Shaparak Khorsandi is a comedian, author, speaker and advocate for human rights.
Shaparak established herself as one of the UK’s finest comedians with her sell-out Edinburgh show, Asylum Speaker. Despite the basis for the show being her experiences as a child refugee fleeing Iran and terrorists attempting to murder her father, Shaparak’s sensitive yet witty exploration of these events created an instant comedy smash hit.
It also led to the publication of her childhood memoirs, A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English, her best-selling literary debut, described by the Scotsman as ‘filled with laughter, wonder and compassion’. Emma Thompson said “This very funny, acute book also made me cry”.
Shaparak went on to publish her first novel, Nina Is Not Ok, which was described by the Telegraph as ‘moving, funny and shocking’ and received tremendous acclaim from critics and readers alike.
Shaparak’s career has taken her to all corners of the globe. She has appeared on countless TV & Radio shows, including: Live at the Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, MasterChef, Have I Got News For You, QI, Pointless Celebrities, Question Time and Just a Minute, as well as her own show, Shaparak Talk.
As a keynote speaker and awards host, Shaparak can deftly handle the most serious subjects with a sprinkling of humour – a skill perfected in her early stand-up shows. Drawing on her past experiences as a female comic breaking into a male-dominated industry, Shaparak is a popular speaker on topics surrounding diversity and inclusion and mental health. Her charmingly candid style combined with her sharp-as-a-tack delivery ensure that whether speaking virtually or in-person, she never fails to connect with an audience.
Shaparak has done features for several national publications and has a regular, weekly column in the Independent.
She has received an honorary doctorate from Winchester University for her contribution to the arts. Her mother was overjoyed, until she realised Shaparak can’t actually write prescriptions for her.
Shaparak has also received the prestigious James Joyce Award for outstanding success in her field from Dublin University.
She has two dogs, two cats and two children so can often be found hiding in the airing cupboard, eating crisps in the dark.
SHAPARAK KHORSANDI: SPEAKER
Shaparak’s speaking topics include (but are not limited to):
It’s The Way You Tell It: What Does Our Humour Say About Us?
Shaparak explains how, despite what some may think, comedy is not just about telling jokes. It is about taking a risk and displaying a confidence which can help you in every area of your life, and build trust with those around you. Humour is a powerful way to show other people the world as you see it and build rapport with those who, on paper, you may not seem to have anything in common.
Of course, It can also massively misfire and do the opposite, so Shaparak will outline the pitfalls and how to avoid them, too!
Defining Diversity and Embracing Cultural Difference
The drive for diversity can sometimes make people in workplaces panic and scramble around to grab the nearest brown person and plonk them in a group photo. Very often, Shaparak has been that brown person.
But diversity is not about tokenistic representation, and the conversation surrounding it needs to be had much earlier and at every level of an organisation. Rather than just paying lip service to diversity, we need to discuss what it really means, why it is so important and how we can truly embrace the concept to produce beneficial and equitable outcomes for all.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
In a deeply personal and illuminating talk, Shaparak takes the audience on a captivating journey from the 90s to the present day, revealing her own struggles with bulimia and anxiety disorders, and the tools and techniques she developed to cope with and overcome these issues. With candour, warmth and humour, she will explain how we could all improve our lives dramatically if we paid a little bit more attention to maintaining our mental wellbeing.
A Woman in a Man’s World: Uncovering Everyday Sexism
As one of just a handful of women in the 90s trying to break into a stand-up comedy industry dominated by bombastic men, Shaparak knows all too well what it feels like to be a woman in a man’s world.
For every woman, in any sector, it can be a quiet, personal terrain to navigate. Sexism can be the hardest ‘ism’ to call out and challenge, because it can come from your closest quarters, and exist within your own family and friendship circle. In this honest and very personal talk, Shaparak will examine the ways in which women and men can work together to remove the barriers constructed by past prejudice, and shine a hopeful light on changing the status quo.