First British Muslim to take stand-up comedy to Saudi Arabia

HE S been called Europe s top Asian stand-up. Now Jeff Mirza is going where no British Muslim comedian has been before – Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its humour. Jeff, who grew up in Ilford Lane and went to Loxford and Wanstead high schools, say

HE'S been called Europe's top Asian stand-up. Now Jeff Mirza is going where no British Muslim comedian has been before - Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its humour.

Jeff, who grew up in Ilford Lane and went to Loxford and Wanstead high schools, says: "I was a bit wary at first about going there. One doesn't want to get into trouble.

"But I was invited after I was interviewed about inter-faith dialogue for a very big Saudi radio station.

"Inter-faith dialogue is something the King of Saudi Arabia is encouraging and so I thought it would be a good thing to go there to perform."

Most of his material is about his world view, cultural issues, identity and family life.

He says: " I am really committed to different communities all laughing together. I am really looking forward to playing Saudi Arabia. Hopefully I will try and do a gig in Iran next year, or maybe Afghanistan, who knows?"

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Jeff will be performing stand-up to audiences of ex-pat Brits and young Saudis in the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah next week.

He has previously had audiences laughing in the US, Holland, Dubai and Sri Lanka.

He says: "I've found comedy is a great vehicle for pushing ideas. Talking about issues through comedy can really help. My comedy is not for Asians specifically. I'm not an 'Asian comedian' as such. I've played Edinburgh a few times."

Indeed, his show Walking with Muslims, was a sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival in 2003.

He is famous for stage acts taking the mickey out of Saddam Hussein, hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza and Iraqi information minister "Comical Ali".

Jeff gave up a steady job as a civil and structural engineer, before switching to become a stand-up.

He was a finalist in the BBC Open Mic Award at the Edinburgh festival and has played the circuit in London, appearing at big clubs like Jongleurs and The Comedy Store.

He's also a familiar face on screen, having appeared in films Bend it Like Beckham and Tomb Raider and the Channel 4 series White Teeth.

Jeff says: "I like the idea of turning a stereotype on its head.