comedian Shazia MirzaHow would you describe your religious upbringing?

Religious. Strict. Rebellious. But it made me who I am today – a sexually repressed stand-up comedian.

What do you believe now?

I believe that I am God. And I have 645 followers, so it’s going really well.

Atheism has become a bit of a default position in comedy, but not for you. Do you feel left out?

Left out? I have so many atheists trying to get into my knickers I’ve never felt so sought after in my life. Left out of what? That’s the kind of thing a bully says in the playground. I do a long routine about atheism which everyone laughs at – atheists and people of all religions. Some of my best friends are atheists. We all get on fine. This world would be very meaningless and boring if we were all atheists.

You wore a burqa for a while. Why did you do it, and what was it like?

Why did I do it? My next door neighbour forced me to do it. What was it like? Same as wearing a pair of cycling shorts.

Do you feel any contradiction between your comedy and your belief?

I think there are assumptions being made about my beliefs. I am a normal, open-minded, non-judgmental, Guardian-reading, left-wing comedian. I am not a member of the Taliban, so I don’t feel there is any contradiction between comedy and my beliefs.

Do you think anything should be off limits for comedy?

Not at all. I believe in freedom of speech. Even if I don’t agree with what you say, I will always defend your right to say it.

Do you think atheists are as easy to offend as religious people?

Yes. Because we are all human beings, we all have feelings and a person’s beliefs are a person’s beliefs, we should all respect each other.

Do you ever set out to offend people?

No. Most comedians want to just make people laugh, and get the audience to like them. I don’t want to go out, offend everyone and get them to hate me.

You have taken your comedy on the road all over the world. What were the best and worst experiences?

They have all been great experiences. Pakistan has been amazing. I have toured there three times now. The people were wonderful and they laughed a lot. Cambodia was equally as wonderful. I did the first ever comedy gig there and it was an unusual, but good, experience.

My worst experience was being invited to perform at a birthday party for rich Indian women in Cyprus where they treated me like a slave. This woman had brought in her own personal servant, personal DJ and personal chef and she wanted me to be her own personal comedian for the night and treated me awfully. Telling me what jokes to do, who to speak to, who not to speak to, threatening not to pay me if I didn’t follow orders and then shipping me off to the airport five hours before my flight was due to take off.

Is comedy universal or culturally specific?

Comedy is universal. The language, of love, sex, men, women, is all universal. What you observe, most people also observe.

Shazia Mirza is perfoming at Crying With Laughter at the Charing Cross Theatre in London on 20 May, a benefit for the Helen Bamber Foundation.