Born in Iran, Shappi Khorsandi, 43, was granted asylum in the UK after her family was forced to flee following the Islamic Revolution. After a degree in drama, theatre and television, her career in standup took off in 2006 with her Edinburgh show Asylum Speaker. She is the author of A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English, and a novel, Nina Is Not OK. This spring, she tours the UK with her show Oh My Country! She is divorced, has two children and lives in London.
When were you happiest?
Right now. Ask me again when my children are grown, and I’ll sob, “When they loved me more than that woman/man they’ve shacked up with.”
What is your greatest fear?
That the kids might drop my phone in the loo.
What is your earliest memory?
Street hawkers in Tehran selling chirping yellow chicks in big trays.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Teachers who recognise that each child is different.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Inability to open post. I may owe £9,000 in library fines.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
A walk-on part for my mum in Les Misérables. It was in a charity auction. She always dreamed of being in a West End show.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
At 16, I thought Bognor Regis was in Africa. I haughtily declared, in public, that I wanted to “travel the world and see places like Bognor Regis”.
What is your most unappealing habit?
Eating straight out of the saucepan.
What is your favourite smell?
The smell that rises from dusty concrete when it rains is my most powerful memory of Iran.
Which book changed your life?
Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: the line “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, to be exact.
What do you owe your parents?
The belief that I’ve never done anything the wrong way, I’ve just done it my way.
What does love feel like?
Utterly relentless warmth and peace.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
If Jamie Oliver was cooking, then Bette Midler, Bono, Graham Norton, Amy Childs and my mate Vissey.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
Life modelling for a woman who made me recite Shakespeare as I posed. I had a hangover, and it was all a bit much.
How often do you have sex?
Thirty-four times a day Monday-Friday, 48 times on Saturdays. Chill on Sunday.
What is the closest you’ve come to death?
I’m convinced heartache almost killed me a few years ago.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A miniature pet elephant, one that is no bigger than a guinea pig.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Getting an A for my English A-level. I’m dyslexic; it was never detected and I was written off as scatty and lazy. This proved everyone wrong, including me.
Tell us a joke
My mate’s allergic to rice. He’s basmatic.