Sajeela Kershi

The first time I was on stage was at an embassy do in Germany. I was five years old, my brother was four and it was the most traumatic thing. My dad said we were really talented and that we could sing. We stood on stage with the audience looking at us expectantly. Dad said we'd sing the Pakistan national anthem but we didn't know it so I started singing the German one. The look of horror on my dad's face and the audience [reaction] ... it was horrible. I've had really bad stage fright ever since but I've always wanted to perform.

I did my first comedy course just after 9/11 and then did three gigs after that, the last one at the House of Commons. I did this little routine, pulled out water guns and got pulled off stage. I didn't know what was happening, I just thought, "This is awful" and felt humiliated.

When my death on stage happened at the House of Commons I forgot about performing and then in 2005 I saw a course and thought, "I've got to do it or else I'm never going to."

It took me two years on the circuit to battle the nerves. At the first gig I did after the House of Commons one I just froze on stage.

I think I've finally got over the trauma that Dad instilled all those years ago. Now I can just die on stage normally and I don't have to die on stage because of massive fear.

I don't think there is such a thing as a Muslim joke, I'm just talking from my experience. The whole point is that there isn't a homogenised Islam, there isn't a homogenised Muslim person and I think it's important that, as a comedian, I try to get that across somehow.

After all the negative things and especially after 9/11 I felt it was important for me to say I am Muslim because I want you to see there's more of me than there are of those nutters. There are more shades of me.

As a comedian, I'm not trying to convert anyone, I'm not trying to slag off Islam, I'm just saying these are the issues that I've got, this is my experience of Islam. I'm sick of being preached at and I certainly don't want to do that to anyone else. The whole point of my show is that I'll sit on the fence because in many things I can see both sides.

I want my show to be about love, creating a sense of unified love, because I think that's one thing I do worship. Instead of being suspicious when you see a woman in a burqa walking down the street, say hello. Similarly Muslims need to talk more, they need to come to comedy nights, they're too afraid to say anything in case it's misconstrued.

My show Immigrant Diaries was born post-Edinburgh 2012. The Olympics were full of love and then I came back and had a fantastic Edinburgh and people were talking about immigration. It was so negative and I suddenly realised I'm seen as the immigrant. I thought I'd done my initiation and suddenly I've become the outsider again.

I thought, "Statistics don't tell the story, people do." The Immigrant Diaries is a simply idea – people telling their stories – but it's powerful because they resonate.

I don't think comedy has to be preachy. Tell your story and hopefully it will connect.

When I think about Muslim women they're in the kitchen and they're laughing and joking and I don't see Muslim men laughing, I don't see them joking around but the women are. Muslim women are funny.

I like it when people smile when they're leaving the show and I think: "I've helped do that." It's the best job in the world.

Sajeela Kershi performs Shallow Halal at the Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom, Edinburgh from August 6-11, 13-16, 18-23 and 25-30. She will host Immigrant Diaries at the Assembly Rooms from August 6-16 and 18-30. Visit