A Muslim, a Mormon and a Jew Walk into A Bar: The Comedy of Religion
Shazia Mirza is the UK’s foremost female Muslim stand up comic, a job that many in her culture would frown upon. She received a degree in Biochemistry and worked as a science teacher before starting a career in stand up comedy in 2000. In a very short space of time, Shazia worked her way up the comedy ladder; the year after she began performing she won the Hackney Empire Best New Act Competition at The London Comedy Festival and the next year won the People’s Choice Best Comic Award. The Oxygen Channel did a profile on her as have Danish, French, German and Swedish networks. In 2003 The Sunday New York Times Magazine wrote a feature article on her, and in 2004 she was profiled on 60 Minutes. Since then she has also become a regular performer in New York, “commuting” from her home base in London.
Shazia is in huge demand internationally, performing sold out shows all over Europe including Kosovo and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she performed The Last Temptation of Mirza. She presented 10 Things You Always Wanted To Know About Islam (But Were Afraid To Ask) on the BBC and was featured in the BBC documentary Asian in the UK. Shazia has appeared on numerous British talk shows, and the BBC’s First Sight made a documentary about her called Funny Girl. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s The World Stands Up and at the Vagina Monologues’ V Day event at The Royal Albert Hall; Eve Ensler asked her to write her own monologue for the show..
Shazia is also a columnist for The New Statesman and has written for various newspapers and magazines including The Guardian and Asian Woman Magazine. This past Spring, she wrote & presented the hugely popular, F*** Off, I’m A Hairy Woman, a BBC documentary about body image and stereotypes surrounding women’s body hair. She also just completed a successful UK solo tour of her show Fun.
Shazia’s first US appearance was at the Kung Pao Kosher Comedy production, The 5th Annual Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians in 2003 in San Francisco.
Bengt (pronounced “bent”) Washburn grew up in a small Mormon family (7 kids) in a large Mormon town (2,000 people) in Utah. His father is a psychiatrist, and his mother is a frustrated writer with a Master’s degree in English and a penchant for weird names.
At 19, he was given a polyester suit, a ten-speed bike and a plane ticket to Seattle, Washington. For two years he pedaled up and down the hilly streets of Seattle and Tacoma, knocking on strangers’ doors and bringing up religion. Bengt completed his Mormon Mission in 1986, returning home to Utah with nerves (and buns) of steel.
He has a Master’s degree in painting from Indiana University in Bloomington and taught art part time at local universities while applying for teaching positions at crappy colleges all over America. He gave up on his painting/art teaching career in 1997 after reading about Congo the Chimp; a prolific painting monkey with “art” in galleries, museums and private collections all over the globe. After 9 years of toil, his bank account and resume were inferior to those of a trained monkey. He still paints and draws but not for money.
In 1998, the self-proclaimed unaccomplished Mormon lost a job, got a divorce, started drinking coffee and decided to pursue stand-up comedy full time. In 2000, he married an Irish Catholic officer in the United States Air Force. In 2001, he won the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition.
Bengt has been called “an intellectual with an imp’s perspective.” He is known as an intelligent and prolific comic, whereas Bengt himself is usually described as ditzy, neurotic and logistically impaired. The ever-evolving topics of his show are often autobiographical and mostly true. His show is silly, poignant, pointed, intelligent, quirky, accessible, unique, inimitable and “surprisingly universal considering the subject matter” and above all hilarious. His show is constructed out of his mistakes, all the details of the “carefully crafted series of unfortunate decisions” that are his life. Bengt has produced a DVD, “Mormon Meets World,” and two CDs, “Get Bengt” and “Hell Bengt.” Both CDs can be heard on XMComedy
Bengt’s website: www.getbengt.com
Lisa Geduldig is a San Francisco-based stand-up comic and comedy producer. Originally from Lawn Gisland, New Yawk, where her entire suburban block was Jewish except the Mazzolas next door who had on their lawn what seemed to be the largest Nativity scene in the history of the world. Lisa is the creator, producer, and MC of a variety of annual comedy shows—Kung Pao Kosher Comedy: Jewish Comedy on Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant (now in its 15th year); and The George Bush Going Away Party: An Evening of Political Comedy (in its 4th and penultimate year); Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians (entering into its 10th year); and now A Muslim, A Mormon, and A Jew Walk into A Bar: The Comedy of Religion. Two years ago, Lisa branched out into the world of music and produced the sold out Charo and Her Las Vegas Show at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. Lisa is also a bilingual (Spanish/English, not Yiddish/English) freelance arts publicist. She did, however, study Yiddish in New York in the summer of 2000. But more about that onstage.
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