadia has going on, you can check out her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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