SHAZIA Mirza was never one to shirk (or especially court, for that matter) controversy. But her defiant and fiercely honest brand of comedy has landed her in hot waters with the PC police one or twice.

Take her latest tour, which she blithely chose to name The Road to al-Baghdadi.

When it transferred to London’s Tricycle following a much-talked about run at the Edinburgh Festival, the theatre got into an almighty flap. They were so fearful of possible retaliation from ISIS, what with their leader's name hijacked in a stand-up routine, they asked her to change the title. After much consideration, she was forced to rename it The Kardashians Made Me Do it. A far more loaded and perilous title for all involved, she points out with her trademark deadpan delivery.

“They said no, I’m sorry. We’re really worried ISIS will find out and come after us,” she chuckles softly. “I said, 'You know ISIS are not really fans of comedy'. But they said they were really worried it would end up on Twitter. I said. 'I don’t think ISIS are tweeting comedy shows in London, don’t worry'. But I had to change the title at the last minute. So now they have the Kardashians after them, which is a lot more serious I think."

A searing and urgent examination of “life, love and Jihadi brides”, The Kardashians Made Me Do It was inspired by three girls who left Bethnal Green to join the terrorist group in Syria. When their families were questioned about their children’s motivations, they were at a complete loss.

“Before they left their parents were called into the Home Affairs Select Committee by Keith Vaz and he said, 'Why have your daughters gone to Syria?'," explains Shazia, her voice subdued. "The sister said, 'I can’t understand why she’s gone, she used to watch the Kardashians'. That’s why I called it The Kardashians Made Me Do it, because it is something they actually said.”

For her the show is not so much about exploding taboos but an uncompromising exploration of a real and far-reaching social phenomenon: the terrifying intrusion of ISIS and Islamism into the lives of young British Asian women; the very teenagers she used to teach before giving up her career as a secondary school science teacher for comedy.

“I was just interested in why the girls went because I used to teach down the road from where these girls go to school so it was more to do with the fact that I knew girls like that. My show is really about four things: ISIS, Jihadi brides, political correctness and people getting offended and it all ties into it. I don’t ever say to my audience, this is what I believe, you must believe it too, I’m right. People have so many opinions as to why they think young people are going and I just present different points of view.”

Her frustration is palpable at the mention of unbridled radicalism. And she is keen to set the record straight.

“It has nothing to do with religion, why they’re going,” booms Shazia, who was born to first-generation Pakistani immigrants in Birmingham. “I think that any brown person gets discriminated against and tarred with the same brush these days. Everybody gets lumped together because nobody can distinguished between a brown person and a Muslim, or what somebody believes is written in the Koran and what is actually true,” sighs the award-winning columnist.

While the show – which took eight months to write as she poured over mounds of transcripts and research - is rooted in one of the greatest scourges of our time, despite its rather heavy subject matter, The Kardashians Made Me Do It is no grave political rally. Finding humour, albeit dark humour in the absurd and truly mystifying is her MO, after all.

“This is the funniest show I’ve ever done,” she enthuses. “It’s about what’s really going on in the world – it’s all happening now,” she emphasises the last word. “It’s what affects everybody, Trump getting in…It’s what every community is talking about, ‘what’s happening now?’ It’s the elephant in the room.”

She has had to endure her fair share of backlash online and, in the old fashioned way too, via hate mail. A radio piece she contributed to the BBC even received a record number of complaints but self-censorship would be futile and she refuses to pander to her detractors. “Every comedian gets that, it’s part of being business,” she shrugs off the topic. “I will talk about what I want to talk about. I never feel like I can’t talk about anything.”

But the indomitable comic admits her seemingly unflappable confidence has come with maturity and experience.

“It takes a long time to develop as a comedian. You don’t know know who you are at first and you don’t know your voice really. But you become braver and more free on stage.”

With or without haters, stand-up is a notorious sink-or-swim vocation. Many have buckled at the vindictiveness of an unforgiving public.

But after a spell as a teacher in the East End, contending with 16-year-old escape artists on the frontlines, she is made of sterner stuff, she observes lightly.

“Teaching is like doing stand-up every day," she quips. “It was good preparation. Nobody has ever tried to escape from one of my gigs through a window or tried to disrupt the gig. And nobody has ever tried to throw a chair or table at me while doing a gig, so it’s been easy really. It’s always been quite civilised compared to teaching in a rough school in the East End.”

Shazia Mirza comes to the Arts Centre on January 21. To book go to or call 01793 524 481.