Shaparak Khorsandi is a comedian, author, speaker, and human rights advocate who was “Born in Tehran, adopted by London”.
She fled Iran in 1977 at 5 years old moving to London with her mother and brother after their living situation in Tehran became too dangerous. Shappi’s father Hadi Khorsandi was a poet and satirist in Iran. Whilst he was initially supportive of the Iranian revolution which began in 1978, he began mocking the increasing fanaticism of the regime as the revolution drew on, leading to crowds surrounding his office in Tehran and calling for his death. Her father caught a flight the same day as the incident at the office and joined his family in London; they were officially exiled by the regime later in 1979. Fear of persecution did not end there for the family as even in London they were under the protection of MI5 after a tip in 1984 revealed a plot to kill Hadi.
Shaparak’s first book, her childhood memoir A beginner’s guide to acting English recounts her experience of adapting to a new culture with the same expert balance of wit and gravitas that she is famed for in her stand up. She broke into mainstream comedy with her sell-out show Asylum Speaker at the Edinburgh fringe festival in 2006. The success led to many more shows at the fringe and other international comedy festivals as well as a range of appearances on comedy tv shows including Live at the Apollo, Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Have I Got News For You and QI. She continues to perform at festivals but stopped touring last summer to spend more time with her two children. In 2016 Shaparak was also appointed the President of Humanists UK , a secular organisation advocating for human rights.
A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English – Shaparak Khorsandi
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Elle is a third year Classics and Arabic student at Oxford University. She researched and wrote this article as part of the Oxford University Micro Internship programme.