Interview: Ishi Khan-Jackson
5:42pm Friday 10th July 2009 in Interviews
COMEDY is a great way of dissolving prejudice,” said stand-up comic Ishi Khan-Jackson.
“It helps relax people and you can have a laugh without thinking about serious issues like 'which group do I belong to?'"
Ishi, who lives in Loughborough with her husband and cat, hopes to use her humour to breach the cultural divide when she comes to Blackburn's King George's Hall next Friday in The Road to Englistan.
“Asian and English people laugh at the same things,” said Ishi.
“That's why programmes like Goodness Gracious Me and films like Slumdog Millionaire and Bride and Prejudice have been so popular.
“We're not that dissimilar, but some people choose to look at our differences rather than our similarities.”
In her act Ishi talks about her family's experience of coming to Britain.
“I talk a lot about my grandma, who has been a big inspiration to me,” she said. “She's lived in the UK for over 25 years and I tell stories about how she's handled it. A lot of people can relate to it if they’re of an Asian background, and English people will probably think ‘my grandma does the same thing too.’ “When I did a show at the Edinburgh Festival I told the audience how she ‘goes commando’ — they asked for her number!”
Ishi has lived in the UK since 1988 and, although of Asian descent, was born in Zambia.
“I think I'm very lucky to have had the chance to experience different cultures and traditions,” she said.
“I grew up in a family with very strict Muslim values but I went to a Catholic school and I value Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, so I can respect a person for their values, whatever they may be, without having a superiority complex.
“Some of my early material used to be about the confusion I felt about which nationality box to tick when filling in applications. I think I could have ticked most of them, except maybe Jamaican, but then again I like a bit of rum and raisin so I probably should have ticked that one too.”
As well as stand-up comedy, Ishi works as a life coach.
“I coach people to achieve their goals and I work as a laughter coach too,” she said.
But don't you have to be a bit cynical to be a comedian — something out-of-bounds for an upbeat, optimistic profession like life coaching?
“I don't think so,” said Ishi. “It's true that many comedians are cynical, but not all of us. Then again, just because I'm a life coach doesn't mean I'm not cynical sometimes, it's all about balance.
Ishi joked that she became a comic after “getting married and thinking: ‘Is this it?’”.
She actually began after attending a comedy workshop organised as part of the Leicester Festival.
"I saw the advert and thought it would be great to watch comics writing and performing their material, so I signed up. But I forgot one vital detail — that I'd have to do some work myself!
“About two weeks before the course ended the tutor mentioned ‘the show’. I said ‘What show?’ and he said we’d be doing a show at the end of the course and that it had been in the advert. Having a short attention span, I'd not read the small print.
“But the show went really well and that’s when I caught the bug.
"I've always been creative and because I had a rigid upbringing my creative outlet was always writing and my imagination, but stand-up comedy has been a really good outlet for my creativity.”
l The Road to Englistan will also feature comics Steve Shanyaski, Aatif Nawaz, Darshan Sangrajka and John Cooper. For tickets, call box office on 0844 8471664.