SHAPPI Khorsandi’s new show, Mistress and Misfit, focuses on Emma, Lady Hamilton, the mistress and misfit who lit up the life of Admiral Nelson and added to the gaiety of the nation during the Georgian era.

The comedian says she has had a ball writing the show. “It’s about passion and tragedy. What better things are there to write comedy about?”

Shappi says that for too long Emma has been tagged only as Nelson’s mistress. She has been regarded as a bit of a harlot (you work in a brothel for one night and there goes your reputation!) Women’s lib wasn’t uppermost in people’s minds in Georgian times.

She said: “I was fascinated by Emma. She was really clever and compassionate and very hard done by. She was also a master of re-invention and a fantastically creative person.’’I relate Emma’s life to modern women and, like all stand-ups, I draw people into the world as I see it, so it’s still a very personal show.’’

Shappi believes she has a lot in common with Lady Hamilton. She said: “We were both artist’s models. She modelled for great artists, I modelled for GCSE students in Tower Hamlets. I have never worked in a brothel, but I have had moments that I would only tell you about on stage, or when very drunk. I will be sharing some of those stories in Mistress and Misfit.”

The comedian sees many parallels between the attitudes towards women in the Georgian era and now. “Any woman who does anything seen as salacious is still demonised today. That’s a very modern theme. It’s not exclusive to Georgian times.’’

“In the show, I talk about Emma being married to a man 30 years older than her. If they were from a lower class, women had no financial independence and no options. That happened 200 years ago, but much more recently, my grandmother was married when she was 13 to a man in his 30s. So perhaps my gran was the Emma of her time!”

After a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Shappi is on tour and heading for Swindon. Shappi said: “Performing is like skydiving. The adrenaline rush is incredible. It’s probably the only time in my day when I’m utterly focused and have no responsibility to anyone else apart from the audience.

“It’s like a lovely, warm, relaxing bath, but a very high-octane bath! You can’t reproduce that feeling. If I haven’t done stand-up for a while, I just have to get back on stage. I need it like oxygen!”

Much of Shappi’s material is personal and audiences can instantly identify with that. She is also a best-selling author, having released A Beginners Guide to Acting English in 2009, followed by her 2016 debut novel Nina Is Not OK. She also made a big impression when she appeared on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

She has notched up numerous high-profile television appearances including Live At The Apollo, Channel 4’s Comedy Gala At The O2, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, The Graham Norton Show, Have I Got News For You and her own Comedy Store Special for Comedy Central.

Tickets for Mistress and Misfit at Swindon Arts Centre, Old Town, on May 24 are £17.50 and available at or 01793 524481 or