What led you to comedy?
Benny Hill was my inspiration when I was a kid. I wanted to run chasing women in swimwear around the trees. Unfortunately, the politically correct culture started in the 1980s and made this an unviable career choice, so the more traditional bet position seemed like a safer bet.
What advice would you give aspiring comedians?
Love the audience They pay good money to see you fill the void in your soul, so love them without caring who they are or who they vote for. Don’t start your career thinking you’ll teach them. Learn to make the audience laugh first.
Can you remember a prom that was so bad that it’s now so funny?
Glastonbury 1998 I think. I was new and lied that I had half an hour of material. I only had five minutes. I tried to pass out so I wouldn’t have to continue. After 10 minutes I received some sort of booing. Then I was able to wet myself in the shower and went home with another comedian I couldn’t look in my eyes again. In fact. No. I can still laugh shocked.
Who were you looking for in the beginning?
In my past life I was an African American welder and played the banjo, so Richard Pryor and Billy Connolly have always been my heroes. The on-line comics I was obsessed with when I started are Phil Nichol for his chaotic rock star character and Mark Steele for his intellectual absurdity. I had such a great admiration for Mark that I can now say that he is my friend.
A year ago you decided to change your name back to Shaparak (from Shappi). Was the reaction as I expected?
We live in a time very sensitive to identity and I felt bad because some people were afraid to pronounce it wrong for fear of being seen as fat racists. It’s not racist to mispronounce a name you’re not familiar with! To me, it’s no different than Cathy asking for the nickname Catherine. Shappi is still my nickname and I’m really glad that people are using it. I just want my real name to be nothing to hide. It means “butterfly” and it is beautiful.
Her current show called Was in the 90s. What do you miss from this contract?
I miss running at night to meet my friends without knowing what it would achieve. I really miss the huge, lively comedy clubs and the culture of watching comedy live instead of on TV. The comedy circuit was as close to a punk as it gets.
“You’re almost as funny as your father.”
Who on the track always makes you laugh?
Sean Walsh, Mark Steele and Esther Manitou are people I can count on to make me cry with laughter.
What important lesson did you learn in a standing position?
You should have fun, the real fun, as if you were a kid. If you are not amused, the audience will not pray.