Next month Shaparak Khorsandi will bring her new show It Was the 90s to Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. Before she indulges in a bit of time travel, the comedian answered a few questions

What can fans expect from the new show?

It came about when I realised my son’s generation regards the 90s the way my generation regards the 60s. It’s a show that massively talks about the ‘ladette’ culture, which was a culture of women supposedly taking their power back by drinking the boys under the table and all that mayhem of emulating the worst of laddish behaviour. I talk about how and why I threw myself into that wholeheartedly in the 90s, which is also when I started stand-up comedy. That was part of my need for freedom and the comedy circuit seemed like the most punk place to be. It’s very different to the way it is now.

What are your abiding memories of the decade?

Back then it was about hedonism and escapism, and in the show I talk about all the harm I need to undo. You didn’t just go out for a drink hoping you’d meet someone you fancied, you drank and drank until you fancied someone. It’s also about how back then I went to university with people who’d say ‘I’ve only got £200 to last me until Monday’ when I was a cleaner on Saturdays and Sundays to pay for my beer. You really see the class difference. Before I went to university in the 90s I had never come across private school kids before. That’s why Jarvis Cocker became my absolute hero with ‘Common People’ because that song for me expressed how I was feeling in this brand new adult world I was navigating.


Shaparak Khorsandi

Shaparak Khorsandi


How have you changed since then?

I’m not quite the socialist she was. I’m looking back at how my politics have changed and how my outlook has also changed. And you have to shelve the ‘ladette’ behaviour if you want to live for longer. I look at Emma Watson now. She’s the sort of leading light of young feminism and when I look at her I go ‘Oh my God, you look so clean’. She looks like she goes to bed at a sensible time, whereas in the 90s I don’t remember ever deliberately going to bed. It Was The 90s! offers me the chance to look at how young people look after themselves now compared to then.

Do you have any examples of that?

Self-care in the 90s was about having a Berocca. If I’d said to my friends in the 90s after a one-night stand where the bloke thought my name was Jackie that I was going to take some time out, do some breathing exercises and meditation, become vegetarian and work on my boundaries they would have thought I’d joined a cult. Self-care was what people in cults did.

This is your first tour since 2017. How does it feel to be heading back on the road?

I was diagnosed with ADHD in lockdown and I got proper help with it. What I’m finding is that it’s changed the way I do comedy. People ask ‘Are you worried it’s going to affect how you are on stage?’ and I’m like: ‘No, it’s made me better. It’s made me a better writer and a better performer, having pills that help me to focus.’ There was always a lot of anxiety around tours and there was always a lot of ‘I’ll just do it in the moment and hopefully it’ll work’. This is the first time I’ll be doing a show whilst looking after my ADHD and creatively it’s been a game-changer. In all sorts of ways it’s been a game-changer. I’d say this is the first time doing a tour where I’m absolutely sure that I’m going to have a lot of fun and no anxiety. It’s a real privilege to have a clear head. I feel my brain works for comedy much better than before. I feel like I’m starting my career from scratch whilst also having 20 years’ experience behind me, if that makes sense.


Shaparak Khorsandi

Shaparak Khorsandi


Did you manage to keep busy after COVID struck?

I was writing my book ‘Kissing Emma’ when I should have been educating my children, so their careers and dreams are going to have to happen a year later than planned. I’m a single mum with two kids so there wasn’t a moment of boredom in lockdown and I’ve got two dogs so there was a lot of mopping of floors. I didn’t have the sort of lockdown where people were looking for boxsets to binge on. I wish I’d had time to watch telly but I was writing and putting this show together.

What’s your idea of a great night out now compared to then?

A nice chilled festival somewhere, where someone hands me something nice to eat and we watch a band that we love. I still like a party but not to detriment of my physical and mental health.

You now go by your full name of Shaparak rather than Shappi. Why is that?

The first thing I did in the 90s was start A-level college and I went ‘Right, no-one’s allowed to call me Shaparak anymore, I’m Shappi’. If you had a foreign name you were expected to make it as easy as possible for everyone by either shortening or changing it. That doesn’t exist for young people anymore. During the Euros I became very invested in the football and Raheem Sterling comes from Brent, near where I grew up, and Bukayo Saka went to school in Greenford. These are the sort of boys I’d have gone to school with and I was impressed that they spoke so proudly of the backgrounds they came from, how they were from poor and immigrant families and how they had elevated themselves without changing their names.

How did that influence your decision to revert to Shaparak?

It made me think: ‘Why am I Shappi? I’m almost 50 years old, for God’s sake. Why have I got the name of a puppy?’ I watched ‘Dirty Dancing’ again and you know where she says at the beginning ‘That was the summer of 1963 when everybody called me Baby and it didn’t occur to me to mind’? I just thought that it really should occur to me to mind that on all the posters and TV shows and books and everything I’m billed as Shappi but that’s not my name. The only reason I got rid of it was because I grew up in a time when you were made to feel a bit ashamed of being foreign and making life difficult for everyone because you had a three-syllable name that was unfamiliar. I’ve changed it back because I don’t think we live in that world anymore.

It Was The 90s with Shaparak Khorsandi, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, Saturday, July 2. Details from