Maria Shehata is an American comedian who is quickly making a name for herself in the UK. Her conversational delivery and no-nonsense candour that is sardonic yet playful has been charming audiences all around the world. Maria Shehata has been featured on Comedy Central’s The Watch List, Showtime’s Bridging the Gap, and Nuvo TV’s Stand Up and Deliver. She was featured in the series The Cradle of Comedy and appeared in the film 100 Jokes. Maria Shehata has trained in improv and sketch with UCB and Second City. Maria is the winner of Best Comedian at the Hollywood Festival of New Cinema, and Best Comedy at the Miami Web Fest where she was nominated for Best Actress. Maria Shehata has also been shortlisted as one of the five best new performers at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe by 99 Club. Watch out for Maria in Just Like Us, now available on Netflix, the upcoming film Brand New Old Love and Seeso’s Hidden America with Jonah Ray. On top of that, you can all catch Maria at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, with her show Wisdomless. She is performing at ‘Just the Tonic at the Caves’ from the 3rd – 27th August, don’t miss it. Please enjoy my interview with Maria Shehata…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Im a stand up comedian (in an apologetic tone).
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
My Girl by Laurice Elehwany that was the first real novel I ever read, maybe when I was 10? Bawled my eyes out, that’s the first time I remember being moved by a book.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – everything begins with a clean space.
When did you fall in love with making people laugh?
I realized very early on I loved to make people laugh. Here’s my first joke I remember writing when I was 9: How does a detective sleep? Under covers. Pretty brilliant.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a chain restaurant called BJ’s and I would always mumble when people asked me where I worked. Inevitably they’d hear me and say “What like blow—“ and I’d cut them off and say “Yes ok? GROW UP!” There isn’t even a better explanation for the name, it doesn’t stand for anything. They just couldn’t call themselves PJ’s after another restaurant sued them. So they went for BJ’s.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring comedian?
Stand by your material. Tell the audience it’s funny, don’t ask them. It’s your stage time, do whatever you want, try new things.
Who would you say your three biggest comedic influences are?
Bill Burr, Louie CK, and the cast of Friends. I’ve watched that sitcom for over half my life, and I’m sure the characters, even if subtly, have influenced my own cadence, delivery, and timing.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
No, last August I tried to read a book a week for a year and failed. I started listening to Audible books so that I could “read” while walking around and commuting.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. About procrastination, why we do it, and how to overcome it. A really quick, helpful read. And Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s paint by numbers for screenwriting.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. He writes even the smallest slice of life moments beautifully. So when I feel like I don’t have much to say I re-read his work, and find inspiration in the tiniest things. Also, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. It helped me quit twice…and I started using it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. So I’d smoke and think, I’ll just re-read the book. But that stopped working.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
I’m Dying Up Here by William Knoedelseder about comedy’s “golden era” in LA. There aren’t a lot of books about stand up comedy’s history and I loved this book.
If you weren’t in comedy, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d be a filmmaker. I love to write, act, and direct, so making my own film seems like a good way to combine all of my passions. A nice, expensive, time-consuming, emotionally challenging way to incorporate all of my passions. That’s one thing about doing stand up is it’s very accessible.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Personal Essays and Memoirs.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
I’m not great with hypotheticals, but I suppose there would be a lot more micro mediums for communication like Vine and Twitter. So our attention spans would collectively become so short that no one would study anything in-depth and we would actually not only stop evolving but maybe even devolve back to when we were neanderthals.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. We still have newspapers, magazines and maps. Actual folded maps. Those would have to go first before books are endangered.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This book should be in the top drawer of every hotel room side table.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Anything by John Swartzwelder and Simon Rich.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’m writing a book of essays, so a lot of personal essays and memoirs. I’ve been told to check out Caitlin Moran, Sarah Vowell, and Scaachi Koul.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I Shouldn’t Have Said Anything.